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Extreme exits the underground

Although Bruce Stein, president of Southampton, Pennsylvania-based Trinity Marketing, foresaw this eventuality nine months ago when he launched the eXXtreme joXX brand, even he's surprised by the speed with which extreme sports have ascended. 'This alternative sport genre has become mainstream...
September 1, 1999

Although Bruce Stein, president of Southampton, Pennsylvania-based Trinity Marketing, foresaw this eventuality nine months ago when he launched the eXXtreme joXX brand, even he’s surprised by the speed with which extreme sports have ascended. ‘This alternative sport genre has become mainstream quicker than I expected. With NBC’s Gravity Games launching this month and a winter sequel planned for 2000, with four years of ESPN’s X-Games pounding away summer and winter, and with commercial advertisers [including Pepsi, Dockers and Toyota] using radical extreme stunts in the background to sell cars and cereals, there isn’t a time when a kid would turn on a TV and not see extreme sports.’

With a mind to capitalizing on this screened media blitz, Stein has hooked up with sports marketing agency The Familie to access an expansive roster of action sports athletes available for merchandising. Drawing from disciplines like BMX, wakeboarding, snowboarding and skateboarding, The Familie has already licensed its athlete support for video games including an Xtreme series for PlayStation, but Stein plans to expand these fledgling licensing efforts into an encompassing campaign targeting a broad demo of kids as young as four with toy product, up to teens and young adults with digital games and apparel.

The ink is drying on deals covering the following categories: posters (Western Graphics); key chain vehicles (Basic Fun); miniboards and minibikes with figures, yo-yos, frisbees and rack toys (Imperial Toy); T-shirts (Wild Oats); and handheld electronic games and articulated action figures (Trendmasters). The posters are available now at specialty stores, the keychains and minitoys with figures will launch at mass during the upcoming holiday season, and the rest of the product will follow in spring 2000. Stein is negotiating verbal agreements with various companies for radio-controlled vehicles, construction sets (for building skateboards and skate parks), CD-ROMs, model kits, bike accessories and die-cast vehicles. Trinity is also looking for licensees in the girls fashion arena in order to serve a growing number of female extreme sports fans.

Trinity and The Familie offer a unique turnkey licensing scheme that gives licensees access to the eXXtreme joXX brand name, athletes (for promotion, endorsement and merchandising), existing action photography (for product advertising), and logos and graphics from the athletes’ corporate sponsors-all under one licensing agreement. Key retailers will also be able to bring in The Familie’s athletes to sign autographs and perform stunts in promotion of the product launches. ‘It’s a phenomenal way to attract a crowd, by setting up a half pipe and having a skateboarder or BMXer performing stunts,’ says Stein. ‘Believe me, you could fill a parking lot.’

Stein also expects extreme sports to score long-term success in the licensing realm. ‘Extreme sports is more long-lasting than a fad because it is anchored by an evolving lifestyle,’ he says. ‘Since it doesn’t revolve around one character, movie or a show-all of which have a limited shelf-life for merchandise-extreme sports makes for a very appealing license because there’s no foreseeable end to execution and acceptance of product.’

Based in Huntington Beach, California, Jugular is another emerging extreme brand that hopes to get in on a major sports trend from the ground up. Jugular chairman and CEO Michael Lajtay points to the diverse and evolving nature of extreme sports as the reason why the category will have staying power. ‘Everyone in the extreme sports realm is trying to come up with a new way to get a rush,’ he says. ‘New sports like street luge are being invented on a monthly basis, so it’s never dull.’

Since launching the brand two years ago, Lajtay has signed licensing deals with Dallas-based Drew Pearson Marketing for a line of hats, Zippo for lighters, and with San Diego’s Advanced Bodymetrics for a line of high-tech sports watches that can check vital signs with the push of a button. The merchandise, which is aimed at the 12 to 34 demo, is currently on shelves at specialty retailers in the U.S. and Canada.

Lajtay has also just inked a deal with Activision division Head Games Publishing for the development of a mass market video game title for PlayStation and Color Gameboy consoles. Slated for a holiday retail debut, Jugular Street Luge Racing will star Jugular’s two sponsored street lugers, Wade Sokol and Sean ‘The Duck’ Mallard; the danger-loving duo will help design the title too. In all, Jugular sponsors five extreme athletes, including veteran mountain bike champ Ray Sanchez, water skier Mark Lane and motocross competitor John Butler.

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