The go-to place for extreme and adventure sports, Extreme International has been operating for over 25 years and is a uniquely positioned brand that lives at the nexus of sports, lifestyle and entertainment. Here, RLI speaks with Al Gosling, Founder and CEO of Extreme International and Ben Barker, Managing Director of Extreme Destinations at Extreme International as they discuss the company and its position in the new world in which we find ourselves.
Headquartered in London, with bases in the Middle East, central Europe and the Indian Ocean, Al Gosling founded Extreme International originally as a media business. The Extreme Sports Channel was launched into 68 countries and around 100 million homes before the brand was developed beyond media.
Today the company runs three different divisions, the first is the media, marketing and licensing division, which is headed up by Ryan Maxwell and is made up of a media network which incorporates a plethora of either direct to consumer or digital media sites or Facebook, TikTok and Instagram pages. The second division in the business is Extreme Events which is headed up by James Cooke-Priest and is focused on delivering global events. The final division is Extreme Destinations: Parks, Resorts, Accommodation and Hotels which is headed by Ben Barker and this itself is broken into three sections, the first is developing indoor and outdoor adventure parks, the second is what they call the Extreme Collection, so this is the accommodation arm incorporating tents, treehouses, lodges etc and the final section of this division is split into Extreme Consultancy, which involves work with governments and tourism authorities to deliver either national or regional business plans or master planning strategies in many countries around the world.
In spite of Covid-19 and all the disruption it has brought to industries and businesses, Extreme International has dealt with the period very well and is coming through it in good shape. “At the moment we have our media and destination businesses in a great position while our events business has slowed massively it is still moving along,” explains Al Gosling, Founder and CEO of Extreme International. “Despite the on-set of Covid-19, our main objective has not changed from an overall perspective. Our key drive is to inspire people to explore and to experience. We want to entertain people and this key brand promise remains and it is never going to change”, he continues.
In the UK, the company is heavily involved in the large 50-acre development near to the centre of Sheffield in collaboration with Sheffield City Council. The project is a large sports and leisure entertainment development that they have been working on for a long time in partnership with Sheffield council that is really coming to fruition now in terms of the sports activities and accommodation.
A key market for the company is the Middle East; it had been expected that a lot of its projects in this market would either come to a standstill or be delayed due to Covid-19, but it appears it has had the opposite effect. In particular a major project Extreme have been involved in is the Neom project in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where they have worked on all the adventure and extreme sports and had a hand in all the business planning, feasibility and design work.
So is the company considering work in any new markets and which markets have the two of you excited for the future?
“Actually the Caribbean has been an interesting one from an overall perspective. Otherwise we’re working in most territories across Europe; meanwhile in Asia some initial conversations are taking place. China continues to elude us, but we are still looking for the right partner and the right project,” explains Gosling.
“I think some of the European countries, particularly the Eastern European countries are exciting prospects as they’re growing and expanding. Obviously now everybody is facing tough times but it is certainly an area that we were looking at pre-Covid-19 and trying to get involved in, particularly across Georgia and further east as well,” explains Ben Barker, Managing Director of Extreme Destinations at Extreme International.
So Ben, how do you go about developing these new destinations to maintain your niche position in the market?
“A lot of research goes into any strategy or destination development. What we want is to understand and get a really clear picture of what the vision and the goals are of the stakeholders of that project or destination, to make sure they are achievable and realistic in terms of what we can provide as a brand. From here we work with the topography, the location, site, masterplan, whether it is an indoor or an outdoor destination and then really just delivering it from the ground up with a blank canvas.”
The company recently partnered with a new social media application called Outbound and Al Gosling explains that this is one of their marketing campaign initiatives, and that the partners they look for globally are ones that they can develop exciting and entertaining offers with that their 20 million strong communities will be interested in. They are interested in good people who understand the brand, value the brand and value what Extreme International can bring to the table.
As the interview draws to a close, we ask Al how he is feeling about the next 12 months and he explains that he and Ben are both very positive and really buoyant overall at the moment.
“I think the whole team are in great shape and while it is a hard time and it’s going to get harder for a lot of people, from our perspective we have a great team and a great brand,” Gosling concludes.