Extreme sports are bigger than ever
“Extreme sports are bigger than ever.” Quick: True of false? TheBase would certainly be willing to bet that most people would agree without further consideration: After all, it certainly appears that sports such as snowboarding, trail biking and adventure sports have more presence in the public consciousness, building as they are on the mainstreaming on many such pursuits in the 1990's and 2000's.
Here’s a representative example of the hyperbolization of extreme sports’ popularity today, in this case within a text hoping to pimp lightweight video cameras to those seeking to perform outrageous feats for upload to YouTube: “By 2020 [the copy appears to have been written in 2015], extreme sports will challenge profession and collegiate team sports for the title of most-watched category of sports content … the extreme sports juggernaut seems unstoppable.”
First off, anyone who believes that extreme sports will draw more viewers than, likesay, even NBA basketball within the next five years may not know what “year” means. Just sheerly pragmatically speaking, NBA fans will watch video of their favorite sport in any medium, and a couple of generations in the United States and Canada are out of the loop in viewing extreme sports – even if they can find a broadcast.
Secondly, well, lots look at some statistics and trends through in extreme sports’ popularity through the 21st century.
• In 2004, a study by the US-based Sports and Fitness Industry Association showed that the most popular extreme sports among Americans were inline skating (with about 17.35 million having done so at least one in the previous 12 months), skateboarding (11.59 million), paintball (9.64 million), wall-climbing (7.66 million), snowboarding (7.11 million), trail running (6.49 million) and mountain biking (5.33 million).
• By 2008, the North American sports leagues had begun to take notice of extreme sports in relation to, you know, the bottom line. That year, various studies showed that participation in organized softball, volleyball, baseball and basketball had declined in absolute terms 37%, 30%, 28% and 17%, respectively, over the past 20 years in the U.S. Studies in ’08 showed similar participatory numbers in specific extreme sports similar to those of 2004 posted above, but with mountain biking boasting some 8.6 million participants and skateboarding 14 million.
• That same year, statistics from the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA) showed that the U.S. surf industry had achieved record retail sales of $7.22 billion – in a year of massive recession, no less.
• In 2016, extreme sports were essentially *the* exercise fad in the U.K. Statistical examples? Sure! The British Parachute Association that year reported nearly 59,700 jumps, a 52% increase over 10 years prior. The British Mountaineering Council more than doubled their rolls in 15 years, from 25,000 to nearly 55,000. And 36% of all mountain climbers were women, up from a 16% showing in 2002.
Combined with the brand loyalty that extreme sportsmen and -women are known for, marketing-wise, and things certainly look bright for extreme sports in any arena. For example, though slot machine developers have often taken popular sport themes such as football, hockey and horse racing- in recent times they have embraced the extreme sport phenomenon. Have a look at these incredible sport themes.
But here’s the sobering news from one of the ultimates in cold stats. The massive statistics portal Statista’s “Number of people who are very interested in extreme/ action sports in the United States from spring 2008 to spring 2017 (in millions)” chart shows plenty of ebbs and flows over 10 years, but the overall trend in downward...
Those called themselves “very interested” in extreme sports via various sources went from 6.2 million in spring 2008 to an apparent high of 6.9 million in autumn ‘11. Three years later, this number had plummeted to a nadir thus far of 4.41 million in autumn ‘14. Bouncing back to 5.79 million in spring ‘16, only to shrink back down to 4.91 million for spring ’17, the last data point of the study as of this writing.
Some serious fluctuations may be seen there, sure; taking average numbers for each year hardly makes things seem better for the sports’ popularity. Said numbers go:
2008 – 6.19 million “very interested in extreme sports”
2009 – 6.4 million
2010 – 6.25 million
2011 – 6.52 million
2012 – 6.0 million
2013 – 5.42 million
2014 – 4.65 million
2015 – 5.07 million
2016 – 5.58 million
The conclusion? Whereas audience trends for team sports tend to go fairly smoothly in one direction for years and decades at a time, extreme sports’ smaller numbers of faithful cause greater statistical variance. Time will tell if the extreme-sports-are-taking-over adherents are correct (a long time, we’d think), but quite a few areas of the extreme sports world need buttressing or reworking altogether to continue appealing to new blood.
The truth is that the popularity of extreme sports, at least in the short term, may have peaked in North America.