I read this awesome post the other day by Stevie Haston, I mentioned it before, but had to again before I tried to add to its arguments. As it give a fairly shocking indictment to the state of the climbing and mountaineering industry. Which if we are to believe Stevie then it being taken over by massive multi-nationals who are busy stage managing the images of their athletes.
I have to say that in recent weeks I heard a acquaintance who climbed E9 last year was dropped by their rock boot sponsor. Which if it was a bloke you’d probably be like, what were they thinking. When you realise that they dropped a woman from their team who climbs E9, you will hopefully find it even more staggering. I am sure that it is in part due to austerity measures, to try and save a buck or two. It still shows you that there can’t be that much money if climbing E9 as a woman is no longer hard enough to get sponsored.
However, I guess it might come down to their social media presence (I did have more followers on twitter [yes it is a competition!] than her and may I take the time to thank you for following me, it must be the things I write, as it definitely isn’t my climbing!). I have another friend whose contracts are no longer gear towards photo incentive deals based on front covers of magazine, but the number of tweets, facebook statuses, instagrams or blog post they make a month. I got the impression that there was someone actually counting the number #mysponsors. That person at the crag one day, as he was about to embark on a loose and hideous E8, (he should watch his back, he could be out in the cold soon!), turned round to me and said, ‘What the fuck is twitter all about?” He found it harder to get his head round tweeting his life in 140 characters or less, than levitating up overhanging rotting choss.
Now I consider myself something of a professional belayer (#needasponsor), as such I get to see both sides of the coin. The climbers trying to make a livelihood from climbing hard routes and the work they put into it, over the images and stories that are portrayed of them in the outdoor media. They are often two very different things.
Things are as Stevie points out in his piece, about to take managing your public persona to a whole new level. Gone will be the warts and all approach and instead we will see manicured images, videos and social media post not so much to sell a lie, but mask a hell of a lot of the truth.
I have recently been surfing, and If you want to see where we are heading I suggest you watch a surfing/snowboarding film produced by/for a big company. I can almost guarantee the surfing films won’t show you the bad blown out days on poor waves, wipe outs or other darker sides of what these people are up to. I have notice that on a few big wave videos there is a move to cut the jetski out of shot. I have also never seen a professional surfer paddle out into a wave. I would be interested in that as falling down a wave I can do, but getting out back is not my forte, its all hard work and getting nailed.
Similarly, have you ever watched a jaw dropping good skate or snowboard film. One where the tricks are massive and impressive. You might see a fall or two to make them look human, but you know they have been nailing themselves 9 out of 10 tries, making it all the more impressive to be honest, but does it make a good film? Probably not, but more importantly is that the image #sponsors want to sell?
My guess is no. With the web rapidally developing into another TV channel, one where you truly have control over whats on, so their content needs to stand out. These companies know that they can get a more targeted TV advertising campaign through those social media channels then through normal TV or magazines.
The problem is the advertisers are right, one viral internet video is worth a fortune to these companies in its reach to its target market. If you remember a few weeks back I posted a photo of a crampon on backwards from #stayinside (I feel guilty as the manager lost their job over that incident as the CEO found out, probably when a friend shared it on Facebook, I did offer my services as a staff trainer!). I don’t know how many people shared it on Facebook, but I know that blog post went viral, and was viewed 17000 times in one day, probably nearly all of them climbers and mountaineers. All because I shared the post of Facebook and twitter. On the Brightside my friend who I stole the photo off bought those crampons from the shop at a well discounted price!
So look out for your favourite climbers, on perfect rock performing to apparent perfection. The route will take between 2 to 3 minutes to climb and they will tweet you to let you know how great it was to climb, send an instagram of them smiling at the top, all the while forgetting to tell you it took a whole days effort to get those three well orchestrated minutes of footage from over 8 hours of filming, and that it was there 5th day up there attempting the route.
It is all an illusion, the trick is to see through the BS.