Boosting Skydiving’s Reach With Some Social Magic
In our last article, we broke down how (and why) Ward Hessig changed the game of solo skydiving student training by introducing the methods of “structured bonding” he applied from his own experiences in a fraternity and in the military. What’s even cooler than that is the way he then took that game to the next level. It’s called The Skydive Perris Genesis Project. Marketing nerds, listen up: This stuff is cool.
First, you have to know that the Genesis Project is the first of its kind in the skydiving industry.
“The goal of the project, in a nutshell,” Ward says, “is to increase exposure and awareness of skydiving in general and the exposure of Skydive Perris to the general public. Beyond that, the greater goal is to create a new culture of really bonded skydivers not just at Skydive Perris, but across the nation.”
Big dreams, right? Ward, for one, is more into actionables than dreams. He set about designing a way to get there by leveraging the biggest soapbox he could. He knew that he’d need to create and cross-promote dynamic, exciting content across all the major social media platforms, and he knew who to ask for help: Influencers.
“Today’s currency is social media,” Ward explains, “and influencers with a large number of followers hold a lot of sway, especially in the 18 to 34 range. If I’m dealing with an influencer who shows two million people a day the high points of their daily life and I can make Perris a regular high point of that daily life, that is a powerful ally.”
Ward got to work. He started scouring. He found content-sharers who were strong on their individual platforms, no matter what their specialty — gamers; chefs; ladies that make their living by being easy on the eyes. He selected influencers and celebrities strategically — both for their strength on their individual platforms, their target demographic of followers, and overall scope of their reach. The requirements he set out for these influencers and celebrities were pretty straightforward: chronicling their progression throughout the program via status updates, stories, hashtags and videos, as well as cross-promotion with other influencers in the program and with Skydive Perris.
“I put together this invitation,” he says, “and I said, You want to make some cool content for your channel; well, there’s nothing cooler than skydiving. I will get you licensed so that you can jump anywhere in the nation.”
The response was predictably good, and Ward put together his first Genesis class. These influencers — with high, medium and aspirational exposure — were mixed in with the non-influencer students in the Skydive Perris student program families.
The first Genesis Project class, held in January of 2019, enjoyed resounding success: a whopping 90+% student retention. At time of publication, the lion’s share of program participants — influencer and non-influencer alike — have already graduated with their A licenses. Several are about to get their B’s.
“They have long surpassed what we’ve invested in them by inviting them into the program,” Ward says, proudly. “They have started jumping, posting and contributing back into the skydiving economy. They’re buying rigs. They are hooked on skydiving, just like us, and they have a viewership of about 10 million people across the platforms.”
What’s really interesting, in a practical sense, is that It’s hard to ignore the connection that a great influencer has on her/his following. While social media promises are legendarily flighty, there’s a power in numbers here that has shown measurable gains. Ward put together an experiment to test this, and it yielded notable results.
“At the very beginning,” Ward explains, “[Each influencer has] a set day that they schedule with us to make a tandem jump. Then they put it out to their followers: Hey, guys, I’m going to be out at Skydive Perris jumping on this day. Who wants to come out and make a tandem on the same day and meet me and share this experience with me? We give them a month — 30 days — to build it up. One of these guys who has got a million followers across his platforms sent that feeler out on an Instagram poll and he had 1,500 yeses right away.
Looking forward, Ward is more than excited about the possibilities that the Genesis Project — and the supercharged student program at Skydive Perris — presents for growing the skydiving community to reach ever more committed adventurers around the region and the world.
“I love skydiving,” he smiles, “And I want to reach as many people as I can with that same love.”
This post was written by Skydive Perris