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In a bold move that creates a marketing alternative to ESPN's X Games, footwear marketer Vans has struck deals to own or market championship events in four major extreme sports, and now is packaging the combined events for sponsors.

With room for two global sponsors in addition to Vans, the marketer has inked Casio of Japan's trendy G-Shock brand to a three-year sponsorship. Discussions have been held with Levi Strauss & Co. and Pepsi-Cola Co. for the other package.

Jay Wilson, Vans VP-marketing, wouldn't disclose pricing, but said the value of media exposure alone is worth $10 million to sponsors.

The Vans Triple Crown Series covers the popular board sports of skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing and wakeboarding. In order to create a triple-crown series for each sport, Vans acquired or struck marketing alliances with existing events or created new ones.

The first two series -- skateboarding and wakeboarding -- begin in May. Mr. Wilson wouldn't comment on the terms of the various deals.


Each global sponsor gets title sponsorship of one event in each of the four series. In addition to on-site benefits, sponsors get units on telecasts covering the events. The programming will get global exposure via ESPN2 in the U.S. and various ESPN International networks.

Additionally, sponsors get inventory in "Board Wild," a weekly TV magazine show about the extreme sports lifestyle and culture on Fox Sports Net.

Also, marketers become sponsors of the Warp Tour, the alternative music and cultural festival that will travel throughout the U.S., Europe, Australia and Japan.

Warp Tour, starting in June, is expected to draw 675,000 people. In late July, it will intersect with the G-Shock Professional Skateboarding Championships in Asbury Park, N.J.

Extreme sports participants and fans are notoriously difficult for marketers to reach and communicate with. According to research conducted by Youthquake, these consumers range in age from 15 to 34 years old; are into alternative music, sports and the Internet; and are individualistic, cynical and socially aware.

The U.S. population that falls into this psychographic group numbers 78 million, making it a segment larger than the baby boomers.

They spent $4 billion on extreme sports apparel and equipment last year and $600 billion overall, according to Youthquake.


Mr. Wilson wouldn't comment on negotiations for the third and final global sponsorship position.

He also disagreed with the contention that this package could be seen as a rival to ESPN's X Games, saying that since the telecasts will be seen on ESPN, the events will only solidify the cable network's position as a leader in extreme sports.

In 1997, Vans posted U.S. sales of $120 million, up 15% from 1996. It still trails rival Airwalk, with '97 sales of $180 million, up 14% from '96. Also, competition is increasing, with Adidas, Converse, Nike and Puma making plays for the market.

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