X Games Lounge.

Photos by Tom Wallace

The ESPN Summer X Games 16 from July 29 to August 1, 2010 attracted scores of fans of action sports to downtown LA to see the best in skateboarding, BMX, Motocross, and Rallycar racing perform in what’s become known as the “alternative Olympics.” It’s at this event each year that new heroes are created, such as Chaz Ortiz in Street Skate, and consistent medalists such as Shaun White and Travis Pastrana, get mainstream media attention.

It’s also the location where sponsorship programs indicate where things are headed, ranging from categories such as energy drinks and snacks, to automotive, to electronics. The X Games plaza area which hosts many different activities for fans is basically an entirely sponsored “festival” of action where fans can win free swag each day or participate in an activity. The area also has a couple of stages, several jumbotrons showing the latest events taking place inside the Nokia Theatre or on the LA Live/Staples Center event deck, or over at the LA Coliseum to keep everyone up to date on the action.

X Games plaza entrance.

Sal Masekela, a popular sports host for action sports and youth culture, was of course one of the main commentators at X, along with legendary skater Tony Hawk, who actually had a cracked pelvis. Some interesting new programs included Girls Day on Sunday dedicated to the ladies of action sports with clinics and demos for fans from the women pros, plus athlete autograph signings, and other events, and a virtual component with the Skateboard Real Street–ESPN’s first online competition platform.

One area that seemed greatly improved was the X Games merch tents and lounges, featuring incredible art installations made of skateboards, BMX bikes, and various T-shirt and caps merch, plus the new graphics of the X Game merch in general, which resemble latest trends with band merch from tours such as the Warped. Cartoony graphics, neon colors, and statement fonts all added to an effective merch selection.

Ford Fiesta area was usually packed. They had a mechanic truck race track area, plus commentator with give-aways like longboard skateboards and a Metal Mulisha skinned Ford.

In terms of sponsorship, the X Games featured many interesting developments, which we tweeted about, along with all of the athlete action, for three days solid (thanks followers!). The Fiesta Ford area was usually packed with an excellent commentator who mixed in Fiesta-like comments about Ford while running contests for longboard give-aways. Coupled with the funny commercial that played intermittently on the jumbotrons, it was pretty effective.

Arma Energy SNX was a new brand we’d never heard of before, and they pulled out a monster truck, plus lots of good-looking booth bunnies in army-esque short shorts and emblemed tops. Columbia’s “Freezer Tour -The Future of Warmth” campaign seemed ironic since it was blazing hot in the plaza, but obviously was OK as fans lined up all day to try and score an Elmer Fudd-type hat from the booth reps. Speaking of hats, probably the most annoying sponsorships was Shark Week by Discovery Channel which gave away blue-finned foamy hats. However it clearly it worked since it seemed like everyone was wearing these ridiculous things like a Wisconsin cheesehead.

Oakley truck with tours. In the background are Sal Masekela and Tony Hawk commentating for the X Games.

One of the most low-key sponsorship gigs was Craftsman (which is an interesting sponsor in and of itself) and their old-school sand bag toss. But it’s things like this (or spinning wheel of fortunes) that are always effective and Craftsman attract lines of people taking their best shots at this traditional carny concept.

The Navy was out in force (in a sponsorship-type way) with not only an absolutely huge, adrenalized hummer, but all sorts of aquatic gear, including a simulation mini-sub that you could get in if willing to wait in the long line. We tweeted them as the “most serious” sponsor since all of the booth guys were buff, navy-types obviously, and their interactive components included rope ladder climbs and their legendary pull-up competition.

The funniest sponsorship goes to AXE and their little slide and campaign called “Double pits to chesty” which makes fun of the way tricks are named and called-out during freestyle motocross and vert skateboarding. Their ad campaign also features a freestyle motocross guy getting big air and his “trick” is spraying AXE under each pit and then his chest before grabbing the handlebars again and landing.

AXE%uFFFDs Double Pits to Chesty sponsorship was funny.

Another category that is clearly involved in action sports now is electronics. There was the Samsung Galaxy phone, the Sony “bloggie” rentals and 3D glasses rentals, and loads of activation people convincing people to “tell their story” and post their pics. The VAIO media lounge included what’s become a pre-requisite now for attracting youth culture: designer headphones which you could demo on site.

Sometimes it really can be all about the music that makes you stop at a particular area, and in this case Oakley scored. First, they really do have an amazing pop-out sponsor truck, but coupled with Led Zeppelin and AC/DC playing outside, with banners of Shaun White looking very rock and roll, their Rolling Lab was enticing. Inside, Oakley people went through the differences in various styles and eyepieces from their collections, and what makes Oakley so ahead of the game in terms of technical eyewear.

Other sponsors included Paul Frank, AT&T, Global Inheritance and their eco-friendly recycling area which the X Games has really stepped up, Nixon on the scoreboard/jumbotron, Mobil 1, which was absolutely everywhere, and Aspen/Snowmass which is where the Winter X Games in the USA takes place.

The Sony Bloggie bar where you could rent one for the day. Great concept. Bloggies are indeed a fast and fun way to shoot pics, but also short video which you can then quickly post on your Facebook profile or blog.

The X Games itself had several areas going on, including a spray-art tattoo station which was packed daily, their own free “X Games Energy drink” give-aways, and a learn-to-railslide mechanism that tilted while you’re on a skate deck which we awarded “Best attraction for cute kids” because of the line-up of little groms hoping to get in there. There was also a bungie cord area which added to the fan activities available and a mini-race car track where you could drive your own car in competition with others.

In addition, this year the X Games seemed to step-up with more pro autograph signings and areas than ever before, which continues to be one of the most popular aspects of the X Games. To many young people, action sports stars like Lyn-Z Adams Hawkins, Bob Burnquist, Brain Deegan, Nate Adams, and Pierre-Luc Gagnon are absolute rockstars on the scale of pro basketball or baseball players. Yet oddly enough, it’s only when X comes around that most mainstream media even bothers to cover such athletes and events. This is yet another indication of the generation gap in mainstream sports and media, but it also marks an opportunity for brands hoping to reach today’s youth culture.

Stay tuned for the men’s sports round-up and women’s sports round-up from the X Games posting next.

Arma Energy SNX area was huge. Lots of give-aways and hottest booth bunnies.

Columbia had an ironic campaign going on for their Freezer Tour but people wore the freebie Elmer Fudd flaphats despite the blazing heat in the plaza.

Craftsman goes all old-school with the snadbag toss activation. Still works apparently and proves simple can be quite effective.

X Games merch featured some improved carttony, horror fonts and bright colors. It was a popular area.

Global Inheritance was onsite with X Games supporting their recycling initiatives. They also had their artist garbage cans on display as well.

Drones wanted. But for what exactly? Generally speaking, the girls outfits were similar to those from Arma and the Rockstar energy drink girls. Black short shorts, military inspired tops were key.

Part of the merch area inside the X Games lounge, featuring art installations also of action sports hardgoods and apparel.

Metal Mulisha skinned Ford Fiesta. It was a popular photo target.

The Navy was out in full force with heavy equipment, nautical gear, plus celeb signings, a rope ladder, and pull-up competition.

AT&T and Samsung interactive areas.

Samsung was one of several electronics. Here, they%uFFFDre promoting their new Samsung Galaxy%uFFFDs. To know more about Samsung and their ranking within preferences of North American Youth Culture, check-out our Spring or new Summer Studies (just posted).

Shark Week by Discovery Channel. Surfers who walked by shuddered. By the end of X Games, the blue foamy fin hats became as annoying as looking at people wearing Wisconsin cheeseheads or Taco Bell taco foam hats. People loved this.

Shaun White look-a-like. A little weird, but there were many.

VAIO media lounge and pre-requisite designer headphones. A little late to the game, but oh well.

One of the staging areas where different DJ%uFFFDs or rappers played, plus lots of give-aways from X Games commentators.

Rope ladder climb competition was popular with dudes. Maybe they%uFFFDll join the Navy.

Our friend and X Games commentator, Salema Masekela. He%uFFFDs been hosting the X Games since January 1999 when he started with snowboarding. Here he is in the vert pipe for Men%uFFFDs Skate Vert Finals.