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Independent Studies


Extreme Games, Commercialism Taken Too Far?

The "X" Games, athletic competitions among elite athletes of so-called Extreme sports (Sky surfing, Bungy Jumping, Street Luge, Trick In-Line skating etc.) have recently completed their second year with the event, held again in Newport and Providence RI.

With it, corporate sponsors of the games may have finally found their long sought after sponsorship opportunity focusing exclusively on the hard to reach 13-24 year old market.

According to an audience study [conducted by Performance Research, a Newport based sponsorship market research company] among on-site attendees, the average age was 20 years old with over two thirds (66%) of the attendees under 21. Although there seems to be a growth in interest among females, the audience was primarily males (70%).

More importantly, is the question as to whether the X-Games and their athletes leave a positive impression on these youths that will translate into product purchases?.....................Not necessarily.

Although the majority felt the participants were "Well trained, fit, professionals" (88%), "Not just kids showing off" (90%), and "Somewhat crazy daredevils and thrill seekers" (75%), only 56% believe "They are people to look up to".

And, while attendees describe the X-Games as "The wave of the future" (90%), "A good reflection of today's youth (91%), and "Not boring" (97%), many felt that it was "Over commercialized" (24%) and "Too limited" (28%).

Respondents were generally aware of corporate sponsors, with almost all confirming (in aided questioning) Mountain Dew (92%), Taco Bell (85%), Nike (80%), and Coors Light (75%). Not as recognized were AT&T (62%), and Chevy Trucks (55%).

But, most telling, were fans' guarded support for sponsorship.

Almost one-half (46%) felt the sponsors at the event were, "Only trying to sell me something" and most reported that the sponsorship had no impact on their perception of the companies (52%) or their likelihood to purchase sponsors products (57%).

Accordingly, when comparing the reported brand loyalty of X-Games attendees to that of fans of other types of sports and sponsorships tested by Performance Research, the X-Games falls flat. Only 32% of attendees reported that they would "Almost Always", or "Frequently" select an X-Game sponsor's product over a non-sponsor's product. Compared to other sports tested, the X-Games falls below auto-racing, professional tennis, golf, cycling, basketball, football, baseball, and the America's Cup among others. It does, however, rank higher than the loyalty fans reserve for Olympic and World Cup sponsors.

So, although demographically the X-Games appear to be reaching the right target market, the strength of this sponsorship in influencing purchasing decisions have not been realized.

Performance Research tested the awareness, attitudes, and demographics of the on-site X-Games audience. In total, 311 spectators were interviewed for this study throughout the various locations. Testing was conducted on-site, during the games, from June 24-30, 1996. The margin of error for this study is no more than + 5%.

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