Women%uFFFDs Motocross at X Games in Summer, 2008 was one of the main new attractions. Girls wanting to learn motocross is on the rise within our North American Youth Culture Study 2009 data.

When it comes to sports and using sports towards reaching young women in North America and Western Europe, action sports remain one of the strongest segments towards connecting with the lifestyle of this specific demographic. However as we’ve noted in the past 5 years in our North American and European Youth Culture Studies, there is often a disconnect between the potential of the marketplace and how such sports or the surrounding lifestyle around specific sports, are utilized towards creating a relationship with young women.

For this story, we take a look at the results to two questions from our North American Youth Culture Study including “What sports would you like to learn?” and more specifically “What would influence you most towards getting you to Skateboard?” The results are based on a representative sample of more than 6,200 13-25-year-olds from across North America. This includes sports participants and non-participants, plus both skaters and non-skaters. By taking a look at the greater marketplace of young women who may not necessarily do any sports yet, you can see the potential of how a sport may increase in participation numbers based on those interested in the sport, but who may not yet be involved for a variety of reasons (which we’ll get to later).

The question “What sport would you most like to learn?” is important because it shows the aspirations of the marketplace and therefore the influences based on sports, whether they actually learn the sport or not. The peripheral lifestyle effects can be more beneficial to brands than an actual increase in participation numbers because people may purchase brands they associate with specific sports ranging from apparel to accessories and footwear. For example, when it comes to surfing, this is one sport that many current participants do not want to grow in terms of participation levels (and having to share waves), yet brands associated with surfing do want the lifestyle aspects to grow towards getting both surfers and non-surfers (the bigger marketshare) to buy their products.

When it comes to women ages 13-25-year-old in North America, as we’ve noted in the last 5 years especially, the percentages among females who want to learn action sports, specifically Surfing, Skateboarding, and Snowboarding are higher than males by fairly high percentages, which indicates a stronger market potential for this demographic and represents a market opportunity for such sports and lifestyle associations among young women. Specifically, the top sports to learn among females include various action sports, but with much higher percentages than males. There’s a 9% higher percentage among females than males that want to learn Skateboarding, 3% higher percentages among females than males that want to learn Surfing, and a 1.2% high percentage among females than males that want to learn Snowboarding. (See North American Youth Culture Study 2009 for charts and graphs.)

Another macro trend in sports today is that like mixing music genres, young people, especially between the ages of 13-18, tend to mix the sports they participate in or associate themselves with. Whereas 10 years ago, a skater may not have been a football player, now that same kid does both and without any prejudice from one to the other. This also applies across across genders. While some sports in the past had more specific gender connotations, today’s “genderless” society, meaning more crossover between genders in terms of style, fashion, jobs, and so on, can be seen also in sports as quantified by the increase in percentages among females wanting to learn so-called male-dominated sports such as Motocross, Football, Ice Hockey, and BMX (as per our data).

The shift in sports is that new subcultures are crossing boundaries. This even applies to the term “action sports.” Coming from action sports, it’s easy to see why we have always differentiated ourselves, first moving away from the notion of “traditional team” sports to the term “extreme sports” to action sports which appeals to a lifestyle. However among younger demographics who have grown up with snowboarding in the Olympics and sometimes confuse the real Tony Hawk for a video game character, and/or who think that the ESPN X Games are cooler than the Olympics, they don’t necessarily know what the difference is between “sports” and “action sports.” One thing we had to continually work on over the last couple of years is the fact that many young people think of skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing, and other so-called “action sports” as simply “sports.” Or not even that -just as “something that I do.” An activity. So for those inside the action sports industry trying to attract a new generation, it should be noted that many young people don’t differentiate via the “action sports” description vs. just saying “sports” in general.

Elissa Steamer at X Games in street skating

There’s a new breed of active kid out there who participates in a multiple of sports, and/or is influenced and dresses and acts the lifestyle of a variety of sporting genres. The boundaries have been blurred, not only between sports, but also across influences in music and fashion. The strongest change in the marketplace has been among young women in North America. (Europe following America’s lead in many ways when it comes to action sports.)

Finally, when looking just at skateboarding, which has much higher percentages among females wanting to learn this sport compared with males, when asked “What would influences you most towards getting you to Skateboard?” the most notable characteristic in our results is that 31.3% of females say they would skateboard “If I had someone to teach me” which ranks as the #1 reason for this demographic not skateboarding and marks an excellent opportunity for increasing participation levels. In comparison only 12.1% of males say this. Other factors for females as to what would influence them to skate include “If it were easier to learn” and “If I had someone to go with.”

Other changes in youth culture and females vs. males and sports in general is that while the action sports industry is catching on to the potential revenue found in the women’s marketplace, which is clearly quantified in the results, the sporting industry is still trying to catch up in terms of educating the chain of distribution in how to reach young women–from manufacturing, to distribution, to retailers, and store sales reps, especially when it comes to the lifestyle apparel associated with top sports young women want to learn (or be associated with).

What this means is that there’s potentially a much bigger marketplace out there that’s yet to reach its full potential but it may not be realized until everyone within this chain to the consumer understands how to sell to young women, who exactly these women are that aspire to learn “action” sports, and what the lifestyle of such sports actually means to this demographic.

For more information about Label Networks’ North American Youth Culture Study 2009, email info@labelnetworks.com; (323) 630-4000.