When New Zealand–born venture capitalist Craig Cooper isn't rock climbing, meditating or writing for his men's health blog The New Prime, he's looking for the next great product to invest in.
As an outdoor enthusiast and co-host of CNBC's "Adventure Capitalists," he's spending much of his time these days investing in adventure sports. It's a market that reaches more than 140 million Americans and whose product sales hit over $120 billion, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.
Today, the action sport industry is innovating because of two main driving forces: GoPro and YouTube. "People are just dying for that social presence around whatever they're doing," says Cooper.
Whether capturing a skydiving jump with a GoPro or scuba diving with the waterproof Olympus Tough camera, consumers today are using technology to capture memories and then share them.
According to a report in The Future of Sports, sales of action cameras like GoPro, which launched its first camera in 2004, have grown nearly 50 percent annually and are expected to hit 9 million in 2018. And every minute, 100 hours of GoPro video are being uploaded to YouTube.
Though cameras themselves are thriving in the adventure sports market, and sparking companies like Fusar Technologies to embed motorcycle helmets with photo and video capabilities, the shareable footage is causing even bigger changes — namely interest in the adventure sports field at large and in revolutionary products, both potential drivers of innovation.
GoPro and YouTube are "pushing the boundaries of action sports more and more — and showing that there's much more extreme opportunities around the sector," Cooper said.
Ultimately, more videos online are driving greater interest in action sports.
Since Ford posted a video of rally racer Ken Block performing daredevil stunts like doughnuts in Dubai in February 2016, the video has received more than 20.5 million views.
Smaller social sites are also serving to garner interest in specific sports and products.
Downhill Rangers, an Austria-based community website that shares videos and photos of gravity mountain biking has over 23,000 subscribers and 4.6 million video views on its YouTube channel. Likewise, Extreme.com — a site dedicated to extreme action sports — publishes daily videos ranging from BMX to mountain biking to snowboarding, enabling its uploaders to share their sport footage, and whether intentional or not, spread information about the products they're using.
Products that employ new technologies and earn the interest of millennials across social media are ones that investors like Cooper are primed to invest in.
Ultimately, while it might seem like the plethora of online action sports videos are all about vanity and personal branding, at the end of the day, there is a bright light. The adventure sport market is transforming as a result of it.