EXTREME is a unique company that has grown from humble roots in the DIY counterculture of surfing, snow and skateboarding into a global brand.
The EXTREME Sports TV channel launched in 60 countries across the world in 1999. EXTREME has since established the brand as a pioneer and leader in the destinations and media sectors. It now delivers unforgettable experiences and campaigns in unique locations globally.
EXTREME works in partnership with brands, tourism authorities, property developers and events rights holders around the world.
Across all areas, the company supports and helps to develop projects through its brands and funded marketing. It also sponsors and supports 128 athletes. EXTREME is involved in delivering and broadcasting over 80 annual events. Through its digital media and publishing network which reaches around 100 million people per month, via 50 million views, it develops targeted social media and marketing campaigns.
Blooloop spoke to the architect of the brand, founder and CEO Alistair Gosling, who is currently bringing the EXTREME brand to emerging leisure developments worldwide, including in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia – strategic developments
Saudi Arabia has recently opened its doors to international tourism for the first time, with the new visa announcement. Visitors will now be able to discover the incredible riches the country has to offer, from breath-taking scenery to five UNESCO-listed heritage sites waiting to draw in those seeking history and culture. It sees extreme and adventure sports as one of the key tourism pillars based on the growth this sector is experiencing.
Saudi Arabia is rightly keen to put the spotlight on what lies ahead for its future developments. That future lies in the heart of five of its major new developments and others. This includes the giga-projects: NEOM, the Red Sea Project, Qiddiyah, Amaala and Ad Diriyah.
EXTREME has ventured into and is fully committed to Saudi Arabia. It recognises the aligned opportunities that present itself within the Kingdom, across the various divisions of the business – Events, Destinations and Media.
“It is truly a fascinating time to be conducting business there. And to see the development of the country from the ground up. For EXTREME to be involved in the early stages of some of these projects is both gratifying and incredibly exciting,” says Gosling.
NEOM is the world’s most ambitious project: an entire new land, purpose-built for a new way of living
There is nowhere like this vast site. Untouched, diverse terrain, sheltered by mountains and cooled by Red Sea breezes. A temperate Mediterranean climate. 468km of coastline with beaches, coral reeds, as well as mountains up to 2,500m high.
Red Sea Project
The Red Sea Project plans to set new standards in sustainable development and exceed expectations with the highest standards of service excellence. Offering a diverse array of seamless personalized experiences, The Red Sea Project will encourage visitors to explore the wonders and rich cultural heritage of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Coast.
Qiddiya will become the place to live, work and play. It will be both a prominent landmark and an important hub to meet and satisfy the recreational, social and cultural needs of the kingdom’s current and future generations.
Visitors will have access to more than 300 recreational and educational facilities designed around five cornerstones of development that drive the project’s strategy. These are: Parks & Attractions; Sports & Wellness; Motion & Mobility; Nature & Environment; and Arts & Culture.
Amaala is the uber-luxury destination of the giga-projects. It is expected to feature extraordinary architecture and unprecedented luxury in its hotels and private villas. It will also feature a retail village and an academy of the arts highlighting local Saudi Arabian artists. Additional features due to be developed include marinas, a yacht club, galleries, and dining venues.
Ad Diriyah was the first of the giga-projects to be announced. It is located on the outskirts of Riyadh and the site of the first Saudi state. It might just be its most cultural offering, dating back thousands of years ago. From an outsider’s perspective, it’s still going to be full of the glitzy resorts and high-class restaurant brands, but at its core is its heritage “jewel”.
EXTREME has also been involved in other areas of Saudi and the Middle East in the last few months:
Al Soudah (KSA)
EXTREME partnered with the Al Soudah region in Saudi Arabia to deliver an extreme and adventure sports strategy and plan. This project showcases the region’s beauty and appeal for adventure, sports, tourism, culture and heritage.
Ras Al Khaimah (UAE)
EXTREME isn’t just making waves in Saudi Arabia. Ras Al Khaimah is the adventure capital of the United Arab Emirates, Here, EXTREME was recently engaged to advise the region on their adventure tourism destination strategy.
It involved developing a strategy of new adventure assets and experiences to drive more visitors to the Emirate. With mountains, deserts, wetlands and coast, the region is ideally placed to become even more of an adventure destination. It is currently home to the world’s longest zip line and has won back-to-back awards as the number one attraction in the country.
The EXTREME business
“We are active through the three divisions of our business,” says Gosling.
Media & Marketing
“The first of these is brand building and marketing, headed up by Ryan Maxwell, producing digital media and publishing business which achieves over 50 million views each month. We are producing incredibly creative content and engagement for brands and destinations while entertainment for our millions of fans.
“We focus on anything our partners are doing, that is interesting to our demographic. This is as young as 12 and up to 34. We’re also sending our ambassadors in and really activating the brand-building marketing on that basis.”
Gosling adds, “Supported by The Red Sea Project and the Saudi Diving Federation, one exciting brand-led production that we are working on with Wild Planet Films, is The Realm Of Light. This 24 part adventure diving and exploration series will document the pristine and totally untouched areas of the Red Sea.”
The second part of the business is EXTREME Destinations. Run by Ben Barker globally, this is essentially the design, development and management of place-making sports, leisure and entertainment destinations, parks, hotels and resorts.
Gosling says: “This is a well-trodden path which involves working with our partners. Either in developing a vision or taking their vision and turning it into a reality.
“As leaders in our field and recognised for our expertise, creative vision and entrepreneurial flair, we design, develop and operate a variety of outdoor and indoor action, adventure and fun destinations, integrated with accommodation, food, beverage and retail.
“What is also exciting is that, as part of our destinations division, we have recently partnered with Wyndham Hotels to globally roll out the EXTREME Hotels & Resorts brand and business. This really plays into the overall adventure and extreme sports lifestyle. Catering to what is becoming the fastest tourism growth market.”
The third part of the EXTREME business is event design, development, representation and activation:
“We’re delivering in everything from small events to festivals. There is a whole lot of exciting and engaging content right across the board. This covers everything from music, accommodation and food/beverage right the way through to the adventure and extreme sports. For example, mountain biking, wing suiting, drifting and even e-gaming.
“This part is about making some noise. We’re in a position to deliver small and large scale events, stunts and activations to these projects as they start to get moving.”
Action sports by EXTREME
EXTREME offers action sports, perfect for those with a taste for adrenalin and adventure. The company divides these into Earth, Water, Snow & Ice and Air.
The ‘Earth’ category includes skateboarding, longboarding, mountain boarding, BMX and Motocross. Guests can also enjoy mountain biking, caving, abseiling, rock climbing and free climbing. And the list of adventurous activities goes on. There is also mountaineering, parkour, sand kiting, obstacle course racing and zip lining on offer, just to name a few.
‘Water’ comprises surfing, waterskiing, bodyboarding, wakeboarding, kitesurfing and windsurfing. There is also cave diving, flow boarding, paddle surfing and kayaking. Adrenaline junkies can experience cliff jumping, white water rafting, jet skiing and more.
The ‘Snow and Ice’ category covers yet more activities. For example, snowboarding, skiing, ice climbing, snowmobiling, glacier trekking and ice driving. It also includes sledding, snow tubing, winter climbing, dog sledding, and many more.
Finally, ‘Air’ offers base jumping, skydiving, bungee jumping and high-lining. It also features hang gliding, paragliding, micro lighting, as well as plenty of other options.
And it is not just for elite athletes. Creating destinations and platforms for the entire family to participate (and spectate) is the key success driver. “We don’t want to alienate people from trying these sports out. We want to get them to feel comfortable and confident, and engage as much as they can” says Gosling. “You just need to turn up, have a sense of fun, and allow us to facilitate the rest!”
Saudi Arabia: Vision 2030
Saudi Arabia’s giga-projects are part of Vision 2030. This is a massive economic, social and cultural diversification towards world-class tourism and leisure. They have a focus on smart cities, sustainability, wellness, culture and luxury. And also extreme sports, which is where Gosling’s company comes into the picture.
They mark Saudi’s aspirations as a vibrant society. The projects aim to position the country as a thriving economy and a progressive nation.
Gosling says: “We’re seeing an incredible uptake in that area.”
In terms of the experience people are seeking, he says: “We are not delivering a solely high-end luxury experience per se. We’re keeping the focus on everything to do with extreme and adventure sports. This actually caters across a range from the luxury all the way through to mass market.
“We are not pigeon-holing in terms of a luxury approach. The offer is about the experience, rather than the star rating.”
Gosling and his team spend time researching the market. This enables them to understand what activities are most popular in which regions.
At present, EXTREME is fully engaged across all business divisions with a number of projects in the region.
“We are very active in terms of the market assessment of the destination on an overall basis. Our business is now split between London, Dubai and Riyadh.
“With Qiddiya we’re working on media and marketing,” says Gosling. “We are utilising our publishing network, pushing out and driving media coverage for them. I sit on the advisory board, which is an honour and privilege. Watching the whole project take shape and seeing the work of Michael Reininger (Qiddiya’s CEO) and his team is just awe-inspiring.”
“EXTREME has a number of new projects in the pipeline and we have incredible teams working across those three areas of brand building and marketing, events and destination development.”
EXTREME in Georgia
Another area where EXTREME is doing something interesting in terms of master planning for a whole brand is a resort in Georgia.
“We’re doing a really interesting thing with EXTREME Svaneti, in Georgia,” says Gosling. “This is in cooperation with the national and regional government. It is supported directly by the Prime Minister and a Georgian development partner.”
Here, EXTREME is driving, implementing and delivering two world-class action and adventure sports destinations. This also engages with and supports a government agenda covering sport, health, wellbeing and tourism.
Gosling says, “People are increasingly choosing experiences and memories over the acquisition of possessions. And this includes adventure sports.”
EXTREME in the UK
Back in the UK, EXTREME’s projects are also continuing to grow. Sheffield City Council has signed a 150-year leasing agreement with EXTREME. This is for its proposed new 21-hectare sport and leisure EXTREME destination at Parkwood Springs. Plans include a modern ski slope, mountain biking trails, a zip line and a retail and dining hub. Skyline from New Zealand will supply a luge. It will also include visitor accommodation. Work on the site is set to begin in 2020.
“It’s going very well indeed. The council approvals are through. We’re now in the planning process of six months that we have to run through.
“As part of that project we have 400 houses in parallel with the leisure development. So we’re using the housing to drive the leisure build. The gross development value [GDV] on the leisure development in Sheffield is close to 50 million.
“We have fantastic partners lined up across that whole project in terms of different areas of expertise and facilities. The team around it are doing a brilliant job and pushing it through to make it happen.’
In conclusion, says Alistair Gosling, “All in all, it’s a hugely exciting time here at EXTREME. We have a fantastic team, incredible partners and some truly amazing projects”.