For millions of adrenaline-sport fans, Extreme has been a mainstay of their entertainment consumption since the mid 1990s. Originally founded by Alistair Gosling as a TV channel which went live to sixty different countries and 50 million homes, the business has since evolved and developed with the times.
The management of the TV channel was sold and while they own the brand it is run by Liberty Media, and as a business now, Extreme have several areas that they focus on including media and marketing, events, destinations and licensing. #Sportsider caught up with social media manager Tom Ovenden who’s department handles media and marketing, content creation, event management and everything social and digital.
A self-confessed fan of the channel, Tom explains that he has been with the company for almost a year and that it’s fantasy come true, “I’ve been hooked on extreme sports and the channel from a young age,” he says, “So when I got the chance to get involved and work for them I jumped at it.”
With a background in digital and social media and having worked across all marketing functions, Tom has a position that allows him to keep his fingers to the pulse of the sporting world. Particularly to see the waves of trends and the tastes of people. Part of his role is to use this information to create workable social media strategies that will engage a brand new generation of fans to the extreme sports.
An active participant himself Tom likes to believe that he is a good allrounder who has tried his hand at several different sorts, although according to him, he cannot claim to be good on a skateboard!
“Part of the role that Extreme has always played is to get more people included in playing sports,” he says, “And we are working with a number of very exciting projects in very exciting destinations to help do just this.”
This year, Extreme are working across multiple developments and projects as part of the Saudi Arabian government’s 2030 vision to create gigacities. These are in essence a response from their government to multiple societal challenges including limited entertainment options, demographic and social change, as well as the need for more careers in a world beyond oil and public health. As such, this forms part of Saudi Arabia’s pioneering plan to create completely sustainable cities from scratch.
Extreme are working with them to help build top of the line extreme sports facilities and currently a lot of Tom’s team mates are out there full time with this project. It isn’t the only one happening in the kingdom that they are involved with, Extreme recently were working on the Dakar Rally in Saudi, including helping run the event.
“Internally there are a lot of projects happening too,” he says, “We are launching podcasts and vlog casts with original content and looking into creating more original productions.”
Today the way in which viewers consume their media has changed, especially for fans of adrenaline fuelled sports and activities, both those who watch it for entertainment and those who use it as a source of inspiration. With the swap from the big screen to the smallest screen in 2019, Extreme created four new Tv style series with the Facebook Platform.
A lot of the Saudi Arabia projects are aimed at encouraging community with initiatives and activations, currently Extreme are involved in working a series of those and it has been very positive. Their core belief is to build and facilitate and drive the adoption of Extreme.
Tom reveals that there are a lot of popular sports in Saudi Arabia and, thanks to their facilitating approach to the creation of grounds and locations, there are some unique, niche sports that have become popular too.
“Motorsport has always been popular,” he says, referencing the almost symbiotic relationship extreme sports has with anything with an engine, “But we have some niche stuff as well like sand boarding, climbing and the resurgence of BMX. Also, they have a real love for dramatic aerial sports like skydiving and base jumping.”
BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS
“It is very important to break down barriers and change the way people think,” Tom explains, “Extreme sports is no longer a young person’s game. Age, gender and orientation mean nothing when you’re giving it your all and getting that rush of adrenaline.”
According to him, extreme sports is more about character. There is a certain kind of character that is attracted to high adrenaline and intensity sports. Now, as longevity of health has improved, and people are active much longer, age now is just a number as long as you love that rush.
“There are a lot of grandparents out there right now who are wilder than their grandkids,” Tom points out.
Amazingly, the Extreme team is not huge. Across the globe they employ around thirty five people, but they can scale up and down depending on projects and needs. What Tom has noticed the most is that getting things done requires a dynamic team and a strong core of team mates and being able to rely on everyone being target driven.
“Wanting to be part of that team is a big part of it,” Tom relates, “And that is down to environment, leadership and a passion for what you’re doing.”
EQUALITY IN SPORTS
One of the Facebook TV series last year was entitled Beauty and the Beast, and each episode followed a female big wave surfer. Surfing may have washed away the line between men and women in the sport, but traditionally Big Wave Surfing was considered a male dominated area. This series helped change that.
It was an eight part series focussing on different athletes on how they overcame gender inequality, and essentially put women big wave surfing on the map. Tom however says that the subject of inequality has never really been one that, as a company, Extreme has felt the need to shout about.
“As a company we’ve always focussed on the value of the sports and the activities,” he says, “Over twenty five years we’ve been essentially gender neutral. It has always been the position we’ve kept and so we don’t feel the need to shout about what we’ve been doing because we’ve always done it.”
After all, it’s all about the sport.