AOL Bows Video-rich Site for Action Sports Fans

AOL has teamed with Fusion Entertainment to launch Lat34.com, a new joint venture targeting enthusiasts of “action sports,” such as skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing, BMX and freestyle motocross (FMX).

“In the past 10 years, there’s been an explosion in popularity of action sports. The appeal to a young adult audience aligns with the demographic of the online audience using AOL’s social networking tools, so it made perfect sense,” Jeff Rowe, a former SVP of the AOL service and producer in AOL’s programming ventures group who has been tapped to head Lat34 as president and CEO, told ClickZ.

Jeep has signed on as the first advertiser on the site, with its first campaign promoting its new Compass model, a compact 4×4 that shares the active-lifestyle, young adult target audience with Lat34. Jeep is currently running “hand-raiser” Flash ads for the Compass, and will soon add video ads for the launch of the 2007 Compass and Wrangler models, the two models most suited to the Lat34 audience, according to Jay Kuhnie, director of Jeep communications.

“Action sports is of key importance against our younger skewing products, and the Web is an ideal medium to reach that demo as well,” Kuhnie told ClickZ.

Other advertisers will be added in coming weeks, as well as sponsors of some individual features and site sections, Rowe said. He compares the strategy to that of AOL Music, which has sponsored video countdowns, “Sessions” live music, and other sponsored content.

Lat34.com, named for the geographic location of Los Angeles, where action sports are popular, will offer both programmed and user-generated content. Much of the programmed content will come from Fusion Entertainment, a video production company specializing in providing action sports content to cable TV networks. AOL will sell and serve the ads, handle promotion and technology, while Fusion will contribute its extensive video library and ongoing event coverage.

Video content will include event coverage, news, and athlete profiles. For example, Lat34.com is featuring exclusive video from the Dew Action Sports Tour, including content from the tour’s first stop last weekend, which was broadcast on USA and NBC.

Skateboarding, BMX and FMX content are available at launch. Sports like snowboarding and surfing, gear reviews, and more lifestyle-oriented content is expected to be added over the summer. Coverage of action sports culture, including action sports movie previews, fashion, music, and local events, will be a big part of the site’s content.

Lat34 will also integrate AOL’s social networking tools, including AIM and AIMPages, to connect fans of specific action sports.

Users will be encouraged to upload their own content, including a daily “Trick of the Day” section where users will vote on the best video clip, and submitters will be entered to win a weekly prize.

Lat34 will run a promotional campaign across the AOL network, and plans a wider campaign on third-party sites later this year.

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