Over the past few years I’ve noticed the ability of extreme sports to attract users to social media. I have a group of guy friends that do not post to Facebook or Instagram, only maintain a limited LinkedIn profile, and never send Snapchats. What I do notice is that on Instagram they follow every major ski resort on the East and West coast along with a laundry list of skiers, surfers, and outdoor related companies. A major driver of their social media usage is to have a tighter connection with the outdoors. These sports and athletes have allowed social media to reach broader base.
Extreme sports have a lot to gain from social media. Competitions are less frequent, new athletes are always emerging, and new feats are always being accomplished. Social media allows a channel for these athletes to reach their fan base instantly.
Sportsnetworker.com discusses how before the popularity of social media, extreme athlete enthusiasts patiently waited for the Olympics, X-Games, or the infrequent issue of a specialized magazine. There really wasn’t a way to stay up to date on what these athletes were accomplishing. For those of you born in the 90s, take it from me, life before instant gratification through a portable internet source was rough.
GoPro provided what I view as the first step in the direction towards “following” athletes. The athletes were able to share their passions and conquests with fans from the athlete’s point of view. With Instagram’s one to many affect, athletes were able to take another step forward and share their pictures and videos with anyone willing to view. Instagram also provides a “one stop shop” for fans to follow athletes and companies that span across a spectrum of sports.
Since extreme athletes practice their sports outside the traditional sports arena, there isn’t exactly a flurry of photographers and cameramen there to capture each moment. The flexibility of social media allows the athletes to take their followers with them anywhere they travel. Impromptu mountain biking in the woods, backcountry skiing, or a killer swell at a secluded beach can all be captured on a cell phone and shared with a large audience. It makes viewers feel like they were part of the adventure and tightens the connection.
Building the Brand
According to a blog written by David Kyle, a leading social media manager for extreme athletes provided three pieces of advice for a successful social media presence:
- Be Authentic
- Think before you tweet
- Engage engage engage
To me, these tips are aimed at making the viewer feel a part of the experience. By showing pictures from their daily life and by responding to posts, the athletes are able to strengthen their image and their increase their fan base. Imagine how simple it is for an athlete to “follow you back” and how much it would mean to you. Simple steps can be taken to ensure the fan base remains engaged.
Social media also provides an easy way for athletes to promote brands they are paid to sponsor. By using specific gear / clothing the athletes have the opportunity to directly promote selected brands. This takes endorsements to an entirely new level, consumers are not just hearing athletes say they use a product. It even goes beyond a commercial that depicts an athlete using a product in a controlled environment. Fans get the opportunity to view athletes practicing their sport using the product. To call attention to the branded product all athletes have to do is add a few hash tags to the photo comments.
Although I do not suggest partaking in risky behavior to get “discovered”, amateur athletes can be shot into fame by posting an extreme sports photo and having it go viral. By promoting their own brand they can leverage social media fame into getting discovered for professional sports.
Who to follow?
In 2015, Sportsnetworker.com pulled together a list of top extreme sports athletes to follow. I can’t promise that they will appeal to you but it at least gives a flavor of the types of athletes with awesome images.
Julian Wilson (@julian_wilson)
Travis Rice (@travisrice)
Mat Hoffman (@condorbmx)
Ryan Sheckler (@shecks)
Martin Shel (@martinshel)
Extreme athletes have the opportunity to use social media to promote themselves, their brands, and the concept of social media overall. By appealing to a new audience and converting them to frequency visitors to a platform, extreme athletes benefit the overall ecosystem. In my opinion, finding ways to drive non-power users to social media will be what drives growth. Children and young adults will tend to use social media regardless, finding a way to drive users that didn’t grow up with social media should continue to be a focus.