Sunday
Oct282012

X Factor: Can ESPN Take Its Summer, Winter X Games To The Next Level?

By Barry Janoff

October 28, 2012: In 1995, ESPN launched the Summer X Games in an attempt to attract a young audience to the burgeoning category of extreme/action sports while also giving corporate marketing partners an opportunity to reach the coveted Gen X and Gen Y demographics.

Some 17 years later, the X Games has grown into a two-season, six-city gem for ESPN, which has taken its self-professed "worldwide leader in sports" slogan to heart. In 2013, five countries will host X Games events, including the U.S., France, Brazil, Spain and Germany.

The Summer X Games were first held in Rhode Island but have been held in Los Angeles since 2003. The Winter X Games were first staged in Big Bear Lake, Calif., but have been located in Aspen, Colo. since 2002.

However, with the existing agreements between Los Angeles partner AEG and Aspen’s Aspen Skiing Co. concluding in 2013 and 2014, respectively, ESPN said it would be "seeking opportunities to move the event to new locations in North America."

Taking a page out of the Olympics, ESPN said it has initiated a "request for proposal" process to identify interested cities from North America to host the X Games for a period of three consecutive years: 2014, 2015 and 2016 for a summer event; and 2015, 2016 and 2017 for a winter event. 

ESPN said that cities could also submit proposals combining both summer and winter sports within the same X Games events.

“The X Games has experienced tremendous growth over the past decade, in large part due to the partnerships we have enjoyed in L.A. and Aspen,” Scott Guglielmino, svp-programming and X Games for ESPN, said in a statement.  “As we embark on a year of unprecedented global expansion for the X Games in 2013, now is the perfect time to explore potential sites in North America for future X Games events.”

Cities that have hosted previous X Games include San Diego, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Providence and Newport, R.I.  (Summer); and Crested Butte, Colo., and Mt. Snow. Vt. (winter).

Sponsors for X Games this past year included Red Bull, Jeep, Verizon, Casio, the U.S. Navy, EA Sports, The North Face and VitaminWater. Assets include TV, radio, print, digital and major on-site presence.

This past May, ESPN said it would be expanding the X Games to Foz do Iguaçu, Brazi (April 18-21); Barcelona, Spain (May 16-19); and Munich, Germany (June 27-30); to join X Games Los Angeles (Aug. 1-4) and Aspen (Jan. 24-27) to form a six-event schedule in 2013.

The response to RFPs for global expansion likely was a catalyst in ESPN's decision to search for new U.S. homes for its Summer and Winter X Games. According to ESPN, when the global bid process began in May 2011, "more than 40 cities in 21 countries" showed interest.

Events in the Summer X Games include BMX Big Air, BMX, Rally, Moto X and Skateboard. WInter X Games competitions include men's Snowboarder, women's Snowboard SuperPipe, Snowboard Big Air, men's Ski Big Air, Men's Ski SuperPipe, women.s Ski Slopestyle, Snowmobile Freestyle and Snowmobile Best Trick.

"The reality of what we're doing here is we've created this huge stage for action-sports athletes, and we're taking that global now."

According to Guglielmino, ESPN based it foreign location decision on their culture of action-sports culture and visions and strategies on how they would grow action sports and the X Games moving forward. As part of that strategy, the new host venues will introduce additional sports and cultural elements unique to their regions.

"Action sports is a collection of activities that we think travels really well around the world," said Guglielmino. "The reality of what we're doing here is we've created this huge stage for action-sports athletes, and we're taking that global now. We're providing an even larger platform for them to participate in and perform at, and grow themselves."

ESPN Adds Ts To X Games

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