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I just read this great article written by Billy Carter on MediaPost (You can find the full article at this link).
Billy explains the growth of action sports and what these “sports” are all about. He concludes with the following suggestions to any non-endemic brand out there that wishes to start an action sports program to reach GenY. Here are his main suggestions:
- Before the start of your project, speak with young people who are invested in action sports culture to educate yourself and your staff
- Whether they are pro athletes, amateur athletes or other respected personalities in action sports, get well-respected “ambassadors” to help be the face and voice of your brand when trying to reach young people
- Sponsor grassroots action sports events and competitions, not just the large, made-for-TV events
- Advertise in endemic print and online outlets
- Hire photographers who specialize in the respective action sport to photograph anything you are doing in the sports
Here are my comments:
The tips are really good, and from all of them I would (WITH NO EXCEPTIONS) say that if you are a non-endemic company and want to break into action sports, you HAVE TO have a team of smart business people that live and breathe action sports. No one else can better tell you what looks good to our eye. We are picky, we are passionate, we are a community that hates to be invaded by outsiders.
AUTHENTICITY is key, but don’t try too hard, or we’ll notice it. Be involved for sure. If you want to be successful, you have to have some type of grassroots program. Our industry is not about impressions, it’s about making your mark everywhere all the time. You’ll get more respect, especially if you contribute something positive to the industry.
The X-Games and Dew Tour are not for the core. These events are for the mainstream. Core action sports people don’t care if your brand sponsors this type of mass market events. We are not like baseball or football fans. Watching an X-Games final is not what we’ve been waiting for all year long. We are participant first and foremost. And action sports with everything that comes with it (Art, music, etc,) are our life. People (Brands) that don’t live the culture will NEVER be able to understand it, no matter how much they read, research, watch, etc.
To finish up:
1. Get yourself a great team of action sports people that also understand where you are coming from as a non-endemic brand
2. Listen to them and embrace their lifestyle
3. Don’t try too hard. Be yourself but be respectful and committed to this market. The action sports industry will recognize your efforts and eventually will reward you for your support and for contributing positively
4. We are a lifestyle, not just a sport. So don’t forget about how art, music, and fashion work with skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing, etc. (notice how I talk about “work” vs. “influence”)
I recently turned 31. So in celebration I took the day off to hit a few parties which really made me take a good look at the various communities in which I am involved in.
The first event was a 1 year birthday party for a Friends daughter. My friend is an old skool graffiti writer from the early 90’s. I’d say about 90 of the 100 people at the event were from the same era and background. It was a great BBQ. Kids running around, the ghetto blaster bumping, taco’s being served and Writers passing around Black Books and Flicks from the past as well as swapping old war stories. I realized that this is the group of people responsible for a serious art movement on the streets of LA that has grown and morphed it’s way into modern mainstream culture. This group was comprised of skaters, hip-hoppers, punkers, musicians and artists. To this day they are still very progressive and forward thinking people.
Immediately following the BBQ I headed to Culver City for the Sylvia Ji art show. She is one of my favorite artists on the circuit right now. The show was filled with people and had a line around the block. The pieces were well thought out and had a very unique style. She is really carving out her niche in the art world and I’m glad to be around to see her leave her impression on the scene. It’s funny because the show was filled with the people similar to those from the BBQ I had just left. There didn’t to seem to be many young faces there. I’d say the avg age was 25ish and up. Bare with me, my point will soon follow…
Last on the agenda was a party at a store near Beverly Hills. The event was filled with the younger crowd. Mainly skaters and hipsters. I saw a lot of under 21’s getting their drink on and plenty of betties to keep the party interesting. I realized that there was a very big gap between this event and the two prior. Obviously there is the age gap, but that had never really mattered in the past. I used to feel a very strong connection amongst those that I felt were part of the inner circle of skaters, artists, musicians… But it was at this event that I noticed the new generation is missing an element of creativity and individuality that I had been accustom to.
On the ride home my friends and I (all the same age and background) opened up the discussion about what really is the difference between the late teens of today and of our time. For blogs sake, I’ll state that I skate regularly and I’m constantly in contact with kids of all ages ranging from 12 and up (especially since my old bones stick to the skate parks these days). I noticed that it has been a very long time since some one younger than myself had introduced me to a new band or a new artist or put me up on a new brand or new scene. When I was a teen, most of my friends were in bands or selling mix tapes or throwing underground parties or painting in abandoned train yards…
So why has this generation (Y) become so inactive? My answer simply has to be that everything has become commoditized, packaged and sold. You really don’t have to hit the pavement to find out what’s new, you could simply thumb around on the web. You don’t have to go to the ghetto anymore to find the next hip-hop act, you can search blogs. You don’t have to wear a pair of jeans anymore until they fall apart, you can buy them looking torn and tattered. You don’t have to go to a concert to buy a Band tee you can go to (Place apparel store here). Catch my drift?
My opinion is that Generations prior to Gen Y have been responsible for all of the progression of the arts and culture, and they/we still are. I guess, we’ll need to keep the torch lit and keep moving forward. Hopefully Gen Y will pick up the pace and follow our lead.
Each one teach one…