Extreme Sports and Social Media



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.


7557b44c7a89d458a1f8e6af514706d6.jpgSportsnetworker.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:

  1. Be Authentic
  2. Think before you tweet
  3. 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)

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Travis Rice (@travisrice)

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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.


  1. adawsisys · ·

    Great post. I follow a few snowboarding instagram accounts as well, and I find that they are usually some of the best posts in my feed. I will check out the sportsnetworker to find a few more accounts to add. Social media is great way for the athletes and the fans of an extreme sport to stay connected. Extreme sports don’t receive the same attention as traditional sports do, and this makes it harder for the extreme sports to maintain a consistent base of followers. Social media helps with this problem. As more followers constantly stay connected, the sports generate more publicity. This will encourage more young people to participate, and it will help extreme sports grow in the long run. Increased publicity will lead to more money for the athletes and hopefully more televised events in the future.

  2. This was a really well written post! I think your strong point was definitely providing very good examples, under the guise of giving us advice of who to follow. The technology has gone up with the extremeness, from GoPro to now drones being used (Casey Neistat uses it for crazy shots) and finally Samsung’s new 360 camera. However, I don’t necessarily think social media for extreme sports follows the first rule of “being authentic”, There’s a saying going around, “do it for the gram” which infers that people will do the craziest things to get the best shots. In turn, some people might feel pressured to deliver a great shot, even if that means it could be posed. This is seen on Youtube (and Facebook since half of Facebook videos are just youtube videos) when pranks are elaborately planned out just for the viewer. However, in the long run I think high quality legitimate content will be on the rise and we’ll see even crazier photos.

  3. polmankevin · ·

    Awesome post! I think extreme sports is a great example of the difference between social media consumers and social media producers. Since extreme sports are dangerous and highlights are difficult to record the people who produce this awesome content are definitely the minority. The consumers, people who follow these extreme sports accounts, are likely amazed by the content but don’t have the talent or ability to do it themselves. The extreme sports revolution has definitely taken off in the past 10 years. I think you did a great job of highlighting how gopro contributed tot his success. The culutre of extreme sports and the awesome activities always existed, but gopro helped bring it to the for front – and more importantly to our TV’s and phones.

  4. Very interesting post! I really think that Go Pro and Instagram made the difference, and expanded the promotion and distribution of extreme sports to a nearly infinite level. But it has not only been extreme sports, a lot of activities that were outside the traditional media have improved their capabilities of promotion. Take for example Rap Battles in the Spanish speaking countries, less than eight years ago this kind of activities were extremely isolated and small, people didn’t compete outside their neighborhood. After the creation of YouTube the freestylers started to post the battles on YouTube and it became seriously popular, Until the point that nowadays Red Bull organizes competitions in every Spanish speaking country with multiple international competitions.

  5. Tyler O'Neill · ·

    Loved the post! I was actually considering doing something similar for my own next week. I skied since before I could walk and it’s something I’m extremely passionate about. Over the years, I have seen the industry progress from friends taking footage on cheap cameras and selling it as DVD movies online to a global phenomena that is constantly on social media site like Facebook and Instagram. I agree that the GoPro was a huge driver in the growth of the industry, but also company’s like Red Bull have done a great job sponsoring athletes, pushing them to test the limits of what is possible, and showcasing it to the world. Also services like Vimeo and YouTube provided a platform for unknown athletes to share their talents with the world and sponsors alike.

  6. Nice use of images in this post! I really enjoyed your take on how social media is changing the ways that fans are able to engage with the sports they love.

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