ESPN announced plans this week to expand the X Games internationally in 2013. Immediately after news broke, there was noticeable online chatter about where the event should move next. Of course China is probably at the top of the list, given it’s massive market potential, but comes with some challenges. Responses from Chile and Brazil are what got my attention, cause really Latin America is what makes the most sense here. An expansion of the winter version in the region will help snowboarding continue to grow not only there, but in the United States as well. While both Mexico City & Rio de Janeiro have hosted an X Games event in the past, a winter edition in South America a more innovative route to take now.
- Both Argentina & Chile have resorts capable of hosting the event. Although, Chile may win out here based on logistics, including having a super pipe. Don’t think the pipe cutter at Cerro Catedral is going to work. Sorry boludos, unless of course the rumors of Cerro Bayo hosting an event come to fruition, Chile may beat you too the punch. With a stronger economy and better accessibility to the mountains from Santiago, on the surface Chile’s Valle Nevado makes a better choice on the first go-around of a Latin Winter X. Still, a case for Argentina can be made.
- Latin America already has a snowboard media pipeline in place to support the X Games. Over the last several years I’ve documented the uptick in Spanish language snow content being produced there. Publications like Gravedad Zero, ProPaganda, La Tabla Magazine, and Komunidad Snow are all curating a unique snow perspective. Digital technology has made it possible for Latin snowboard culture to blossom. Plus, a South America Winter X Games helps ESPN Deportes. You guys need to diversify yourselves in terms of sports content. An over emphasis on traditional sports, ie soccer, is going to kill you with U.S. Hispanics. The ability to produce in culture sports content allows ESPN to update digital properties with greater frequency. All of this fits nicely into the upfront model the X Games has established. It’s apparent television is still key to brand marketing.
- The pool of athletes hungry for the opportunity to showcase their talent and see where they stack up against the world’s best already exists. Latin snowboarders are looking to up their game and the X Games helps them to accomplish this goal. A Latin Winter edition means less demand on the need to travel to North America and Europe. Resorts will improve their offerings. I truly believe there’s a kid in Bariloche that none of us has ever heard capable of blowing minds. If you look at what Jorge Belardi is doing with the Argentina Snowboard Tour, it’s not hard to imagine. A Latin Winter X will tap into the core Latin snow scene quite nicely.
- Affinity for action sports culture and lifestyle runs high throughout Latin America. Up until recently skate and surf culture has made the greatest impact. Now snow is in a position to join the other two board sports in status in the region. Film companies, like Bad Quality Productions and Corte Films have helped build the core Latin market, and there’s a retail structure there already to help support. Last summer I witnessed it first hand in Argentina. As I’ve mentioned many times, sport niches inhabited by participants that represent distinct subcultures within action sports form a recombinant environment in which creativity, innovation, and progression thrive.
- Emerging markets represent the future of U.S. youth market. Think about it, with an increasingly diverse youth segment in the United States, as the X Games grows internationally the talent pool of culturally relevant athletes will help brands engage with new customers here. By tapping into the southern hemisphere’s snow culture you also give the snow industry as a whole a longer season. Instead of 4 to 6 months in the north, you now go to 7 to 9.
These are my reasons why I think Latin America is the best place for ESPN to expand the X Games franchise, especially for winter. While I know some harbor a disdain for the commercial nature of the ESPN’s made for TV action sports event, the international move makes so much sense in so many ways. There are a lot of parties in the industry that would benefit from it. Action sports culture and lifestyle already resides on a global level, now its time to see where talent from other parts of the world take things. Its time to start rethinking how we look at youth market. Its long overdue…