When we released our 2012 SCS National Championships video last week it sparked a storm of commentary and feedback, both positive and negative. We encourage and appreciate both—your perspective and comments never fall on deaf ears, and the constructive criticism we receive helps us to continue our progression at LT11.

Much of the discussion centered on the editing of our latest comp video. Some people didn’t like the video stylistically. Too many “quick cuts” and “not safe for epileptics.” That feedback is a fair critique (we apologize to the epileptics watching our videos) but for every person that comments, “I had a hard time watching the whole thing–“ there’s another person spraying on Facebook, “Comps usually bore the sh*t outta me… but THIS IS DOPE!!!” That’s nothing unusual. You can’t please everybody. Some people just look for reasons to bitch and moan. As Mr. Andrew Bisharat commented on my FB post,

“People will complain about anything. It’s all shit or sunshine on the Internet. Nothing in between. There are two types of people: People who create something. And everyone else.”

Others chimed in on the discussion expressing that they would really appreciate seeing more of the climbing in the highlight reel. I can honestly say we will never put full-uncut-send-footage in our highlight reels. I think ClimbingNarc hit the nail on the head,

“when you watch a show like SportsCenter they don’t show the entire 4th quarter or all of the 9th inning when they are highlighting what happened in a sporting event.  They show the exciting moments that defined the event.  That’s why they’re called highlights.”

and

“showing entire attempts, especially in a lead comp, is pushing the envelope for what most people would sit through.”

I do agree, however, with commenters expressing sentiment we could afford to let the climbing footage breathe a bit more. People want to see more of the climbing. Let the climbing tell the story. We hear you. Under tight deadlines we often focus on trying not to challenge the audience’s attention span, or we simply get stuck in a rigid pattern of cutting to the music, which we’ve now noted can be quite jarring at times.  We learned a lot this round. Thanks for the feedback. It helps us to make the next one even better. And we’re psyched to do so!

Ultimately, I think Narc brought up another fantastic point in his post that deserves to be discussed even further:

“The problem with there being no broadcast is that climbing fans—people who are really interested in seeing each and every move—are not being well served at all.”

I couldn’t agree more. The last 2 climbing comps LT11 covered were 2012 ABS Nationals (Men & Women) and just recently the 2012 SCS Nationals. These were major comps in the US with the purpose of crowning a National Champion respectively. They were organized by the official governing body of climbing in the States–USA Climbing . . . and yet there was no live feed available for either event. Why?

Because there was no budget for it. Not enough money to produce a broadcast. Now, I don’t know where all the dollars come from (ticket sales, memberships, etc.) but I’m certain (and it seems to be the general consensus) the biggest buckets of cash to fund these comps come from sponsors. In a post on the UBC Pro Tour Blog from the beginning of this year it says,

“there is still plenty of work to be done in convincing our industry of the value of professional competition climbing as a mechanism for growth of the sport. Look no further than the cancellation of the staple UBC comp at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show back in August for evidence of that. The need to cancel our first event ever was a blow to us and an indicator that much of our industry lacks either the ability or the vision required to support and sustain a climbing pro tour at the level necessary to produce professional-scale events.”

It is not the ability the industry lacks–rather it is the vision.

Based on my experience in the industry, it seems to me these companies have demonstrated little to no interest in supporting these professional-scale events. The desire to invest in the future of our sport is marginal at best. Potential sponsors for big events appear apathetic about climbing making it into the Olympics. It’s not possible to set up a demo table with their products at an Olympic event. They won’t see any direct sales increase on their quarterly returns if climbing becomes an Olympic Sport. That’s what I think it all comes down to. The industry would rather spend $1000 bucks to sponsor a local climbing comp than support a professional-scale event that will progress the sport. They want a direct return in increased sales.

A climbing shoe company, for example, can send a regional rep to your local gym with duffel bags of shoes for comp participants to try out. Everybody in the gym can climb in those shoes. Some of those people will buy a pair. Boom! Money well invested, right? Sure. Absolutely, I get that.

This basic level of outreach has proven effective, but I find it to be incredibly shortsighted when companies consider that enough. It’s disappointing, considering the large percentage of their consumer base that would love to see every athlete, route and move at a national level climbing comp broadcast or replayed. It may be relatively expensive to sponsor a broadcast compared to the cost of sponsoring a local gym comp or similar event . . . but therein exists a grandiose opportunity here for a company with vision for a bigger picture. Pro level competition climbing is a valuable mechanism for growth in our sport, one necessary for it to reach its true growth potential. Broadcasting these events assists in spreading it to the masses while simultaneously pleasing the die-hard climbing fan base.

I understand exceptions exist—some companies literally do not have the cash to spend. Is it that many climbing-specific companies do not generate a large enough profit margin (climbing holds, crash pads, climbing shoes, climbing gear, etc.) to generate revenue that could allow for promotional budgets to support pro-level events? I know in some cases it is. But that cannot be the situation in all; otherwise our industry would not continue to prove itself sustainable.

It is past time that we looked beyond our immediate pool of endemic sponsors for support of these events. Climbing is growing–like it or not–with or without the tangible nourishment of our industry. It’s worth repeating; there is amazing opportunity in climbing right now that is ripe for  the taking. Who is going to seize it and take climbing to the next level?

It will happen. Someone will step up. It’s just a question of when and who. We all love climbing very much and want the best for our sport. We (and we are not alone) are going to keep the engine running in the mean time. We will keep pushing ourselves to make better videos– continue to innovate and listen to what our viewers have to say, and appreciate their taking the time to say it. I hope that one day soon we will have live broadcasts and full coverage replays of every major climbing comp. And when we do you will psyched. So psyched in fact, you will almost accidentally kick your mom in the face.