By Barry Janoff
June 7, 2016: When it comes to action sports, GoPro, Anheuser-Busch, Samsung, Chrysler and Red Bull are all in.
These companies top the list of most active sponsors in the action sports category, with consumer electronics the most active category, according to research and consulting firm IEG, Chicago.
Action sports here includes off-road auto racing, cycling (BMX), motorcycle racing, skateboarding, skiing, snowboarding, surfing and water skiing.
The report comes at a time when action sports have come under more scrutiny than ever following the self-inflicted death of BMX icon Dave Mirra this past February. Last month, it was revealed by his family that Mirra, who was 41 when he died, had been diagnosed with CTE — chronic traumatic encephalopathy — a neurodegenerative disease associated with repetitive brain trauma.
"This is the beginning of bringing awareness," Lauren Mirra, Dave's widow, said during an interview with ESPN the Magazine (June 6). "It would be amazing if this is something we can detect in life one day. If we can detect it, prevent it, stop it, let's do all of the above."
When it comes to marketing support, GoPro (Hero4 spot pictured above) is out front of the others as an active partner, with a presence in 48% of action sports properties, according to IEG's 2016 Action Sports Sponsorship Report.
"As demonstrated by its near ubiquity at skiing, surfing and other sports events, GoPro, Inc. is by far the most active sponsor of action sports," according to IEG.
Also among brand sponsorship leaders are Anheuser-Busch (29%), Samsung (29%), Chrysler (20%) and Red Bull (17%), followed by Oakley (9%), Toyota (9%) and Hansen (8%).
GoPro last month signed a multi-year global alliance to gain enhanced access to more than 1,800 Red Bull events. The brand recently added world champion swimmer Missy Franklin to its roster of athlete spokespersons, which also includes Lindsey Vonn, Shaun White, Hannah Teter, Ted Ligety, Bobby Brown and Julia Mancuso.
According to Franklin, who launched a Finding Missy video series with the company, "GoPro works with some really incredible athletes, and I love how they are able to capture the integrity and dedication of every single athlete they work with.
"As someone who cares so deeply about my fans, GoPro has enabled me to connect with them in new, different ways and show them what I do on a daily basis. I want them to feel like they are on this journey with me," said Franklin.
IEG did not provide an estimated sponsorship spend for the action sports category.
By comparison, in a separate report, IEG said that the endurance sport category was estimated to hit a record $118.8 million in 2015.
According to the IEG 2016 Action Sports Sponsorship Report, consumer electronics companies are 7.5 times more likely to sponsor action sports than the average of all sponsors.
Top action sports sponsorship categories also include auto (3.4), apparel & accessories (3.1), beer (3), automotive aftermarket (3), energy drinks (2.2) and motorcycles (1.8).
That list is reflected in the alliances that support the current top tours and events in the category.
Marketing partners for the ASA Action Sports World Tour, for example, include LG, XBox 60, Sega, Activision, Sony, Verizon, Ford, Toyota, Coca-Cola, RockStar and Levi's.
Nitro Circus, led by Travis Pastrana, Jeremy Rawle and Gregg Godfrey, has a roster of partners that includes Toyota, Valvoline and Oberto.
The Dew Tour gets heavy support from PepsiCo and title sponsor Mtn. Dew, as well as Verizon, Motorola and the U.S. Army.
Top partners for the World Surf League include Jeep, GoPro, Samsung Mobile, Corona and newly signed AirBNB; as well such endemic brands as Billabong, Hurley, Quiksilver, Rip Curl and Vans.
According to The Future of Sports, an extensive 2015 report that looks at the next quarter century of sports, fans, marketing and related logistics, "Fueled by easy recording and upload technology like GoPro — paired with YouTube and over-the-top broadcasters — interest, participation and performance levels in action sports are soaring. Today they’re a blip on the screen compared to the big business of professional sports, but participation in action and adventure sports has surpassed conventional sports at the recreational level."
The study, compiled under the auspices of Delaware North, which owns Boston's TD Gardens and is a leading foodservice and retail management company at stadiums, arenas and ballparks worldwide — and whose chairman, Jeremy Jacobs, is the majority owner of the NHL's Boston Bruins — reports that a growing number of major brands both endemic and non-endemic are getting into the category.
"As demonstrated by its near ubiquity at skiing, surfing and other sports events, GoPro, Inc. is by far the most active sponsor of action sports."
As an example, the study pointed to Street League Skateboarding, a pro circuit started in 2010 by veteran skater and MTV star Rob Dyrdek. SLS's lead marketing partner is Nike, with a roster that includes GoPro, Monster Energy Drink, New Era and PacSun. It has a broadcast deal with FS1 and investors from members of the ownership groups of the NBA's Boston Celtics and NFL's San Francisco 49ers
The Future of Sports also focused on other burgeoning segments fueling the growth of action sports.
San Francisco-based Strava Inc. was called the "foremost example of the competitive feedback loop underlying the explosion of action sports participation."
Via Strava apps and social networks, or an athlete's own biometric devices, people can track their performances, then upload the results to Strava’s database. "Which becomes a de facto book of records for every trail run and every 100-mile route biked — a standing, always-on challenge that drives performance levels higher daily.," according to The Future of Sports.
Regarding its alliance with GoPro, founder and CEO of Red Bull Dietrich Mateschitz said, "First-person perspectives, breathtaking images and cutting-edge cinematography are the hallmarks of every story told within Red Bull's portfolio of productions and live broadcasts. As partners, Red Bull and GoPro will amplify our collective international reach, the power of our content and ability to fascinate."
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