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
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
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
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"
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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