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group Y To Host First Action Sports Conference At ESPN’s X Games 15

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

group Y and ESPN have collaborated to produce the Action Sports Conference, to be held at X Games 15 on July 30th. group Y, the premier action sports and youth marketing networking group, will use the X Games as a backdrop to bring together marketers from action sports and non-endemic brands for a day of education, networking and sharing of best practices. The Action Sports Conference will be presented by FUEL TV.

During the last two decades, activities such as skateboarding, BMX and surfing have continued to grow in both popularity and exposure. Recent statistics cite that participants in action sports represent well more than 15 million people, with spending extending into the double-digit billions. The X Games has showcased action sports on a global level since 1995, giving action sports athletes and brands a broader level of media exposure than ever before.

“What we’ve witnessed first hand with the X Games is how broad of an appeal action sports have, beyond the core participant,” said Chris Stiepock, vice president and general manager for the X Games. “The excitement surrounding action sports transcends the active participants and extends to a steadily growing group of fans. Savvy marketers are realizing that if you engage the influencers in this genre first, their efforts can have a strong impact.”

As the original action sports and youth marketing networking organization, group Y is ideally suited to be producing this conference. Founded in 2006 to foster relationships within the action sports community, group Y boasts the most authentic and connected membership base of any networking group in action sports. In the past, group Y has hosted many events throughout the Southern California region, featuring leaders from the top echelon of action sports and youth focused companies, including Quiksilver, Burton, Oakley, FUEL TV, Vans and MySpace.

For brands in action sports, increased media exposure has led to a greater need for strategic marketing initiatives ranging from grassroots programs to integrated social media executions. As part of the conference’s activities, there will be panel discussions and presentations on best practices for merchandising brands, increasing athlete visibility across different channels and maintaining relevance with future participants.

“As an industry, the action sports world tends to be unique in its communal nature. It’s not far from rare for competitors to not only socialize at events, but to also be friends as well,” commented Liz Randall, group Y’s CEO and co-founder. “What group Y events provide are ways to harness this community in a way to afford opportunities for members to connect in a low key environment and discuss issues and trends we’re seeing as a whole.”

The Action Sports Conference is the first group Y event to proactively invite representatives from outside of the endemic action sports community to participate. By inviting mainstream brands to partake in the discussions, group Y hopes to help non-endemic marketers better connect with the action sports community through appropriate partnership proposals and more authentic campaigns.

“The action sports participant tends to be pretty savvy and quick to judge when being targeted by the non-endemics. Unfortunately, the majority of the programs we’re seeing that target this demographic wind up alienating them instead,” commented Mark Sperling, co-founder and President of group Y. “It takes more than putting a snowboard in an ad to target someone who considers themselves a snowboarder. Through this conference, we’re hoping to give some brands a deeper look into one facet of action sports and connect them with some key influencers to help them develop more authentic programs for the future.”

As little nuances in execution can quickly turn a campaign from authentic to awful in the eyes of action sports participants, a limited number of VIP education packages will be made available. These packages will include a behind the scenes tour of the X Games as well as a guided, one-on-one experience where participants are able to ask questions, interact with brand representatives and receive insights surrounding the distinctions of targeting an influential demographic.

group Y’s Action Sports Conference will be held in the Stadium Club of The Home Depot Center, an exclusive location that will overlook many of the events taking place during day one of X Games. Maximum capacity for the event will be 200 attendees with a participatory price of $195 for a basic conference package, with enhanced packages also available.

X Games 15 will be held July 30 – August 2, 2009, and be covered live on ESPN’s family of networks, including ABC, as well as across ESPN’s digital media assets. The event will feature athletes from across the globe competing for medals and prize money in Skateboarding, Moto X, BMX and Rally Car Racing.

Additional support for the Action Sports Conference is being provided by FUEL TV, Propaganda Headquarters and BBPR.

More details and information on the Action Sports Conference can be found online at www.actionsportsconference.com.

ABOUT ESPN’s X GAMES FRANCHISE
ESPN, The Worldwide Leader in Action Sports, first developed its X Games franchise in 1995. Part of ESPN Original Entertainment, X Games, Winter X Games and All Access are just some of the original action sports programming currently shown on ESPN and ESPN2. In addition to the two U.S.-based events, ESPN has held X Games competitions and demonstration events around the world including Dubai, Thailand, Brazil, Mexico, China, Korea, Malaysia and Spain. The global franchise has also expanded its reach to ESPN.com/action sports, the definitive site for action sports fans, and to consumer products such as X Games bikes, protective gear, skateboards and DVDs.

About group Y
group Y is the original collective of professionals focused on Action Sports, Youth Marketing and Entertainment. Based in Southern California with a growing national reach, group Y boasts an active membership of the best and brightest these industries have to offer. Sharing insights from key decision makers at key brands, past speakers have included experts from companies such as Quiksilver, Burton, Oakley, MySpace, and ESPN. Through our events, outreach and on-line presence, group Y takes the work out of strategic networking and strengthens our entire industry in the process. Please visit us at www.groupYnetwork.com.

Posted in Press Releases | 1 Comment »

Wave Pools: Good or Bad for the Sport of Surfing?

Monday, June 1st, 2009

surfparkmod11There is no other sport like Surfing. I will go to the grave defending the ever changing dynamic sport that is surfing and how it’s superior to all other sports. Now obviously that’s my opinion, but there is reason to back it up. Every surf session is different. In fact, every wave is different. You can never surf the same wave and never re-create the same session. There are elements that dictate how and when a wave breaks thousands of miles before they reach the shore. In all other board sports, including snowboarding, you can replicate a situation. The kickers stay in the same spot as the run before and they remain the same size, the rails and boxes and planters and stairs will all be there exactly as you left them the day before. Pretty much nothing remains the same in Surfing from session to session.

Here in lies the problem when it comes to commercially advancing the sport. There will be a lot of people reading this that will say, surfing needs to stay core and blah blah blah. The fact remains it is already a commercial giant in terms of selling clothes and overall lifestyle and no matter how big it gets, the core reason as to why surfing is so amazing will never change as long as there are oceans and waves. In a recent ESPN article, Kelly Slater listed somethings he would like to see changed as to the way the ASP runs and operates. I very much agree with the majority of his points and I would like to address a few and see what your thoughts are.

ASP taking more control: As it is currently, the ASP organizes the events but each sponsor is in charge of marketing their events and their athletes.  How much visibility an event gets is entirely out of the ASP’s hands and up to the brand controlling the contest. Kelly mentioned it should not be this way,

“The new governing body should own and run the events, own the media, do the marketing, bring in sponsors. Right now, the ASP doesn’t own any of those things, because it didn’t do the groundwork in the beginning. Sponsors own, run and market the events. That needs to change.”

As things stand, it would not be financially feasible for the ASP to do this because there is one huge piece of the pie missing, ticket sales. You gotta pay money to go see Tony Hawk bust out on a Half pipe, or Travis Pastrana pull a double backflip. The X-Games, the Dew Tour, and all those other similar events all charge for viewing pleasure. They also sell concessions and merchandise and yes all of this doesn’t go directly into the pocket of the event organizers, but enough of it does to make a huge difference in terms of visibility and marketing. You want to watch Chris Ward and Freddy Patacchia go head to head? You walk to the beach, there are no bleachers or box seats. The ASP doesn’t see a dime from fans in comparison to all
the other boardsports and major sporting events.

wave-pool-surfing1Enter the Wave Pool: The reason the ASP doesn’t charge is because the beach is free and I don’t think that should ever change. However, the possibility of adding a wave pool into the schedule of the ASP might be the solution to generating cash to start a marketing division that solely works on promoting events and athletes without corporate brand agendas. A wave pool would provide a setting that would make the sport of Surfing more exciting and real to the everyday person. Think how many people go to the X-Games or Dew Tour that don’t skate or ride MX? They go for the entertainment. Everyone thinks surfing is amazing, everyone wishes they could do it, and everyone enjoys watching people on waves, but not everyone can get to the beach. You bring a wave pool into the mix and all of the sudden you have a format with bleachers, and sky boxes, and concessions and an event that thousands of people can watch live and millions can watch on TV. The controlled wave environment would allow for superior TV viewing as you would not be subject to weather or swells. Now, don’t get me wrong, as I stated above there is nothing that can change the dynamics of surfing and that is why it’s such a powerful experience for those that participate in it. But would adding 3-4 wave pools into the circuit dilute that element? I would say the positive visibility that would come from it would out way the negatives.

You would have a more controlled wave environment that would allow riders to go bigger, ride more waves and truly compete on a skill level as opposed to a “time the sets, take advantage of wave priority” method. Veterans often have advantage in ASP as they now how to use the current format to their advantage. And I am not saying to take that away, but every other board sport has a course that doesn’t change that allows the competition to be based solely on who does better, cleaner more technical tricks with the same opportunity given. Could you imagine watching Bruce Irons, Jamie O’brien or Dane Reynolds in a wave pool with perfect vertical lips, they would be soaring 10 ft in front of you. Riders could take more risks and perform far more technical tricks and that makes for better and more exciting competition. Look back on when the rumors that Tony Hawk was going to pull the first competition 900 at the X-Games, or when Shaun White was going to do a 1260 on the Half Pipe. Or When Travis Pastrana was going to pull a double back flip. There is drama and marketability and something that interests the average non-enthusiast viewer. People that don’t own motorcycles were emailing their friends Travis’s double backflip the next morning at work. We don’t have that yet in competitive surfing.

“Among the biggest problems with televising surfing are that traditional surfing contests are too time-consuming, that waves are too unpredictable and that judging is too nuanced for the uninitiated. But recent innovations in the competition format and the development of wave pools that could serve as surfing arenas could help bring competitive surfing to a larger audience.”  NY Times

“We would be able to schedule a contest on Friday at 6 p.m., live on TV. Picture a wave going around in a circle indefinitely. There’s a bridge over the wave for viewing, a Plexiglas bottom so fans can watch guys surf above them, and a crow’s nest in the middle so people can watch the best guys in the world surf the wave all the way around them. Kids could stand on the edge of the pool and get sprayed by their favorite surfers.” Kelly Slater

Wave pool stops should also be in land locked states or big coastal spots with no waves, the ASP could have stops in Vegas, Utah, New York, Texas, Chicago. Once the technology and end product can produce a world class break, surfing will become one of the most widely adapted and participated sports in the world. If you could truly progress your surfing in a wave pool in Vegas and then go to the coast and shred, you will have kids entering the ‘CT from places you could never imagine. Flash backs of Rick Kane from North Shore come to mind. You will see people driving with boards strapped to their roof in land locked states. You will have pro shops and local contests selling out tickets, kids going to school with sponsorship deals. Surfing will reach mainstream media as a sport, which will mean better and bigger events both in and out of the beach, better purses and better paid athletes. The entire sport will change in terms of visibility and exposure.

Whether that is good or bad? Time will tell. For the sport itself I think it will be good, for the core surfers that don’t care about world titles or ‘CT standings it will be annoying as you might be getting dropped in on by a kid from Kentucky with a bad farmer tan.

Posted in Surfing | 29 Comments »

Winter X-Games 13 Sets Multiple Viewing Records

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

winter x-games 13Although actual attendance was down this year, Winter X-Games 13 has set multiple viewing records across its various platforms, including TV, Internet and more. An average of 950,000 people tuned into the each TV showing, with the highest showing receiving almost 1.4 million views. Almost 700,000 videos were viewed on ESPN’s website and each of the big air competitions logged over 100,000 fan votes in less than 10 minutes.

“Once again the Winter X Games delivered the best in action sports to fans worldwide,” said Rick Alessandri, senior vice president, X Games Franchise. “The continued growth across all our multi-media properties is a testament to the passion, athleticism and drama the X Games athletes deliver each event.”

It’d be nice if there was way to measure how many so-called ‘core’ enthusiasts the X-Games is reaching. I know myself and several amigos who normally watched in the past, didn’t really watch any of the events this year. And it seems pretty obvious by how both the ski and snowboard big air comps ended, that the majority of folks voting don’t have much of a clue on what they were actually voting on.

I don’t think ESPN really cares though- the only number that’s important to them is shear volume. Because that’s how they sell their advertising, by the number of eyeballs. So congrats to ESPN and the X-Games for another successful event.

Posted in Industry | No Comments »

Worst X-Games Slopestyle Course Ever?

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

winter x games slopestyle

The Winter X-Games are here and as always there’s a lot of anticipation in the air. Practice runs started over the last few days and today marks the first day of actual competition and TV coverage. Riders have been going nuts in both practice and eliminations… except on the slopestyle course.

Boarders and skiers alike have already taken their fair share of hard bails on the course. Travis Rice cased the gap during practice and there are rumors of other injuries in the women’s field. Some of the top pro skiers have been quoted as saying this is the sketchiest slopestyle they’ve ever seen. Last year’s gold medal skier, Andreas Hatveit, was so thrown off by the jumps that when asked to comment on them, he simply smiled, shook his head, and said, “no, its just no.”

Practice runs has been filled with more straight airs and small spins than I’m sure have ever been seen at a competition of this level. Yet there are others like Sammy Carlson who are taking a liking to the course and throwing tricks off every feature. Although the first impression seems negative, come comp day, I’m sure all the pros will have things dialed in and will be throwing down as usual.

Keep an eye out for the Sammy Carlson, Jossi Wells and the other young guns to slay it, even on this less than average course.

Posted in Snow | 3 Comments »

X Games Announces Invited Athletes to Winter X Games 13

Monday, December 15th, 2008

x gamesA Chill is in the air, snow is on the ground, and the anticipation for the winter contests dates heats up. Last week ESPN announced the first group of athletes that are invited to participate in the upcoming Winter X Games. The dates for Winter X Games 13 are scheduled January 22-25, 2009 at Buttermilk Mountain, Aspen/Snowmass, Colorado. The annual Winter X Games event features athletes from across the globe competing for medals and prize money in the following sports: Skiing, Snowboard and Snowmobile. The13th annual winter action sports competition will feature more than 160 men and women from across the globe competing for medals and prize money in the following sports: Skiing, Snowboard and Snowmobile. The event includes day and evening competitions and is free to the public. You can also check out all the competition footage on ABC and ESPN, look into your local listings for details.

Below is the invited field, so far, in the Men’s Snowboard classes of Big Air, Slopestyle, Snowboard X, and Superpipe. For the complete, updated list of Winter X Games 13 athletes, log on to www.expn.com.

SNOWBOARD BIG AIR
Athlete Name, Country

Travis Rice, United States
Andreas Wiig, Norway
Torstein Horgmo, Norway
Kevin Pearce, United States

MEN’S SNOWBOARD SLOPESTYLE
Athlete Name, Country

Eero Ettala, Finland
Heikki Sorsa, Finland
Chas Guldemond, United States
Torstein Horgmo, Norway
Scotty Lago, United States
Jussi Oksanen, Finland
Travis Rice, United States
Tim Humphreys, United States
Shaun White, United States
Andreas Wiig, Norway
Mason Aguirre, United States
Peetu Piiroinen, Finalnd
Danny Davis, United States
Kevin Pearce, United States

All athletes receiving invitations to compete at Winter X Games 13 are chosen by a sport-specific selection committee. Criteria and timing of invitations varies by sport and discipline as it is based on the state and event schedules of that particular sport. The invited athlete list is constantly being updated and is subject to change at any time.

Posted in Snow | No Comments »

X-Games Madness

Monday, August 4th, 2008

Ryan Sheckler X Games

I’m pretty sure all of you have been keeping up with what’s going down at X-Games 14 this year. PLG took first place in Vert and basically another monster win aside from his recent Maloof Money Cup victory. Ryan Sheckler took 1st in the street competition and Bob Burnquist took 1st place in the Big Air or “suicide ramp” as I like to call it. And of course, Rune Glifberg super park 1st place victory, in what was is his first X-Games gold medal ever! Super stoked for him and big ups to all the X-Games competitors.

One image sticks out in my head of all the X-Game highlights you could possibly gather. Danny Way and his epic flip slam during his run in the big air competition. Holy sh*t! Seriously watch his slam in the video below if you haven’t seen it, you’ll know why I call the Big Air ramp the “suicide ramp.” The dude cheated becoming a vegetable by like a few inches, no joke. He hits his shin on the ramp and somehow propels and does a full flip to the bottom. I thought he was out for sure and then he comes back and blows our minds just moments later. I have said it once and ill say it again, Danny Way is a maniac on wheels, the dude comes right back and pulls off a gnarly line.

Jake Brown, despite last year’s painful near death experience, comes back like nothing happened. The whole contest was epic. The level of skateboarding at this year’s X-Games was turned up a huge notch. I do have to admit though aside from the big air competition the crowds at the games seemed a lot mellower viewing the skateboarding events than in past X-Games events.

Posted in Skateboarding | No Comments »

Surfing Axed from Summer X Games

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

surfing x gamesAfter five years of mixed results and a failure to find a competition format that worked and excited, the plug has officially been pulled on surfing for this years Summer X Games in Los Angeles. And while earlier this year we witnessed ESPN and X Games organizers get blasted for the decision (one that was soon after overturned) to axe the half-pipe competition, I’m not so sure that the exclusion of surfing from this years games is going to elicit the same type of reaction.

The allure of the X Games is seeing the worlds most talented and skilled athletes competing at the highest level and in the most challenging arenas for each sport respectively. While that was the case for the majority of the action sports showcased in the games, organizers were simply unable to find a way to fit surfing into their mold in order to capture the hearts and minds of their audience when it came to surfing.

The conflicting schedules of the ASP world tour with the timing of the summer games was one of the major issues that organizers were facing. There was no way they were going to pull any of the fellas off of the WCT in order to participate in their event. Although I would personally be thrilled beyond belief to watch the mind-blowing exhibitions of WQS regulars such as Clay Marzo, Dusty Payne, and Pat Gudauskas as well as the always explosive and innovative Jamie O’Brien running wild on Puerto Escondido, it doesn’t appear that was a sentiment shared by those calling the shots. Those looking to sponsor the event were undoubtedly looking for surfers with highly recognizable names more along the lines of Slater, Taj, A.I., and Parko. With the Billabong Pro J-Bay running in the same time frame as Summer X, that simply wasn’t going to happen.

Try as they may, I’m not sure the X Games will ever be able to capture the greatness of surfing the way they have been able to with many of the other featured events. The same unpredictability and uniqueness of surfing that draws many of us to this amazing sport is what makes it difficult for X Games to package up and deliver to those they are seeking to reach. The ocean runs on it’s own schedule and waves cannot be built and disassembled in a matter of hours. So while the plan is for the surfing portion of Summer X to take a year off and be evaluated for future improvements, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go away completely. If the X Games remains unable to put on surfing’s best face and celebrate it’s majesty, maybe it’s better that they didn’t put it on at all.

Posted in Surfing | No Comments »

Skate and BMX legends to perform the 5th annual Padres Action Sports Day

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

San Diego, CA – With more than 20 X Games Medals to their credit, Vans Team Riders Bucky Lasek, Dennis McCoy and Neal Hendrix will perform at the 5th Annual Action Sports Day on May 24th prior to the San Diego Padres v. Cincinnati Reds game.

“The demo will be fun, but I need to practice for the pitch – so I can show off my fastball.” Said Lasek who will toss out the ceremonial first pitch.

In addition to Lasek and the other luminaries of action sports, San Diego native and skate phenom Alex Perelson will participate. “Having grown up in San Diego, skating at a Padres game with guys like Bucky, Neal and everyone is really exciting” said the 17-year old Perelson who finished 4th in his first ever X Games.

Other athletes participating in Action Sports Day include world-renown Brazilian Skater Lincoln Ueda and BMXers Coco Zurita, Ben Snowden and Austin Coleman. The event will be hosted by X Games announcer Dave Duncan.

A 40-foot half pipe will be placed on the wiffle ball field in the Park at the Park at PETCO Park for the performance, which is set to start 6:15. In addition to the demo, there will be prizes and give-aways from Vans and Camp Woodward. Following the game there will be a post game Family Fireworks show.

Fans can purchase tickets via the Internet at padres.com, padresbeisbol.com or by phone at 1-877-FRIARTIX

Posted in Press Releases | 1 Comment »

ESPN Out of Touch with Action Sports

Friday, May 9th, 2008

quiksilver x logoThe much publicized decision made by ESPN to file a lawsuit against Quiksilver over the letter ‘X‘ (silly, isn’t it?) is a decision that will continue to find ESPN and the X-Games painted into a corner all by themselves when it comes to the action sports industry.

In short, the lawsuit basically states that Quiksilver uses a stylized “X” emblem on clothing, labels and accessories that is “confusingly similar” to ESPN’s logo for the series of surfing and biking contests.

Aside from the fact that the basis of this lawsuit appears to be petty and childish, picking a fight with one of the biggest brands in all of action sports isn’t going to do anything beneficial for the continually sagging ratings of the X-Games. For most of us, Quiksilver is a brand that is near and dear to our hearts and one that we would side with over ESPN in a heartbeat.

It has been a gradual decline for the X-Games, but ESPN seems intent on speeding up the process of seeing the games go by the wayside altogether. We just witnessed how well the ‘let’s drop Vert, the event that put us on the map and gave us our signature moment’ decision went over with the masses. Hint: the decision was quickly reversed. They are even going as far as to infuse Hollywood actors into the games and having them judge sports that they know absolutely nothing about.

The thought process being used by the decision-makers at ESPN and X-Games over the last few years is highly questionable. With the direction they’ve taken it’s hard to know what their intentions for the future are. Surely these aren’t the types of decisions made by people who are at all in touch with what makes their fan-base tick.

x-gamesquiksilver

Posted in Brands, Industry | 10 Comments »

X-Games Changes Mind, Keeps Vert Comp

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

x games logoThe X-Games have decided to keep the skateboarding vert competitions around for at least one more summer. What was a widely criticized decision, ESPN had originally announced they were killing off the vert skate events from the Summer X-Games and that prompted me to write that they’ve officially jumped the shark.

While I still think the X-Games have been on a decline, it’s pretty refreshing that they have listened to their audience and changed their minds. They had a poll up on their site asking if the decision to drop the vert event was a good idea. The people spoke and 80% said it was a bad decision. I can’t help but think this decision to reinstate the vert comps was also influenced by the athletes of the games.

Even tough ESPN went back on their original decision, it says a lot about them to drop this event in the first place. I think it’s pretty obvious at this point where their intentions lie and they’re willing to sell us out in a second for the almighty dollar. I guess that shouldn’t really come as a surprise, afterall they’re owned by ABC and we both know ABC doesn’t care about much besides their bottom-line.

x-games

Posted in Brands, Skateboarding | 1 Comment »

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