The Extreme Sports Phenomenon

  • Francesco RaggiottoEmail author


This book explores extreme sports—a highly profitable business—as a novel consumption phenomenon. The behaviors of active participants in extreme sports is examined from the perspective of consumer behaviors denoted by a strong managerial relevance—for instance, determinants of intentions to repurchase, perceptions related to marketing communications centered on extreme sports, and the determinants of the intention to revisit extreme sports events. In examining such managerially relevant behaviors, this book develops a novel theoretical background based on established psychological theories about the behavior of extreme individuals (edgework theory, cognitive adaptation theory, sensation-seeking theory) to apply and translate them into the marketing-related contexts that are taken into consideration. The book adopts this perspective in an attempt to account for the impacts of the specific psychological drivers of “extreme” individuals on their consumption behavior. The present chapter delineates the aims and the scope of the book, and describes the setting of extreme sports, tracing their evolution from their origins to their emergence as a consumption phenomenon. Furthermore, the present chapter reviews the major theoretical perspectives in psychology that have addressed the psychological uniqueness of extreme sports participants.


Extreme sports industry Psychology 


  1. Allman, T. L., Mittelstaedt, R. D., Martin, B., & Goldenberg, M. (2009). Exploring the motivations of BASE jumpers: Extreme sport enthusiasts. Journal of Sport & Tourism, 14(4), 229–247. Scholar
  2. American Bicycle Association. (2015). The history of BMX racing. American Bicycle Association.Google Scholar
  3. Andreasson, J., & Johansson, T. (2018). Extreme sports, extreme bodies: Gender, identities and bodies in motion. Extreme sports, extreme bodies: Gender, identities and bodies in motion. Basel: Palgrave Macmillan. Scholar
  4. Apter, M. J. (1992). The dangerous edge: The psychology of excitement. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  5. Apter, M. J. (2001). Motivational styles in everyday life: A guide to reversal theory. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Arnould, E. J., & Price, L. (1993). River magic: Extraordinary experience and the extended service encounter. Journal of Consumer Research, 20(1), 24. Scholar
  7. Atkinson, M. (2008). Triathlon, suffering and exciting significance. Leisure Studies, 27(2), 165–180. Scholar
  8. Bardhi, F., & Eckhardt, G. M. (2017). Liquid consumption. Journal of Consumer Research, 44(3), 582–597.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bennett, G., & Lachowetz, T. (2004). Marketing to lifestyles: Action sports and generation Y. Sport Marketing Quarterly, 13(4), 239–243.Google Scholar
  10. Booth, D. (1995). Ambiguities in pleasure and discipline: The development of competitive surfing. Journal of Sport History, 22(3), 189–206. Retrieved from
  11. Borden, I. (2003). Skateboarding, space and the city: Architecture and the body. Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
  12. Breivik, G. (2010). Trends in adventure sports in a post-modern society. Sport in Society, 13(2), 260–273. Scholar
  13. Brymer, E., & Gray, T. (2009). Dancing with nature: Rhythm and Harmony in extreme sport participation. Journal of Adventure Education & Outdoor Learning, 9(2), 135–149. Scholar
  14. Brymer, E., & Houge Mackenzie, S. (2016). Psychology and the extreme sport experience. In F. Feletti (Ed.), Extreme sports medicine (pp. 3–13). Basel: Springer. Scholar
  15. Canniford, R., & Shankar, A. (2012). Purifying practices: How consumers assemble romantic experiences of nature. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(5), 1051–1069.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Celsi, R. L., Rose, R. L., & Leigh, T. W. (1993). An exploration of high-risk leisure consumption through skydiving. Journal of Consumer Research, 20(1), 1–23. Scholar
  17. Chiu, C. (2009). Contestation and conformity: Street and park skateboarding in New York City public space. Space and Culture, 12(1), 25–42. Scholar
  18. Coupland, D. (1998). Sport as constructed audience: A case study of ESPN’s the eXtreme games. In R. Rinehart (Ed.), Players all: Performances in contemporary sport (pp. 84–97). Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2002). Flow: The classic work on how to achieve happiness. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  20. Delk, J. (1980). High risk sports as indirect self-destructive behaviour. In N. Farberow (Ed.), The many faces of suicide. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  21. Donnelly, M. (2006). Studying extreme sports: Beyond the core participants. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 30, 219–224. Retrieved from Scholar
  22. Ewert, A., Gilbertson, K., Luo, Y.-C., & Voight, A. (2013). Beyond “because it’s there”. Journal of Leisure Research, 45(1), 91–111. Scholar
  23. Feher, P., Meyers, M. C., & Skelly, W. A. (1998). Psychological profile of rock climbers: State and trait attributes. Journal of Sport Behavior, 21(2), 167.Google Scholar
  24. Forbes. (2014). X Games at 20: The evolution of action sports. Retrieved from
  25. Freixanet, M. G. (1991). Personality profile of subjects engaged in high physical risk sports. Personality and Individual Differences, 12(10), 1087–1093. Scholar
  26. Freud, S. (1990). Zur Einführung des Narzissmus [On narcissism: An introduction] (8th ed.). Frankfurt, Germany: S. Fischer (Original work published 1914).Google Scholar
  27. Frey, K. P. (1999). Reversal theory: Basic concepts. In J. Kerr (Ed.), Experiencing sport: Reversal theory (pp. 3–17). West Sussex, UK: Wiley.Google Scholar
  28. Frühauf, A., Hardy, W. A. S., Pfoestl, D., Hoellen, F. G., & Kopp, M. (2017). A qualitative approach on motives and aspects of risks in freeriding. Frontiers in Psychology, 8(November).
  29. Gibson, M., & Frost, M. (2019). Surfing and ocean-based death ritual: The paddle-out ceremony. Mortality, 24(3), 304–318. Scholar
  30. Guszkowska, M., & Boldak, A. (2010). Sensation seeking in males involved in recreational high risk sports. Biology of Sport, 27(3), 157–162. Scholar
  31. Gyimóthy, S., & Mykletun, R. J. (2004). Play in adventure tourism: The case of Arctic trekking. Annals of Tourism Research, 31(4), 855–878. Scholar
  32. Hardie-Bick, J., & Bonner, P. (2016). Experiencing flow, enjoyment and risk in skydiving and climbing. Ethnography, 17(3), 369–387. Scholar
  33. Heimer, C. (1988). Social structure, psychology, and the estimation of risk. Annual Review of Sociology, 14(1), 491–519. Scholar
  34. Heirene, R. M., Shearer, D., Roderique-Davies, G., & Mellalieu, S. D. (2016). Addiction in extreme sports: An exploration of withdrawal states in rock climbers. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 5(2), 332–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Holm, M. R., Lugosi, P., Croes, R. R., & Torres, E. N. (2017). Risk-tourism, risk-taking and subjective well-being: A review and synthesis. Tourism Management, 63, 115–122. Scholar
  36. Holt, D. B. (1995). How consumers consume: A typology of consumption practices. Journal of Consumer Research, 22(1), 1. Scholar
  37. Honea, J. C. (2013). Beyond the alternative vs. mainstream dichotomy: Olympic BMX and the future of action sports. Journal of Popular Culture, 46(6), 1253–1275. Scholar
  38. Houge Mackenzie, S., Hodge, K., & Boyes, M. (2013). The multiphasic and dynamic nature of flow in adventure experiences. Journal of Leisure Research, 45(2), 214–232. Scholar
  39. Humphreys, D. (2003). Selling out snowboarding: The alternative response to commercial co-optation. In R. E. Rinehart & S. Sydnor (Eds.), To the extreme: Alternative sports, inside and out (pp. 407–428). Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  40. Jack, S. J., & Ronan, K. R. (1998). Sensation seeking among high- and low-risk sports participants. Personality and Individual Differences, 25(6), 1063–1083.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kerr, J. H. (2007). Sudden withdrawal from skydiving: A case study informed by reversal theory’s concept of protective frames. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 19(3), 337–351. Scholar
  42. Kerr, J. H., & Houge Mackenzie, S. (2012). Multiple motives for participating in adventure sports. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 13(5), 649–657. Scholar
  43. Kusz, K. (2003). BMX, Extreme sports, and the white male backlash. In R. E. Rinehart & S. Sydnor (Eds.), To the extreme: Alternative sports, inside and out (pp. 153–175). Albany: SUNY Press.
  44. Lambert, A., Desmond, J., & O’Donohoe, S. (2014). Narcissism and the consuming self: An exploration of consumer identity projects and narcissistic tendencies. Research in Consumer Behavior, 16, 35–57. Scholar
  45. Laurendeau, J. (2006). “He didn’t go in doing a skydive”: Sustaining the illusion of control in an edgework activity. Sociological Perspectives, 49(4), 583–605. Scholar
  46. Le Breton, D. (2000). Playing symbolically with death in extreme sports. Body & Society, 6(1), 1–11. Scholar
  47. Lyng, S. (1990). A social psychological analysis of voluntary risk-taking. The American Journal of Sociology, 95(4), 851–886.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Lyng, S. (2008). Risk-taking in sport: Edgework and reflexive community. In K. Young & M. Atkinson (Eds.), Tribal play: Subcultural journeys through sport (pp. 83–109). Emerald: Bingley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Lyng, S. (2014). Action and edgework: Risk taking and reflexivity in late modernity. European Journal of Social Theory, 17(4), 443–460. Scholar
  50. Lyng, S., & Matthews, R. (2007). Risk, edgework, and masculinities. In K. Hannah-Moffat & P. O’Malley (Eds.), Gendered risks (pp. 75–97). Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  51. Lyng, S., & Snow, D. (1986). Vocabularies of motive and high-risk behavior: The case of skydiving. Advances in Group Processes, 3(157), 157–179.Google Scholar
  52. Marengo, D., Monaci, M. G., & Miceli, R. (2017). Winter recreationists’ self-reported likelihood of skiing backcountry slopes: Investigating the role of situational factors, personal experiences with avalanches and sensation-seeking. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 49, 78–85. Scholar
  53. Muniz, A. M., Jr., & Schau, H. J. (2005). Religiosity in the abandoned Apple Newton brand community. Journal of Consumer Research, 31(4), 737–747.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Nelson, W. (2010). The historical mediatization of BMX-freestyle cycling. Sport in Society, 13(7–8), 1152–1169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Puchan, H. (2005). Living “extreme”: Adventure sports, media and commercialisation. Journal of Communication Management, 9(2), 171–178. Scholar
  56. Raggiotto, F., & Scarpi, D. (2019). Living on the edge: Psychological drivers of athletes’ intention to re-patronage extreme sporting events. Sport Management Review. Scholar
  57. Raggiotto, F., Scarpi, D., & Moretti, A. (2019). Advertising on the edge: Appeal effectiveness when advertising in extreme sports. International Journal of Advertising, 1–24.
  58. Rinehart, Robert, & Grenfell, C. (2002). BMX spaces: Children’s grass roots’ courses and corporate-sponsored tracks. Sociology of Sport Journal, 19(3), 302–314. Scholar
  59. Roberti, J. W. (2004). A review of behavioral and biological correlates of sensation seeking. Journal of Research in Personality, 38(3), 256–279. Scholar
  60. Rossi, B., & Cereatti, L. (1993). The sensation seeking in mountain athletes as assessed by Zuckerman’s Sensation Seeking Scale. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 24(4), 417–431. Retrieved from Scholar
  61. Scott, R., Cayla, J., & Cova, B. (2017). Selling pain to the saturated self. Journal of Consumer Research, 44(1), 22–43. Scholar
  62. Self, D. R., Henry, E. D. V., Findley, C. S., & Reilly, E. (2007). Thrill seeking: The type T personality and extreme sports. International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing, 2(1/2), 175–190. Scholar
  63. Shoham, A., Rose, G. M., & Kahle, L. R. (2000). Practitioners of risky sports: A quantitative examination. Journal of Business Research, 47(3), 237–251. Scholar
  64. Taylor, S. (1983). Adjustment to threatening events: Theory of cognitive adaptation. American Psychologist, 38(11), 1161–1173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Thorpe, H., & Wheaton, B. (2012). The Olympic movement, action sports, and the search for generation Y. In J. Sugden & A. Tomlinson (Eds.), Watching the Olympics (pp. 194–212). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  66. Thorpe, H., & Wheaton, B. (2013). Dissecting action sports studies: Past, present, and beyond. In D. L. Andrews & B. Carrington (Eds.), A companion to sport (p. 341). Chichester, UK: Blackwell. Scholar
  67. Triathlon Business International. (2014). Breaking down the U.S. triathlon marketplace. Retrieved August 16, 2017, from
  68. Woermann, N., & Rokka, J. (2015). Timeflow: How consumption practices shape consumers’ temporal experiences. Journal of Consumer Research, 41(6), 1486–1508. Scholar
  69. Zuckerman, M. (1984). Experience and desire: A new format for sensation seeking scales. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 6(2), 101–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Zuckerman, M. (1994). Behavioral expressions and biosocial bases of sensation seeking. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  71. Zuckerman, M. (2007). Sensation seeking and risky behavior. Scholar
  72. Zuckerman, M., & Kuhlman, D. M. (2000). Personality and risk-taking: Common biosocial factors. Journal of Personality, 68(6), 999–1029.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of UdineUdineItaly

Personalised recommendations