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What Defines an Action Sport?

Alex from the ASR blog is pondering whether mixed martial arts will be the next major action sport. She notes the rise in industry companies sponsoring fighters (RVCA & BJ Penn) as a possible connection. What do you think? Is mixed martial arts an action sport?

Personally, I don’t see mixed martial arts as an action sport. I see it as fighting and see no reason why it would fit a classification any differently than any other martial arts or even boxing. I do think it’s a great opportunity for advertisers in our industry to not only reach their target audience (lots of us watch it right) but to branch into new industries as well. Not to mention many people who train and fight in MMA events are also involved in other action sports. But that doesn’t necessarily mean these sports qualify as action sports even with the close relations, or does it?

Which leads me to the question I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. What exactly defines an action sport? Especially with the all the new sports that have been featured in the X-Games over the last couple years. Sports like rally racing and supercross. Two or three years ago none of these would’ve ever been considered as action sports, but now it seems because certain athletes have crossed over they’re suddenly accepted into our industry.

The Wikipedia defines action sports as…

Extreme sport (also called action sport, adventure sport, and adventurous sport) is a media term for certain activities perceived as having a high level of inherent danger or difficult and often involving speed, height, a high level of physical exertion, and highly specialized gear or spectacular stunts. They are almost always individual instead of team activities and that they often focus on performing tricks or stunts.

While that sounds like a pretty lame definition, there are a few key takeaways here. But seeing as the action sports industry as a whole pretty much sucks when it comes to keeping up with technology on the web I’m not going to automatically accept this as the be all definition.

So my question to you is…. What defines an action sport and who has the final say?

Posted by Cameron on Wednesday, August 8th, 2007 in Industry.

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3 Responses to “What Defines an Action Sport?”

  • finn mckenty Says:

    Brandon Vera is also sponsored by Osiris, and fighters like Jens Pulver and Chris Leben sport various action sports brands pretty often.

    in any case, i agree with you. while i’ve been a fan of both MMA and action sports (mostly skateboarding) for the better part of 20 years, i don’t think they belong in the same breath. i’ve trained MMA for several years, although to be honest i haven’t actually stepped on a skateboard in about 20 years.

    to me the defining element is that action sports are also a means of self-expression, whereas MMA really isn’t. it’s more like wrestling, track and field, or any other traditional individual sport in that it’s mostly about athletic performance, not style or having fun.

    good post!

  • Scott Says:

    Great question! Although a lot of people use “action sport” and “extreme sport” interchangeably, they aren’t always the same thing. The definition of extreme sport seems to be ever-changing…for example snowboarding used to be an extreme sport, but now it’s much more mainstream, although still requiring “high level of physical exertion”. Extreme sports also include more than action sports. The definition of “Action sports” seems to be much more stable than “extreme sports”, and seems to always include surfing, snowboarding and skateboarding at the very least, and often motocross. I think speed (motion), thrill, and, adrenaline (and often rockin’ music) have to be there for any action or extreme sport. MMA? There’s thrill and adrenaline but no speed. Doesn’t seem to fit. I agree with Finn about it being more like a traditional sport like wrestling. But, there is nothing wrong with action sports manufacturers sponsoring athletes outside of action sports if it’s something the target demographic is into. Action sports fans don’t sit around and decide to boycott anything non-action-sports – they simply like what they like, and action sports happen to be a large part of it, but not all. It’s smart for companies to realize that, and target the other things that action sports enthusiasts are into.

  • lawless Says:

    The question you have to ask too is WHO defines it? It’s a marketing and advertising term. You don’t hear people say, I’m heading out to do some “action sports”. More often you hear it in the context of “Megaripper Inc. LLC (nasdag: RIPR) is a leading Action Sport brand committed to the super-sweet dude-bro lifestyle and culture”. It’s a meaningless buzz-word used on press releases and companies mission statements.

    I’ve never heard anyone involved in “action sports” actually use the term “action sports”.

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