Social Media In Skateboarding – Sell-Out Or Sensation?

By Alison Lukin

If you Google, “How much money is the skateboarding industry worth?” Results will come up ranging from $4.8 billion dollars upwards to $7billion. When the sport of skateboarding began on the streets of southernCalifornia in the 1960’s, we can assume that those numbers would have never
been imagined.

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Can you fathom how the stars of such an underground sport
got their names out before social media? At first, the only option was touring
around skate parks in hopes to grab the attention of Skateboarder Magazine, which was first published in 1964. Not much
changed until the 80’s with the birth of videos and the cult standard Thrasher Magazine.

Pro skateboarder Joey Brezinski reminisced, “when I picked
up a skate mag when I was a kid, seeing Rick Howard nollie backside flip on the
burrow banks, I liked the hell out of it, but there was no way to express how
much I liked it other than putting it on my wall.”

My how times have changed!

Brezinski, age 33, is one of many pros that is reaping the
benefits of present day social media. With 122K followers on Instagram and over
266K on Facebook, he is making his dream a reality.

His popularity has allowed him to become a brand ambassador
for Puma. One of Brezinski’s favorite parts of his Puma gig is the “Tricks for
Kicks” campaign where he gets to go to local skate parks and hand out a free
pairs of trainers to kids who can do skateboard tricks. The campaign is
featured in the Red Bull documentary series, “Pushing Forward.”

While Felix Löchel, a 27-year-old skater and filmmaker from
Ravensburg, Germany largely supports social media; he sees two sides of the
coin. “Skate shops used to be the social centre of a skate scene. That is a
part I see dying. You met there, watched skate videos in real life with
friends, learned the lore from the older guys… you afforded the videos a
little bit more respect.”

Are we trading the camaraderie and subculture of
skateboarding for something else? Perhaps. But the benefits for a new culture
are surely winning out.

Social media opens the door for an unlimited amount of new
faces to create a following and influence their own fans in positive ways. Ryan
Allen Sheckler is a perfect example. At just 24 years old, he’s got a net worth
of $16 million dollars. Some of his sponsors include Red Bull, Oakley, and
Panasonic just to name a few. How did he land such amazing endorsements? His
social following peaks well over 7 million.

Then we have our veterans. You know, the old guys in their forties.
Tony Hawk, who pretty much single-handedly revolutionized the business of
skateboarding, has social media numbers that rival most celebrities. How does
6.3 million Facebook followers sound?

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A few years Hawk’s junior we have Rob Dyrdek. He’s taken his
celebrity to a whole new level with endorsements, reality shows, and Guinness
World Records. His combined following is well into the 8-digits. In fact,
FoxWeekly calls him one of the “most influential skateboarders of all time.”

“Social media has given each skateboarder their own voice in
order to create their own brand” says professional skateboarder Jamie Thomas.

It’s all about the interaction. Pros can post videos and get
immediate feedback from their fans. And boy, are they watching. They’re
watching clothing style, skateboarding style, for ways to do new tricks, and
just for kicks. Now not only can they watch, but they can comment and actually
get a response straight from the source!

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And it’s proven that the more interactive you are, the more
your fans you accumulate. Social media analyst Fred van Schie did a study
on Twitter
of skateboard shoe companies and found some interesting results. He
found that their percentage of replies greatly affects their number of
followers. Here are some stats:

Vans
– 38% (178k followers)

Osiris
– 22% (16k followers)

Dekline
– 19% (700 followers)

Pros like Wes Kremer are digging in their heels and aren’t
budging when it comes to social media. He claims, “Your net worth is now based
on the amount of followers you have, taking you away from life because people
are so consumed within their cyber-world.”

But if you want to make money from doing what you love, the
numbers simply don’t lie. According to We Play:

“Facebook has over 1.2 billion monthly users, Twitter has nearly 300 million users and Instagram has more than 20 million active users. Brands and skaters who have not adapted to social media
and have incorporated a digital strategy are therefore missing out on
targeting and growing their global fan base. This is why many skaters and
brands within this community have had to adapt with the times and incorporate
social alongside traditional print ad and video streams.”

Still not sold on social media in skateboarding? As a result
of its inception nearly 10 years ago, the sport has grown by a whopping 166%
each year beating out the figures from any other sport according to the
National Sporting Goods Association.

Those are pretty good odds. I think we’ll stick
with it.

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