and broadcaster Selema Masekela its new Chief of Sports Culture in a three-year dealAnton Eye
Just before X Games Aspen gets underway on Friday, Jan. 26, the brand has announced that longtime action sports journalist and host Selema Masekela will take on a new role as its Chief of Sports Culture.
Masekela hosted X Games for 13 years between 1999 and 2012 and, in 2023, returned to the fold as host and consulting producer.
In three-year deal, Masekela’s new role will allow him to influence every aspect of X Games, serving as the public face of the brand. In addition to continuing his hosting duties, he will guide the cultural vision for the sport and lifestyle elements of the brand, mentor up-and-coming talent and provide counsel on topics of athlete growth through production.
Scott Guglielmino, interim COO at X Games, lauded Masekela’s impact in the action sports space. “His influence extends past just sport, into fashion, music and art—and most importantly their intersection,” he said.
In late 2022, MSP Sports Capital assumed control of the X Games brand from ESPN and Disney. It has been tinkering with changes to the brand and its summer and winter events, looking to connect authentically with its viewers while also considering athletes’ needs.
As Chief of Sports Culture, Masekela will be able to act as a liaison between athletes and X Games executives and shape the brand’s more athlete-driven strategy.
Games host in 2023Dave Camara/X Games
“X Games is now a 30-year-old start-up, which is exciting,” Guglielmino said. “We’re in growth mode. We’re working on myriad plans to elevate the brand, the action sports landscape, and most of all, be a platform for athlete growth. Selema will play a key role in helping X Games live up to our ambitious plans.”
Changes to the competition schedule X Games has implemented for 2024 show an effort to be in touch with what the core audience wants to see. Its popular knuckle huck event, which debuted in 2019 and has so far featured only men snowboarders and skiers (save for a Jamie Anderson drop-in in 2021), will include a women’s competition this year.
Additionally, ski and snowboard street style events will return to the X Games schedule for the first time since 2013. These events are most similar to how viewers themselves ski and snowboard—very few people will ever drop in to a 22-foot halfpipe—and resonate with fans.
About his new role, Masekela told me that “focusing and building on the innate star power of our athletes draws in new viewers by showcasing that the next generation of action sports have a broader, real world appeal.”
favorite for his infectious smile and his mind-blowing tricksTrevor Brown, Jr./X Games
One example Masekela highlighted is snowboarder Zeb Powell, a streetstyle rider whose you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it clips often go viral.
That reach extends all the way to other professional sports. According to Masekela, Colorado Buffaloes safety Shilo Sanders (son of Deion) posted a video of himself snowboarding that went viral a few weeks ago.
“Sanders executes a pretty technical trick in the terrain park and at the end a shocked buddy asks him how he’d learned that trick,” Masekela said. “Shilo’s deadpan reply: ‘Since I started watching Zeb Powell.’”
Boston Celtics star shooting guard Jaylen Brown has also befriended Powell and had him out to Celtics games.
“By intently building on the crossover appeal of Zeb and the many athletes like him in this next generation of X Games stars, we build long term new viewers,” Masekela said. “Star power, we’ve got plenty.”
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I have been writing about action sports and the Olympics and Paralympics for more than a decade, having covered Summer and Winter X Games, Summer and Winter Olympics and Paralympics, Dew Tour, world championships, and more. I cover the industry from every angle, but my favorite pieces to write are always profiles of the athletes that make these sports so compelling. I’m originally from New Hampshire, where I cut my teeth as a snowboarder (and cut up my knees and elbows…a lot), and now live in Chicago, a city that holds a gold medal in my heart despite its lack of elevation. Follow me on Twitter @MichelleBruton.
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