A case for sports – X Games
X Games is a sporting event covering a number of disciplines within extreme sports. First held in 1995, X Games is divided into summer and winter competitions. The winter X Games are held in Aspen, Colorado in January, wile summer X Games are usually held in Austin, Texas in August. The Oslo X Games were the first to combine summer and winter disciplines.
X Games Oslo was organized by TV2 in collaboration with SAHR Productions and the American TV channel ESPN as the owner of the X Games. Oslo Municipality supported X Games Oslo in 2016 with NOK 42 million.
Oslo has a long tradition of hosting major winter sports events, with the 1952 Olympics as its historical peak. There are annual FIS Cross-Country World Cup events, and the city has hosted skiing and biathlon World Cups a number of times.
During the last decade the city has also hosted major events in extreme sports such as the snowboarding World Cup and Arctic Challenge, and has gained a lot of expertise in the field. The municipality’s aim is to continue being an attractive destination for winter sports. Oslo’s international branding strategy also emphasizes profiling the city to young audiences, which fits well with the significantly younger fan base of action sports compared to traditional disciplines such as cross-country skiing.
X Games Oslo was held at three venues in Oslo in February 2016. A total of 16 sports events attracted 35.000 people, with 1,7 million TV viewers in Norway and just under 500 million viewers via ESPN and other channels.
Despite negative press reports about doping controls beforehand, the focus was quickly turned to performance and the event in itself. There was wide public support among Oslo residents, with 8 of 10 being positive to the arrangement.
Is it on brand?
X Games Oslo was considered to be on-brand by using the city as a whole, with events in various locations – showcasing the short distance between city and nature. Other sports events often show only the natural scenery – missing out on Oslo’s urban qualities.
The X Games were also considered to be on-brand by expressing Oslo’s values: Pioneering by renewing winter sports, enriching by being entertaining and attracting young target groups, and real by showing true passion for sports and dedicated, hard-working talents.
Oslo’s international branding strategy is clear on the need for being a digital pioneer. With small budgets compared to London, New York and Stockholm, Oslo must get attention in new ways. X Games delivered by focusing on young athletes who use social media to reach large audiences. A combination of broadcast TV and social media were seen as a strong platform for branding.
All in all, X Games Oslo was considered a good choice for branding Oslo as a young, pioneering city.
The digital footprint
X Games is aimed at a young audience – a target group using social media like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter more than any other age group. A shared strategy between X Games Oslo, ESPN and TV2 was to create enthusiasm among spectators as well as athletes to create attention for the event and for Oslo. In today’s media landscape, athletes are «broadcasters» in their own right.
The athletes at X Games Oslo had a total of 31 million followers. A good example of an athlete using social media is Brazil’s Leticia Bufoni, who was number five in women’s skating. Her live streaming on Facebook before the finals was watched by a total of 126 000 people, and directly before the start, more than 10.400 people. X Games’ own stream on Facebook from the same event was seen by 59.000, with up to 5.000 viewing live. Bufoni has over two million followers in social media.
X Games Oslo created great attention and interest compared with X Games Aspen. Despite being held for the first time, the Oslo games created more activity in social media than X Games Aspen.