X Games means money for more than the competitors
ASPEN –Just outside the competition area at Winter X Games VIII in Aspen, Vance Billings stood outside a white tent covered in body armor and shoulder spikes. His face was covered in a black veil and, as he disappeared inside the tent, he began his mantra.
“We’ve got to be here,” the Vail resident said, pointing to his Mervin Manufacturing equipment lining the tables inside. “It’s important for us to be here for the youth.”
The X Games crowd attracts the kind of youth who enjoy disguises like Billings’, a product representative for Mervin and Gnu snowboards. The attraction for these companies is two-fold: Live, primetime television means more exposure for products and the industry as a whole.
And, who dominates the industry more than Burton, a company desperately trying to keep a foothold on the rapid progressions snowboarding is facing. Chad Everhart, a rep from Denver, manned his booth that was filled with snowboard models and pictures of athletes like Kelly Clark, who finished second in Friday’s women’s superpipe competition.
“This definitely makes a huge difference,” Everhart said. “Shaun White is getting so well known. People not associated with snowboarding know who he is. He’s becoming the Tony Hawk of winter sports. Burton is pretty well known in the inner circle, but we’re always looking to expand outside people who already snowboard.”
And, guess what White rides – Burton. When he wasn’t riding or winning an X Games event Saturday and Sunday, White was found at one of his sponsor’s arena. He signed autographs in the Playstation tent Sunday afternoon and, later, did television spots for a variety of his sponsors.
But, when White rests in the athlete’s tent, he’s also the victim of product placement. Fender, the guitar company, set up a public booth next to Burton’s, and also installed a private booth in the restricted athlete’s lounge. This is the third time at the X Games that athletes like White and Tricia Byrnes have had the opportunity to jam in between, well, jams.
“There is that connection between music and these events,” said Alex Perez, development and marketing manager for Fender. As he spoke, a fan began playing “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen on a bass that had been resting in the corner. “This is similar to our client base. A lot of these guys play music.”
The X Games new exposure also helped out charities. The Women’s Sports Foundation set up breast cancer awareness booth, which offered pamphlets and ways to help advance the search for a cure. And, while snow fell on Sunday and caused events to be postponed, many of the fans found themselves with nothing else to do but shop.
“We’ve got next year’s product right there,” Everhart said. “And that doesn’t even come out until August.”
Ryan Slabaugh can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 257, or at firstname.lastname@example.org