Four years ago, San Francisco-based GoPro launched a YouTube channel to promote the videos made from its cameras, but then something crazy happened: the channel took on a life of its own as users began uploading their own daredevil videos made with with GoPro’s “world’s most versatile” HD cameras.
At a time when smartphone cameras can do just about anything — including shooting half-decent video — GoPro has still managed to become the watchword for great videos filmed while skateboarding, surfing, motorcycle racing, and all sorts of things. Like Red Bull, GoPro is building a brand image that goes far beyond the simple product. It’s not just a $399 camera company any more; GoPro is a lifestyle company and a media company in its own right.
Every day, more than 6,000 videos get uploaded to YouTube made with GoPro cameras, for what amounts to hours of free PR every week. Expect to see many more media properties get in on the action in the coming months given how sharable and memorable user-generated GoPro content can be.
Here’s a look at some of the best user-generated GoPro videos from the last 12 months:
Pelican Learns to Fly — When a baby pelican got separated from its family after a storm in Tanzania, wildlife conservationists had to teach the thing to fly. But first, someone thought to mount a GoPro camera on its bill. Uploaded in February, it has 3.9 million views on YouTube.
Fireman Saves a Kitten — Yeah, a fireman saves a freakin’ kitten. These firefighters mounted GoPro cameras on their gear expecting to film some heavy-duty stuff, and instead catch a moment of pure compassion, racking up 23.7 million views.
Backflip Over a Canyon — This 2-minute video shot from the point of view of a crazy off-road bicyclist is the quintessential GoPro video, culminating in a backflip over a 72-foot-deep canyon. It has been viewed more than 21 million times.
Lions in South Africa — Branching out from short video clips, GoPro and its users are also uploading 15-minute mini nature documentaries like this one. Viewed 20.5 million times, it shows some crazy dudes playing with lions like they’re kitty cats.
Epic Roof Jump — Not sure why anyone would do this, but if you’re going to jump off one roof to slide down another, might as well have a few GoPro cameras handy to catch it all on film. Uploaded in July, it has over 5.2 million views.
Hovercraft Deer Rescue — A video that combines wildlife with hovercrafts is perfect for the GoPro brand. Watch these guys find two does out on the ice and bring them to safety, just like 4.4 million other people have seen since it was uploaded earlier this year.
Billiard Trick Shots — It speaks to the versatility of the GoPro camera line that mounting it on the end of a pool cue can get stunning video of a trick-shooting pool-hall ringer. Uploaded just a few weeks ago, and it already has more than a quarter million views.
Petting a Tiger Shark — Shark videos are crazy. Discovery Channel plans its whole year around one week of nothing but shark videos. It’s a well established genre. And yet, toss a GoPro into the bottom of the ocean and the results are stunning.
Drainage Ditch Kayaking — Leave it to some Canadians in British Columbia with some kayaks and a GoPro to combine boating with adventure sports to make this wild piece of video. Over a half-million views in less than a month.
Squirrel Fail — Someone set up their GoPro by the bird feeder to maybe get some shot of, you know, birds. But then this squirrel comes along and makes it awesome. Over 680,000 views since August.
Got a favorite GoPro video? Share it in the comments!