[09 jun 2023]

You Better Not Call It Breakdancing


Get to know Breaking GB: ACM’s new client, and the organisation taking Great British breaking to the big stage

Don’t, whatever you do, call B-Boy Kid Karam an athlete.

Not that you would, mind. You might not know what to call him at all. You probably don’t know who he is, or what he can do. But we know. And you will too. Soon enough.

Karam is a breaker; the first to be enlisted by Team GB for their grab at breaking gold in the Olympics 2024 – the first time the discipline has taken place under the six rings. 

We hesitate to call it a discipline, but we’ll save calling breaking a “sport” and naming it “breakdancing” for all the half-hearted “Your Olympic Guide To…” articles that you’ll be flooded with in the approach to the Games. How to categorise it is… challenging, and even after the huge Research & Insights project we’ve just finalised for our newest client, Breaking GB, we’re no closer to finding it a single box to fit in. And neither are the breakers. Is it an action sport? A competitive artform? A combat match? Hip hop capoeira? Fighty gymnastics? It exists somewhere in the middle, that much we do know. 

Our work for Breaking GB – the non-profit organisation for breaking in Great Britain that we added to the ACM partners lineup earlier this year – began with finding and understanding breaking’s every nuance. We spoke with a wide range of B-Boys and B-Girls – including Karam – as well as council members, board members, and experts, to get the first-person intel we needed for our main job – a job as complex as it is simple: to help secure essential funding for Breaking GB. With the help of a sponsor (or two, or three) Breaking GB will not only address the costly needs of Olympic hopefuls, but also safeguard the identity and future of breaking when it hits the main stage and the whole world wants a piece.

This challenge? It’s our bread, our butter, our jam, and our little cocktail stick with a tiny flag on it that you’d plunge into your sandwich. It’s the boxing ring in which mainstream brand support battles it out against niche cultural protection: a battle we saw play out in surfing and skateboarding’s recent entries into the Olympic fray.

We’ve got some pretty vast experience to call on here, too. Take the GB Park and Pipe team’s carefully planned, four-year-assault on the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang. Guess who was at the levers of the huge strategy, content, and communications campaign for GB Snowsport back then? We’ll give you a clue. Their initials are ACM.

This proven record – and a pretty sweet quote from GB Snowsport’s Performance Director, Lesley McKenna, that said our work was a contributing factor to the team’s medal count – helped us secure our new and very cool client. We’re already waist-deep into the very time-sensitive project, so if you are going to read a “Guide To Breaking” piece before Kid Karam and co kick things off next year, you might want it to be this one…

  1. Don’t call it breakdancing – this is a term created by the media, not the culture.
  2. NG83 When We Were B-Boys is one of the best documentaries we’ve ever seen. Watch it to learn how breaking swept Britain (and properly took off in sunny Nottingham).
  3. Both adidas and Nike were key parts of breaking’s early years in the 1970s. Nike’s new ‘Own The Floor’ billboard in Shoreditch seems like early shots fired in the pair’s attempts to own that heritage.
  4. “A guy called Menno from Holland calls us ‘artletes’. But, for me, it’s just a mix of everything.” Kid Karam’s quote in this The Guardian piece nicely summarises how hard it is to put breaking into one box. You can bet our uber cool BBC Sport presenters will have a right old time of it, too.
  5. Japan. Korea. Mad for breaking.
  6. If ever there was a reason to (re-?)watch 1983’s Flashdance, it’s this scene featuring the famous Rock Steady Crew – one of the first mainstream occurrences of breaking.
  7. A huge issue breaking is going to face at the Olympics is music. Rights clearance for tracks is a massive problem at competition level, even more so with the prospect of global broadcast numbers. Imagine dancing to the sort of stock music you hear on banking adverts – that’s how a lot of breakers feel about this.
  8. Breaking and hip hop dance are two very different things. Don’t confuse them.