X Games hit Aspen with four global sponsors
When ESPN hosts the first installment of its global X Games series in Aspen, Colo., this week, it will have only four global X Games sponsors — two fewer than ESPN hoped to have.
The company, which will host X Games in Aspen, France, Brazil, Germany, Spain and Los Angeles, sold sponsorships to all of those events to GoPro and Red Bull. It split the automotive category between Jeep, which will sponsor winter events in Aspen and France, and Ford, which will sponsor summer events in Brazil, Germany, Spain and Los Angeles. And it sold a global deal to the U.S. Navy that gives the armed forces division on-site rights in Aspen and Los Angeles and advertising in global X Games programming from the other four stops.
ESPN executives declined to discuss the length and financial value of the deals. Marketing sources who were approached by ESPN said the company was pitching deals with a $16 million-a-year price tag but added that the company netted less than that from GoPro and Red Bull.
All of the global sponsors have been involved with X Games in the past.
“We feel pleased with where we’re at,” said Eric Johnson, executive vice president of multimedia sales. “We’ve developed a brand-new sales strategy. We’ve seen some complicated global deals come to fruition. Ultimately, we’re happy with where we’re at, and we want to keep pushing.”
Johnson said that ESPN is in active conversations with companies interested in the X Games. He expects to sign two more global X Games sponsors by the end of the year.
“These are complicated matters,” Johnson said. “This requires CMOs and clients in this country to get sign-off and buy-off from regions. We’ve done a lot of learning.”
The rights of global sponsors vary but most receive rights to the X Games marks and logos, title sponsorships of competitions or course elements, signs, hospitality, on-site activation and media across ESPN’s TV, digital, print and radio outlets.
In Aspen, Jeep will be the title sponsor of the slopestyle course and have two Jeep vehicles integrated into the course design. Red Bull will have branding on course and vignettes of its athletes featured during the broadcast. GoPro will title the snowmobile best trick event and have footage shot by its cameras incorporated into the broadcast.
GoPro has been a sponsor of the X Games since 2011. The company, which last month received a $200 million investment from the Chinese manufacturer Foxconn that valued the company at $2.2 billion, historically divided its sports marketing spending among the X Games, the Monster Energy AMA Supercross series and athletes such as Shaun White and Ryan Sheckler. It signed on as a global X Games sponsor because it believed the events offered a marketing platform to help expand its sales in key markets such as Germany and Brazil.
“Those are not only strong markets globally and financially from a macro level, but for GoPro we have a ton of customers in those regions,” said GoPro spokesman Rick Loughery. “It matched up nicely. Brazil is really booming when it comes to action sports.”
Red Bull first signed on to sponsor the X Games two years ago. The company saw some risks in ESPN’s decision to take the property global, including the possibility that some key athletes might skip the new events and ratings might suffer because additional content is available, but ultimately it opted to sign on for the four additional events and plans to activate in all six markets.
“Action sports are part of our heritage, so when people are investing to grow action sports, that’s really exciting for us,” said Chris Mater, Red Bull’s U.S. sports marketing chief.
In addition to signing four global sponsorships, ESPN signed seven local sponsors for the Aspen X Games. With the exception of The North Face, all of the sponsors are new to the event. They include: The Office Depot; Loctite, a sealant brand; Yoplait, a yogurt brand; Monster Cable, a manufacturer of audio/visual cables and headphones; OtterBox, an electronics case manufacturer; and Repreve, a recycled fabric brand.
Repreve’s X Games sponsorship is its first in sports. The brand, which is a division of the publicly traded company Unifi, makes recyclable fabric that is used to make outdoor clothing by brands such as The North Face and Patagonia. It cut the X Games deal itself and signed snowboarder Elena Hight for a commercial that will air during the broadcast. Hight also will wear a green beanie made from Repreve during competition. The company plans to hand out similar beanies in X Games’ sponsor village.
“We’ve been promoting Repreve to the B2B community for five years,” said Roger Barrier, Unifi’s president and chief operating officer. “We’re looking to promote to consumers. The X Games is the beginning of that for us.”
ESPN’s sales team is working with local organizing committees in France, Brazil, Germany and Spain to find a similar list of five to 10 local sponsors for those events.