Last year, a white-tailed eagle wore a GoPro camera as it circled the French Alps. The footage went viral, which wasn’t just luck: The maker of hardy HD cameras and mounts, long loved by X-Gamers, cracked mainstream culture–and almost $1 billion in sales–by encouraging, distributing, and polishing users’ footage. “We want to show the cameras’ diverse uses,” says Wil Tidman, who runs GoPro’s 40-person production team. Its new app and software, released in 2013 along with the Hero3+ camera, make it easier for users to edit and share online, leading to three GoPro-hashtagged videos uploaded to YouTube per minute.
People with dramatic jobs, from soldiers to oil riggers, use GoPro in their work, and Tidman’s team scours the web for potential hits. He found footage of a firefighter rescuing a cat from a burning building, and the resulting YouTube post got 18 million views.
“A father sent us footage of him throwing his baby into the air,” says Tidman. “The child had a camera on his head, and you saw the excitement of their relationship.” GoPro aired it as a 30-second spot during last year’s Super Bowl.
GoPro equipped the Rolling Stones with 40 cameras for their 2013 tour. Tidman’s team also helps indies, some of whose clips have earned them a degree of fame, proof of a GoPro bump.