January 28, 2021

OPINION: Action Sports is Having a Moment and I’m Here for it

Athletic opportunities take many forms. For some, sports involve a team, a field, or a ball. For others, sport is more solitary and potentially life-threatening. Participation in extreme sports is rising in popularity and spanning across a range of demographics. For extreme athletes, the roar of the crowd is replaced by the rush of adrenaline that can be heard in your ears and felt in your blood. Pushing one’s own limits and facing one’s own fears is an attractive draw to participation in any of the many extreme sports.

My mom, a history teacher, shared a lecture with me that she was presenting about former presidents in which she noted that George HW Bush celebrated every fifth birthday going skydiving.  Well, if he could do it, so could I.

They say the “high” from jumping from an airplane traveling thousands of feet in the air is better than any drug, drink, or even falling in love. I was ready to test that out the day I signed up to jump from an airplane over the beautiful mountains of Switzerland. The thrill was almost indescribable. The intense rush of energy and power was overwhelming. I had heard of the adrenaline hormone produced from such exciting activities and I was experiencing it first-hand. Adrenaline was taking me over and endorphins were creating a drunk-like feeling throughout me. Extreme sports such as surfing, bungee jumping, wakeboarding, skateboarding, and skiing hook people in like a drug making them crave more challenges and risks.

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The International Olympic Committee recently voted to include skateboarding, sports climbing, and surfing in the Olympic Games to generate interest and excitement in the Olympics from a younger crowd. The inclusion of these popular extreme sports will open and expand participation to the mainstream population, appealing to more than just thrill-seekers. Put these on your radar, they are sports to watch. The inclusion of these extreme competitions indicates a huge shift in sports on a worldwide level, a shift worth following. Research conducted by Bennett, Henson, and Zhang reveals that those fans the Committee is seeking to attract, members of Generation Y, prefer extreme sports over the traditional sports of basketball and baseball. While many are soccer fans, they would prefer to watch the X-Games than the World Cup. More members of Generation Y enjoyed televised action sports more than their predecessors making interest in these sports, a definite trend to watch. The researchers report that “The rise of consumer and corporate interest in extreme sports has been phenomenal.” In addition, media coverage of action sports has increased considerably over the last few years."

The popularity of extreme sports is further advanced by the ESPN X Games. The X Games attract big-name sponsors and popular top athletes which draw in a younger fan base. These Generation X and Generation Y enthusiasts are the demographic who are very attractive to marketers making sponsorship quite lucrative. Professional skateboarders, surfers, and snowboarders have attracted corporate sponsors is from the mainstream, national brands such as Target, Nike VISA, and Mountain Dew with competition earnings.

Red Bull is a brand that is often associated with extreme sports sponsorship. They are lined with skydiving and cliff diving and the most extreme sports in between. They are a huge force with younger people making it a natural fit for extreme athletes. Oakley, another huge sponsor, especially of winter-type sports had a great showing at the last winter Olympics having been worn by the skiers and skateboarders.

Social media also works to drive interest in extreme sports. GoPro cameras capture incredible feats of regular people. Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube are filled with posts of real people engaging in real death-defying actions, actions that quickly go viral.

Extreme athletes push their minds and bodies while theoretically risking their lives. This incredible feeling, like a drug, hooks a person in making them crave more risk and challenge. This excitement travels to fans and spectators by hooking them in, enticing them to “take it to extremes.”  I am not sure why (or even how) George HW Bush waited 5 years between his jumps. I am hooked for sure and can’t wait to feel the sense of euphoria and “go extreme” again, and again.

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