As Chris Froome powered to his second Tour de France win in Paris last week, the eyes of the world were trained on the British cyclist as he responded to claims of doping in the most glorious fashion.
A beaming Froome was broadcast all over the world via TV partners, and some would have been surprised by how close they were to the action.
For those following this year’s Tour, however, the sight of Froome signing a camera at the close of the final stage was an intimate display they had grown accustomed to over the three weeks of competition.
Adding to the usual visual exp-erience of long panning shots of winding French hillsides captured by helicopters and camera crews navigating their way along the peloton were 12 GoPro cameras mounted to competitors capturing every sweat, heavy breath and pained expression of the cyclists as they combated the most punishing and celebrated ride in the world.
A further 50 cameras also captured domestiques, team cars and various other aspects of the race (see right column) and it meant that over 100 hours of content being created and a team of around a dozen people frantically running around each stage collecting SD cards to take to post-production.
It was a result of the camera company’s sponsorship of the event which aimed to not only embed itself into a new market, but also bring a whole new dimension to how people consume and interact with Le Tour.
Founded in 2002, GoPro has become the stable video gear for extreme athletes, budding videographers and anyone else wanting to capture a moment that otherwise couldn’t be. Thanks to its diminutive size, ease of use and ability to be strapped on to just about anything, it has seen the company’s value rocket, not only in terms of shares but also its credibility.
For Director of Sports Marketing, Todd Ballard, the opportunity to tell new stories via their product is one that is proving irresistible.
“GoPro as a brand, and as we grow, is looking for new properties, not only to scale globally and speak to a new audience but also finding, particularly within sport, new ways of capturing content, show a new perspective and tell compelling stories,” Ballard told Sport360.
“After meeting with (Tour organisers) it seemed like a perfect partnership between our two brands to begin this journey of mounting cameras on riders and I think we’ve already seen by the type of content we’ve captured and the stories we’ve been able to tell, it’s been a great success for us.”
To some, this idea may seem new but it is just one of a number of unique create and curate partnerships that GoPro has invested in.
The NHL and MotoGP have already benefited from the arrangement with cameras bringing fans closer to rinks and circuits.
As far as sponsorship deals go, it is a unique venture and one that only a company with a product such as GoPro’s could deliver to such acclaim. It is this thinking outside the box and determination to showcase the product that sets GoPro apart. There are few companies that can rely on their users to do their marketing for them and this is something Ballard is particularly proud of.
“I think one of the magic pieces of GoPro is that we have millions of consumers out there who do a lot of marketing for us just by capturing, creating and sharing content to their family and friends,” explains Ballard.
“GoPro will come in and sponsor a Tour de France or MotoGP and really show what is possible and stretch the limits of the camera to create that inspirational piece of content. We’ll put that out across our digital platform and then in return find people who are doing it themselves.
“That becomes more powerful than any company-led marketing initiative where you have millions of consumers not only creating content but also tagging our brand and associating it with GoPro.
“It is unique to be a brand that is not only a noun but also becoming a verb in itself. By adding #GoPro to the end of a post, that content is given an extra piece of validity and you know that something compelling is coming out of that content. People adding that hashtag is a huge marketing effort for us that the fans have to take credit for.”
With just under 20 million followers across its social media accounts, it is easy to see the ‘word of mouth’ value the company has.
And while it has proven difficult for the biggest of brands to turn likes and shares into dollars, GoPro is making digital conversation the backbone of its financial growth.
When the company went public with its IPO last year, it was valued at a whopping $3bn. For a 12-year-old startup this is remarkable. When you then look at the company spending just $90,000 on marketing the year before, it paints a better picture of the worth in its ‘share, share, share’ ethos.
“As we continue to innovate, the quality of the pictures, the quality of the sound and ease of use at the back end of our GoPro studio and making it easier for people to get content off their cameras and share it is a big effort internally,” says Ballard.
“That eco-system of GoPro is what delivers content from consumers and to the world and continues to be a big area of importance and focus for us. It takes us beyond being just a camera.”
— Team Sky (@TeamSky) July 28, 2015
The ‘eco-system’ that Ballard mentions is an apt analogy. Bred from founder Nick Woodman’s desire to give a first-person recording of a surfing trip, it has gone on to encompass anyone and anything that takes a GoPro camera and feeds it back into the community.
It has also made Woodman a very wealthy man. Having reportedly retained a 45 per cent share in the company, Woodman has profited from doubling sales year-on-year since 2004, Foxconn’s $200m investment in 2013 and the company’s IPO.
The 40-year-old is now valued at over $2.3bn and had the luxury of being able to pay back college roommate, and GoPro director of music and speciality sales, Neil Dana $229m last year for an agreement they had when he was made the company’s first employee.
Woodman was also named by Bloomberg as 2014’s highest paid US executive. This bold approach is as refreshing as it is profitable and makes perfect sense that the company first made forays into the world of extreme sports. And it is not a tact that will hasten any time soon, with Ballard firmly of the belief that similar partnerships will come thick and fast, with the creation of content at the heart of their prospectus more than ever.
“For us, we will continue to innovate in technology and were also starting to build up the entertainment side of our business which is creating and curating original pieces of content that we can serve up across our media platform and beyond social media to look at new channels that we build across Virgin America Airlines, Xbox and Roku,” Ballard explained.
“These types of platforms are, in a very unique way, providing very unique content, not only from what we’re shooting but also what our fans are shooting. Between innovation and distribution of content, the sky really is endless as to where we can go as a commercial brand.
“We’re in a fortunate situation as the brand we are. We get to have conversations with leaders across many different disciplines of sport so we’re looking at many new platforms and how we can further amplify those sports we’re currently in. I expect to see GoPro integrated into new sports many times over, over the next few years.”
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