Swag hunting at Aspen X Games
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Have you gotten your giant foam taco hat, yet? A free shaving razor? Fresh-baked pizza roll? How about a wax replica of your hand?
Wander the Winter X Games event site and you’ll have a chance to get all this and more.
“The swag hunt is on,” said Nick Scharffbillig, from the Front Range, on a recent wander of the X Fest village at the base of Buttermilk. “I’m looking everywhere and anywhere where it is at and I will find it.”
Scharffbillig, who won his trip to the 2008 X Games through a Denver radio station, was sporting a loaner helmet and held a Snowskate, a combination skateboard deck and snowboard he was about to try for free at the Snowskate park at the X Fest village.
“I see Taco Bell hats. I see free snowboards. I see free helmets. And I will be there,” Scharffbillig said. “You see swag; you will see me.”
Wearing a stick-on mustache and beard, Nick “Rinickulous” Ferrara of Los Angeles was the emcee in front of the Schick Quattro Titanium booth. Participants spun a prize wheel and the spot was mobbed with kids Thursday.
“Tons of swag. As you can see it’s a swag village right here,” Ferrara said.
Kids wander the event with big smiles, Ferrara said, and while many are bucking for big ticket items, such as snowboards and goggles, most are happy to settle for something simple, such as a poster.
Even the Navy got into the action.
“It’s about awareness,” said David Prasek, a senior chief with the Navy EOD. Recruiters are on site, but the Navy booth is not all about recruiting, Prasek said.
Instead, visitors have a chance to log as many pull-ups as they can, and the top strong-arm every day earns a custom Navy snowboard.
The strategy of swag
The marketing machine at the base of X Games evolves every year, according to Marc Murphy, director of events development for ESPN X Games.
“The swag is very important,” Murphy said. “The youth ” this demographic ” they love their free stuff.”
X Games officials regulate give-ways not only to prevent repeats, but to avoid anything unsafe or inappropriate, such as stickers.
“We don’t want stickers plastered all over town,” Murphy said.
And this year’s giant foam hats from Taco Bell are a perfect example of good marketing, he said.
“The kids love ’em,” Murphy said.
Four years ago the X Games took on corporate and national sponsors, Murphy said, an important boost that took the event to the national stage.
But X Games planners didn’t want to lose action-sport sponsors and grassroots companies, so planners created the X Fest village for companies such as Burton and Oakley as well as specialty gear vendors.
While national sponsors, such as Jeep or Taco Bell, pay big bucks for TV and magazine advertising and banner placement on X Games venues, smaller vendors broker a deal with ESPN for space in the village, Murphy said.
“It’s just creating an area and a space for people who want to hit our demographic and makes sense for our event,” Murphy said.
“We could never do this event if we just gave these spots for free,” Murphy said.
X Games marketers welcome small or local companies, but, he stressed, “The last thing I want is a flea market at the bottom of the mountain.”
In the past, guerilla marketers wandered the X Games crowd to hand out stickers and fliers, something Murphy said X Games staff closely watch.
“The bottomline is: We do police the area,” Murphy said. “All we’re doing with it is protecting our sponsors, so that their presence isn’t diluted by someone who doesn’t have a presence here.”
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