Within the skateboarding world, there has long been a debate over whether skateboarding should be considered a “sport” or not.
This debate is one centered primarily on the fact that the primary goal of skateboarding is not competitive in nature. In fact, despite contests like the X Games and Street League growing in audience and mainstream acceptance, and the recent announcement of that skateboarding will be included in the 2020 Summer Olympics, only a very small percentage of professional skateboarders participate in contests.
However, it is actually this emphasis on the non-competitive aspects of skateboarding that puts it at the forefront of content marketing and social media as a business communication tool.
Whether there’s ever a final answer to the debate about if skateboarding is truly a “sport” or not, the skateboard industry stands as an example that the sporting world should learn from in these regards.How the Skateboarding Industry is Excelling at Social Media and Content #sportsbiz Click To Tweet
Ahead of the Curve in Content and Social Media
Skateboarding has relied heavily on content marketing since well before it was known as content marketing.
Before the internet became what it is today, skate brands relied on creating content that would convince consumers to buy their products. This was done in a few different ways—primarily in the form of advertisements or features in skateboarding magazines, and full-length movies featuring a company’s pros.Skateboarding relied on content marketing before it was called that Click To Tweet
Due to skateboarding’s natural proclivity toward content creation, where it shines brightest as an example of business today is through the regular creation of online content and social media, especially Instagram.
With Instagram, skateboarding brands can directly connect to their fans with content. Unlike other industries, skateboarding has not had to make sharp adjustments in order to use social media to its advantage. Instead, it has simply shifted what it was already doing toward social media.
Where monthly magazines and brand websites (and the occasional in-the-know skate shop owner or employee) were once the only real source of regular content, news, and announcements, with no central source for any of it, now this largely originates on Instagram. In fact, this is now the primary source for industry news, and sites that cover skateboarding, such as Tony Hawk-owned The Ride Channel, use Instagram as a primary source for both news and aggregated content.
This trend of social media increasingly becoming a primary source of news is not unique to skateboarding, especially in the world of sports. However, while in other sports, social media like Twitter is frequently used to either break news or attract people to follow a link to the full story, skateboarding is ahead of the curve when it comes to social content being the destination, rather than the portal.The skateboarding world understands social content better than you do #sportsbiz Click To Tweet
From a marketing perspective, social media has positioned skateboarding to reach incredible new levels of mainstream popularity.
This is, in many ways, because skateboarding content is such a natural fit within the most powerful marketing trends right now. Instead of having to figure out how to create things like video content, this is something that skateboarders have already been doing for decades. The only difference now is the medium in which this content is being spread.
Image Courtesy: Northeastern University D’Amore-McKim School of Business
The Berrics: Innovating Further Ahead of the Curve
Despite skateboarding’s overall early adoption of content marketing and social media, you can still see the power that being on the forefront of new movements brings by looking at some of the trailblazers in this regard.
The Berrics is a private indoor skatepark created in 2007 by pro skateboarders Steve Berra and Eric Koston that has transformed into a powerful brand within skateboarding.
How did this rapid ascension occur? By being ahead of the game when it comes to content.
Personally, I can remember my first experience with The Berrics’ content back in 2008, when I came across videos from the first iteration of their annual Battle at the Berrics contest.
At this time, the concept of skateboarding content on the internet was rare and infrequent, so from that point on, checking The Berrics for new videos became a part of my regular life. Soon after, skateboard brands and traditional print publications like Thrasher Magazine and Transworld Skateboarding followed suit and started emphasizing digital content.
Even as the rest of the industry started to catch up to the importance of internet content, The Berrics continued to innovate in ways that would change the game.
Since the early 1980s, one of the most important parts of being a professional skateboarder has been filming “video parts,” which are essentially video clips of tricks, usually edited to music. For these video parts to be released and actually mean something, however, they had to be part of an actual full-length video, typically made by one of the skater’s sponsors or a magazine. The process of filming these videos would take years, which meant there could be a major delay between a trick being filmed and it ever being seen by fans. It also necessitated that one of their sponsors actually be planning such a project, or else there was no actual outlet to release the footage.Finding ways to rapidly deliver content to your followers will maximize your brand Click To Tweet
However, in 2010, The Berrics did something that changed this when they released a video part for pro skateboarder Shane O’Neill directly online and on its own. Since then, this model has become the industry norm. While traditional full-length videos are still made, they are no longer the only option, and individual parts from these videos are posted online for at least a limited period of time.
This idea has grown exponentially because of skateboarding’s rapid acceptance and integration of social media. Now, skaters can post videos of tricks that might not make it into an actual part to Instagram or Snapchat, which helps grow their fan base.
This is something that other sports and athletes can learn a great deal from.
Finding ways to rapidly deliver content to your followers that they want to see, especially in ways that competitors are not, is key to maximizing the impact that both social media and content marketing can have for you.
If you lag behind, then you’re going to end up copying someone else’s example and will need to play catch up while they find new ways to innovate.
Catching Up to Skateboarding’s Example
Much of what has made the skateboard industry such an innovative example is its early adoption of business and marketing philosophies that are now being recognized as important. Millennials are changing the workplace in a number of ways, but their primary contribution is a different mindset in the workplace. Millennials crave collaboration, embrace digital platforms, and understand how to interact with people on the internet.
Embracing these ideals may be new to the business world in general, but they have been utilized and seen as important in the skateboard industry for a long time now—even before the rise of the internet and social media, in many ways. Skateboarding brands that have succeeded over time have not necessarily been ones that started with business mindsets, but instead were ones that found ways to connect with skateboarders through the personality of the brand.
As we move even further into an era of social media ubiquity, this is something that will only become truer for skateboarding brands.
Within sports, this principle should not be seen as niche, however. Instead, whether it is athletes, teams, or even huge entities like sports leagues, the sports world should look to how the skateboarding industry has excelled at connecting with its existing fans and consumers, as well as reaching new ones, through its early and innovative integration of content and social media.