Top newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times, have recently devoted a great deal of space to the Winter X Games in yet another sign the mainstream press now gets just how important action/extreme sports have become.
But even with these stories - and the high-profile TV coverage of Olympic snowboarding - Scott Novak, SVP with Dan Klores Communications, says action/extreme sports remain primarily lifestyle-driven. "The Dew Action Sports Tour and X Games have done a wonderful job of building a traditional scores-and-results kind of story, but coverage is still largely based on personalities," he notes.
"Right now, it's still the athletes driving the sport, and the events are kind of secondary," adds Steve Hartmann, VP with Lat34.com, a broadband network for live snowboarding, surfing, and skateboarding competitions.
Many editors still may not understand how the majority of these action sports are even scored, but they are cognizant that the young demographic they're looking to attract wants more snowboarding and surfing content.
Brett Smith, partner with Burlington, VT-based youth marketing firm Fuse, adds that the appeal of action sports is increasingly crossing gender lines, creating even more opportunities. "There's a more male demographic among the avid fans, but when you get into casual fan base watching these sports on TV, it's more likely to be equal male and female," he says.
Unlike the NFL or NBA, for example, action sports also have a lot of user-generated viral content competing for an audience.
"There are niche DVDs or videos appearing on YouTube that these kids look at," says Patricia Smith, principal with Denver-based OnTarget Public Relations. "So the media cover it, but I don't think they realize all the viral marketing and new media that goes on."
With formerly "extreme" sports like skateboarding and snowboarding reaching mainstream status, sports like base jumping and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) are looking to position themselves as the cutting edge for both spectators and participants.
Mashariki Williamson, executive partner with JSPR & March Forth Events, represented the recent UFC World Extreme Cagefighting event in Las Vegas. He says: "We don't focus on the strategies of cagefighting, but there are still so many different ways to pitch an event like this. We had success with celebrity angles by noting stars, such as Law & Order: Criminal Intent's Chris Noth, were in attendance. And when you have a fight that's going to be shown in more than 75 million homes, a lot of sports writers and editors are going to be interested, as well."
PITCHING... Action/Extreme sports
Action sports are still a product- and lifestyle-driven category, so look to pitch personality stories first
Action/extreme sports appeal to the young demographic that most general interest/lifestyle outlets want to attract, so don't limit pitches to just sports editors and producers
Media may not follow the marketing dollars, but they're aware of them, so make sure you highlight any major brand sponsors