Why X Games (and other brands) have eyes on dance music
It isn’t everyday that ESPN announces mini-festivals in conjunction with sporting their events. But late last year, the Winter X Games did just that when they signed Tiesto and Axwell as the closing acts to the extravaganza.
While the Super Bowl features vanilla mainstream acts like Bruno Mars, the network’s extreme sports competition has taken a risk building not just an athletics brand, but a Gen Y lifestyle one. Dance music to them is not solely about the artists or songs, but the entire youth movement. In these frenetic social and mobile times, it is increasingly difficult to grab this generations’ ADD attention span, and especially maintain it.
But this is not what ESPN saw in dance music. They experimented last year, inviting the likes of Calvin Harris and Major Lazer to the event. And the results were astounding from the sell-out crowd. “Key demographics all responded super well to EDM. We realized there are not many things like it,” admitted Mick Kelleher, in charge of multimedia content strategy at ESPN’s X Games.
In the past year, brands have been salivating at the potential of the dance music movement. Yet the market is so new, with many experts not sure how mature the is, or when it will be. Compounding the difficulty is the occasional negative press the scene has garnered, whether fairly or not. But with billions of dollars up for grabs in a wild wild west-style market, there has been more madness than method in these brand approaches to connecting with these adolescents and young adults.
ESPN wants to avoid the mindless stampede with calculated decisions. They prefer to take events step by step, properly curating them to enhance the X Games experience for their attendees. Dance music to them is no longer a short-term stunt to attract new fans and attention. The explosion in fan interest in the genre is undeniable – it’s a phenomenon with staying power, and a lot of it.
“We have accepted this lifestyle as a positive experience. It’s something we want to grow within,” Kelleher explains. “This is up and coming, and thematically, it matches the adrenaline of the sport and event.”
They are gradually figuring it out. While the likes of Tiesto and Axwell may be massive stars, this is actually just the beginning of the long-term growth plan to bigger things.
And like the many unknowns competing in the games, dance music may be their next breakout star.