Archive for category: Branding
Ask anybody who has ever stood up on a wave and they’ll tell you there’s nothing like that first time. It’s an incredible feeling you never forget, one that can change your life. The same is true of skateboarding and snowboarding. Mastering these admittedly challenging skills is so exhilarating, not only because of the pure joy we experience when performing them, but the self-confidence we gain as a result. Such moments lead us to believe that if we can accomplish these feats, then there’s likely much more we can achieve from having the courage to try.
Mikey Bondoc understands this concept. A talented surfer, skater, designer, writer and illustrator, he also understands that self-confidence doesn’t come naturally for everyone, especially kids. While all of us are born with unlimited potential and a desire to believe our dreams can come true, those feelings can easily fall by the wayside if not purposefully encouraged and pursued. So Mikey’s using his own unique gifts – some he only recently discovered- to help others understand this concept. He’s created a children’s book series centered around a singularly unique, memorable, character: a blue-billed, web-footed platypus who loves to surf, skate and snowboard.
The Hatch: The Radventures of Radimus Platypus is the first of Bondoc’s seven book series. He has written all seven volumes and published one for proof-of-concept to line up investment to be able to complete the rest (one very well-known, highly respected global brand has already expressed interest in helping Bondoc, based upon the success of The Hatch).
In this first book, the curious, creative Radimus bursts into the world. His mother worries for his safety, but ultimately allows Radimus to follow his heart. Each subsequent book takes Radimus, who expresses himself through his love for board sports, on another surprising “radventure” where he learns new things, discovers what makes him happy, and grows as an individual. In subsequent books, Radimus surfs, skates, snowboards, wakeboards and even discovers yoga.
Parents of all children will enjoy sharing “The Hatch” and its encouraging messages with their little ones. And parents who happen to be into surfing, skating and snowboarding will quite likely want to set this brilliantly illustrated rhyming tale right up alongside classics like, The Cat in the Hat and Oh, The Places You’ll Go. To be certain, Radimus channels the positive spirit of Dr. Seuss and other lovable, iconic characters of youth like Kermit the Frog. At the same time, Radimus’s unique, modern context allows the playful platypus to connect with today’s generation in ways that are more relevant and thus, likely more meaningful to them.
Bondoc’s own story of self-discovery is a radventure unto itself. An accomplished graphic designer, art director and apparel consultant with more than 20 years of experience working for big-named brands, Bondoc moved from New York City to Orange County in 2008, craving more time outdoors and in the ocean than he was getting where he was at.
Once there, he rented a 100-year old oceanfront cottage in Laguna Beach and began practicing yoga to invigorate his creativity while freelancing. In 2009, a friend -an intuitive medium- told Bondoc that when she looked at him, she saw the Sesame Street character, Big Bird, and felt he had the potential to work with children. Exactly one week after that event, the name Radimus Platypus came to Bondoc, along with the entire storyline for “The Hatch”.
Bondoc, though creative, did not envision himself as a writer, nor an illustrator. But he continued thinking about developing Radimus while working, surfing, practicing yoga and meditating. In 2010, while on a weekend juice cleanse, Bondoc wrote volumes 1-3, and completed volumes 4-7 within the next two months. “It is still the most creative experience I have ever had”, says Bondoc. “I never aspired to write anything. The books seemed to write themselves. The words and sentences just seemed to flow out of me. Each storyline came in one shot, and I knew exactly what was going to happen in each subsequent book.”
With stories in hand, Mikey reached out to about two dozen publishers and a handful of agents, but received little response. One agent indicated that he liked Bondoc’s character and stories, but felt he was the wrong person to represent Mikey.
In 2011, undaunted and realizing he had to take the next step, Bondoc commissioned an illustrator to work on the books. But after a year of trying, he terminated the contract because the feeling just wasn’t right. Too heavy. Too much color… It just wasn’t what Mikey was envisioning. He put the project on the back burner for two years, occasionally researching illustrators, but with little money to commission another one. In 2013, with work ebbing in Orange County, Bondoc decided to return to the creative energy of New York City. A few months later, he would experience another transformative moment on his path to personal growth and the development of his book series.
“Through daily yoga and continuing meditation, I was given the confidence to illustrate Radimus Platypus, myself. Since day one, all of my friends insisted that I should illustrate the book. I was the only person who did not believe in myself. I did not think I had the skills and talent to do it.”
“Over the years, I had journaled a lot about my vision for Radimus. I wrote about traveling the world and inspiring millions of children and adults to follow their hearts and be their true selves. After a yoga class that involved journaling and deep meditation, that message came through loud and clear: “I can illustrate the book.” It repeated over and over again, until I heard it, and felt it in my heart. For the first time in my life, I felt fully capable of illustrating Radimus and all of the books. I loved to draw as a kid, but always of things I could replicate– characters, band logos, skate logos- I never drew from my imagination. That’s why I thought that I couldn’t illustrate the books. But it was only my own confidence and self-perception stopping me”
In 2014, with only some sketches of Radimus in hand, Bondoc launched a Kickstarter campaign to help finance production of his books. His campaign was selected as a “Staff Pick”, but Bondoc says he set his goal too high, intent on using one of the best eco-printers around. The campaign reached 18% of its goal, before stalling.
In 2015, Bondoc completed illustrating The Hatch. He made his first printed copy and held a few readings around NYC, where he found kids were both stoked on Radimus and enjoyed engaging with Mikey. Bondoc launched a second Kickstarter campaign and was again selected as a “Staff Pick”, but pulled the plug after two weeks, due to a lack of traffic.
Determined not to give up, Bondoc decided to front the costs of a small run of books and sell them himself on his website. In early 2016, he signed with Bookmasters in Ohio to print a limited quantity of high quality hardcover copies and opened sales on his website.
Since then, Radimus has been steadily gaining traction. The character’s made-for-Instagram IG channel boasts over 1,700 young fans and followers, who, along with their parents, are posting fantastic pictures of themselves doing things they love to do– the things that make them unique… and rad! Radimus encourages kids to tag their posts with the hashtag, #imradtoo.
With the groundswell of interest in Radimus rising and the likelihood of finding investment also stacking, both Bondoc and Radimus may soon find themselves living out the very lessons they’re both so committed to imparting: Be yourself. Follow your dreams. And don’t be afraid to go for it. Because all of us are rad in one way or another. And if we’re just brave enough to live that out, we might surprise ourselves with what we can accomplish.
Note: This article was originally written for and published on The Inertia. To see the original article and response, click here.
I love this video. It has had about 50,000,000 views since coming out a year or two ago, but deserves another 300,000,000 in my opinion. As the father of two strong young girls who have been brought up to think for themselves, and to understand that their strength, worth and value does not come from anyone else around them, but by God alone, I appreciate this beautiful social experiment and all the things it says about girls, our culture, the innocence of youth and the power of positive self-image.
As a marketer, I believe that developing a compelling campaign for a personal hygiene product like Always might be considered a challenge by most. But that’s exactly what the creative team succeeded in doing here in a way that is memorable, supports the brand’s values and connects emotionally. In fact, I’d say that that this campaign transcends great creative. It is a truly profound, revealing and inspiring work of art.
Some nice looking graphic art for this year’s Right Whale Festival swag! I did the 5K on Saturday am, Nov. 15th up in Jax Beach. Always fun, relaxed and for a great cause! The festival was going on all day. I’ve done the run a couple of times now and enjoy supporting them. I gave it good effort and finished 2nd in my age group, 16th overall with 8.10 min miles. Not too shabby, and listening to Jack Johnson the whole way! I can’t believe I’ve got a “50” hanging by my name in the results. I still feel 35 on most days, but doggone it, they got it right!
I was going through some old files today, updating my business portfolio on Contently, when I came across this old spot I conceptualized and helped produce in 2007. It was for a pitch we created for WestTown- a planned LEED-certified, mixed-used community that was to be Atlanta’s largest residential development in more than a decade (located in the west-Midtown area, thus the name, “WestTown”). The community was going to be a pioneering effort, expected a draw young professionals, artists, creators and those drawn to the development’s trendy urban location in a redeveloping industrialized area, not far from Georgia Tech. This, as well as its “live-work-play” and “sustainable” qualities. We came up with the theme of, “Go West” playing upon the west-Midtown location and the idea of going “west” for “opportunity”, as the neighborhood was going to offer affordable living in an otherwise expensive area. The video was intended to be a teaser for the community that would ultimately be formatted for both web and television. The music track is a song called, “Haley” from the album “Yuppie Ghetto” by the band, War Called Peace. It’s the closing song on the classic surf video, “Searching for Tom Curren”. Marc Rapp, a super-talented friend, NYC-based Creative Director and former employee at my old agency, Renaissance Creative, handled the digital development. We ended up winning the account. Unfortunately, before getting to market, the real-estate bubble burst, forcing the developer, Brock Built Homes, to put the brakes on the project. Atlanta missed out on what would have been a really cool, high-profile, signature neighborhood. Not to mention a fun, innovative marketing campaign.
Was this the best viral video of 2013? Maybe even the best car commercial ever? It’s got my vote. Sixty-six million views and counting. What an incredible branding effort. Cheers for Volvo, JCVD and all involved in this imaginative concept and flawless production.
8/6/2013 Update on Beach Weeks... I was informed today by my former Operations Manager that Southeast Volusia County’s bed-tax collections for the month of June, 2013- the primary month that Beach Weeks took place – was $158,000 – the highest amount for this traditionally slow month in a decade (since the 2003 fiscal year!) GREAT results that should ensure the future of “Beach Weeks” for a long time to come, and a rewarding acknowledgement for a lot of hard work! Big shoutouts to my former SVAA Team Members including the Board of Directors, who trusted me enough to approve my recommended funding for this concept; Frank DeMarchi of Black Crow Productions, who spearheaded production and without whom it would never have occurred; Former Chairman of the SVAA Board, David Kosmas, who challenged me to make it happen this year, despite a short timetable; Liz Yancey, who helped steer some of the events/production and Elizabeth Gifford, who helped drive planning, budgeting and marketing from beginning to end. Thanks also to Sherry Hendershot, Myriah Chandler and Bobbie Clemente for all of their administrative and design work that went into this, and to Doug Garrison and Ed Bondi for their initial branding concepts! May Beach Weeks become a “can’t miss” annual event for Southeast Volusia County for years to come!
Bustin’ Down Doors: Right Coast Resilience
Making a living in the surf industry has never been easy. It’s an insulated world of pros and bros with highly concentrated epicenters of industry (think Orange County and Australia). If you live in a place like Florida, your odds for success drop faster than the waves on the backside of a passing hurricane swell. Of course “living” is a relative term. Some associate it more closely with money; others with rich experience. To follow are the stories of three Floridians who haven’t let daunting odds prevent them from building their lives around surfing. Their common themes: equal parts courage, determination and more than anything else– a love for surfing that is all-consuming.
Brian Weissmann: Trident Surf Shop
Brian Weissmann Photo: Mark Sain Wilson
According to recent statistics, about half of all new businesses fail within the first 4 years. Retail stores sit just below that line with only 47% succeeding. And surf shops– well, let’s just say that if you want to jump into those waters, you’d better be a strong paddler, because from a business standpoint, you’re going to be fighting some seriously stiff currents.
Fortunately, Brian Weissmann is that.
The Palos Verdes native and former Lifeguard recently celebrated the first anniversary of his Trident Surf Shop in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL and seems to be cruising along just fine. Growing up near the beach in California, Weissmann was a self-proclaimed shop rat, who like most surfers at some point in their lives, dreamed of owning his own shop. Fast forward through an adventurous adolescence, careers as a lifeguard and a project manager for AT&T, and a broken marriage that pulled Brian eastward to Florida to be near his two middle-school aged children; and the dream finally became reality. But it wasn’t without overcoming some formidable challenges.
Most important was finding the right location. Weissmann had become familiar with the surf scene in Ponte Vedra Beach following six years of visits to his in-laws. Northeast Florida is a hot bed for east coast surfing, with no less than 20 shops, including several well-established local players. Next, even if he had found the ideal location, Brian knew that he would next be faced with trying to get access to desirable product lines. Reps for some of the larger, more well-known brands are notorious for not selling their lines to newbies for fear of repercussions from established clients– at least not without demanding huge minimums that can quickly sink a new business or leave them dedicating their entire store to just 1 or 2 brands. Finally, Brian knew he’d have to distinguish himself from the competition in some sort of significant way.
The last hurdle was the least of Brian’s concerns. The independent-minded Weissmann had never envisioned his shop being like anyone else’s. His original idea for the business was actually a “Surf and Rescue” shop that would not only sell surf goods, but also state-of-the-art lifesaving equipment to individuals and organizations. Ultimately, research convinced him that markets weren’t large enough to support his concept. Still, even when his mind turned to a more conventional surf and skate business, it was anything but traditional.
Brian’s vision was of something larger– greater in presence and purpose. Something that would feed his clients’ appetites for escapism (think a Central American style shop with open rafters and an attached taco stand, steps from the surf); and one that could also bring the neighborhood together, like a YMCA or skate park. The only thing stopping Weissmann was securing that ideal location– the one he had identified in Ponte Vedra just a few hundred yeards from “Mickler’s, one of the area’s most popular public beach breaks.
For years, the spot had been home to a well-known restaurant and bar called the “Oar House”, where local surfers would stop for a game of pool and après surf refreshments. Eventually, the business, which snuggles up to the edges of an inland waterway and state park, closed– leaving behind a beautiful decades-old structure that oozes character on a spacious, rural lot. After several attempts at getting information from Realtors were ignored, Brian approached the landowner directly and shared his concept for the business. Trident Surf was born.
Today, Weismann’s’s vision is coalescing faster than a cup of UV-activated resin in the middle of July. Kids visit after school to hang with their friends and utilize several well-constructed skate ramps outside. Ocean breezes blow through open doors and visitors can sip on ice cold Jarritos, just like you’d savor in Mexico. And while you may not find Billabong or Quiksilver boardshorts in Weissmann’s shop, you will discover a treasure trove of hot new upstart brands that your friends aren’t wearing yet, as well as top-shelf surf, skate and SUP hard goods.
Nothing Weissmann does is anything like his competitors, and he’s never shy about promoting his own personal values (no drugs or alcohol), a comforting reassurance in the family-focused area he serves. Brian believes that all children should be able to enjoy a sense of adventure in their lives, just not the kind that leads to poor decision-making. Rather, the kind you might find out in the line-up, on a trip, or just hangin’ with your buddies at the local surf shop– an environment he’s working hard to perfect at Trident Surf.
Editor’s note: This piece was originally written for and published on TheInertia.com, surfing’s definitive online community. I later reposted it here on my personal blog.
Dear U.S. SURF Industry (SIMA Members, Grind Media, ASP NA, New Media, Shapers, Pros, Joes, Rebels and Start-ups):
Greetings from sunny Florida!
I hope this letter finds you well and that you have been enjoying some bountiful surf. We’re not complaining over here. Seems like there have been great waves all year. And hurricane season– well, you got a little taste of it in NY. (I hope you enjoyed your trip east and found your way around the city). We scored much more of the same down here (Bret, Irene, Katia, Lee, Maria, etc.,), only without wetsuits. The water temps have retreated into the mid-60s lately, though. I guess all good things have to come to an end sometime– which brings me to the reason I’m writing.
I know we don’t see each other a lot, but we’ve been friends for a long time. And I care about you. Everyone here in Florida does. But there’s something important that I need to tell you. It’s not easy and I hate to have to be the one to do it, but I just think you need to know.
You see, California– she doesn’t love you any more.
But you– the surf industry? Sorry man, afraid not.
Trust me, I’m on the websites and message boards. She’s been talking about you behind your back, dude. Nasty stuff. I’m hearing words like “incestuous”, “soulless”, “hose”, “monumental screw-up”, “sickly”“polluted”, “dangerous”, “evil” and “lame”… She’s over you.
But, here’s the deal: While you’re not a kid any longer, you’re still plenty young; not too old to bust a move and make a transition in your life. So what I’d like to suggest is for you to consider relocating to Florida. Yeah man, throw your gear in a bag and come on over! You don’t have to take all of Cali’s sh#%! Granted, she’s beautiful– but you have spoiled her rotten. And there’s plenty of eye-candy here. We can set you up big time. And you know, I think you’d really love it.
Most importantly, you’d have someone who loves you back.
Yeah, I know– global economic focus is shifting to Asia, and you’re a little closer where you’re at. But Florida is also a global hub for business with large modern and growing ports and airports. Consider: Once Europe finishes imploding and the US does the same, then who’s left holding the debt bag? That’s right- China! And once they are forced to restructure and we all hit the “reset” button, then where do you think the money will head? Yep, right back to the good ol’ USA– safest bet on the planet! China won’t be such a big deal, then.
Besides, even if things don’t go down exactly like that, consider: Do we (can I take the liberty of saying, “we”, because I’d really like for you to start thinking of us as your new “partners” here?) Do we really want to be in bed with China? I’m telling you– this is one of the problems that Cali says she has with you. You know… human rights issues. It’s serious stuff. And none of us want to ignore it.
Let me introduce you to Latin America…
I know you’ve always loved Mexico… We do, too! And hey, the Brazos– they’re NUTS about you! Man, with surfers like Adriano, Alejo, Jadsen, Heitor, Miguel and what’s the other new guy’s name?… Oh yeah– Medina! With those guys coming on like a 9.0 California earthquake, do you think there might be a growing market for you there? Those guys are our “neighbors”! Oh, and don’t forget about Puerto Rico… and Cuba! Cuba’s coming– just a little more time… you’ll see.
Look– I know at first glance, Florida might seem a little uptight for you; maybe a little more conservative than you’re used to. But hey, a little fiscal restraint’s not a bad thing, is it? Everybody knows what Cali did with the credit cards… (Yeah, we used ours too, but they’re on ice now.) In most other areas, things are pretty relaxed here. You’d dig it!
Oh, and how about this idea? Instead of sourcing to countries that want to kick our ass and rob us blind, how about getting your apparel manufacturers together and we can all help establish a sustainable new economy in Haiti? Seriously. Your Gen Y customers want you to do better. We all do.
Did you know that at the same time he is shrinking the state budget, our Republican governor is also pledging $40 million for Everglades restoration (part of a larger $600 million plan) and is pushing a $1 billion bump for education funding? And the part of the state I’m living in– Jacksonville (where I’d REALLY like you to direct your focus), well this may sound strange– but as one astute local columnist noted, we’re the “New Progressives”. That’s right! San Francisco has nothing on us.
Just look at the facts.
Our population is younger (35.8 to 38.2) (tons of talented young artists, photographers and filmershere). We have a new African-American Mayor– a fiscally conservative Democrat who is actually doing what he promised and now, the NFL’s first and only minority owner! Yeah- a dual-citizen Pakastani with a stylish ‘stache who “busted down the door” on the world’s most reknowned rich white guy’s club. Heck,Forbes even has Jacksonville listed at #6 on “Best Cities for Technology Jobs”! (I think I saw San Fran on there at #29). We’re happy at #6, but once our spaceports for horizontal and vertical space launch open, I think that’s when you’ll really see things blast off.
So what’s bringing businesses east (and south) to places like Jacksonville and Florida? Why did Lebron, Wade and Bosch choose the Heat over… everybody? Because Florida is business friendly. The tax advantages are huge compared to California. And financial incentives? State, local… we pay big for jobs! Operators are standing by.
But hey, this is all stuff for the suits. I know the real problem you’re having with leaving Cali is the emotional connection, right? A lot of good memories there, I know. (Hey, me too and we only hooked up a few times… Oh, I’m sorry– I didn’t mean it that way.) At first glance, Cali seems to offer a lot: 840 miles of coastline! Of course, Florida offers 1,350 by itself, not to mention the rest of the east coast.
Surfing Heritage? We’ve been doing it here since the 1930s and Florida surfers are responsible for 13 out of 29 ASP Men’s World Titles, and 8 out 29 Women’s Titles!
Look, I’ve played in Newport. I’ve caught a couple of those solid 8’+ south swells at Huntington. Man– big ol’ perfect skate ramps! So fun!! But, we get those same waves here during hurricane season and other times of the year… South Beach, Reef Road, Sebastian, RC’s, New Smyrna, St. Augustine and Jax Beach, not to mention the Gulf Coast– they all go off! Think about it– Nor Cal is cold and inhospitable. And Central and Southern Cal are crowded, with growing environmental concerns. Look through your photo album. Are you really enjoying yourself?
Steamer Lane: Cold, crowded and localized.
Sandspit: Crowds, localism, pollution (although, please take note that one of your premiere breaks is indeed a SANDBAR.)
Malibu: Hollywood. Crowded and localized. A zoo.
Huntington: Rips, localism, pollution and crowds.
Lunada: Sure, if you know martial arts.
Newport Jetties: Rips, rocks, localism, pollution and crowds.
Let’s see, what else is in Cali’s magic spellbook?
Look… here in Florida, the water is warm; the people are friendly; the waves are fun; and the line-ups not nearly as crowded. The weather and the business climate are both ideal and there’s not thousands of people bitching because you’re not good enough for them. Rather, this is a place where no one will take your venerable qualities– the jobs, the business and culture that you bring to the table– for granted.
So, what do you say? Will you consider ditching Cali once and for all? Yes, she has some fine physical attributes, but maybe it’s time you considered someone with a better personality.
You know, sometimes in life, it’s best to just stop arguing, and accept that you might not be right for one another.
I really love this concept: A professional surfer (former ASP World Champion and Central Floridian, CJ Hobgood), being sponsored by a non-profit group! TWLOHA (To Write Love on Her Arms) is an organization dedicated to providing help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA, founded by Jamie Tworkowski, is not only a non-profit, but also a surfwear brand. So people who support the brand also support the cause. It is a genius business model because it is also a very worthy one.
CJ, along with his twin brother, Damien, are in my opinion, two of the best ambassadors the sport of surfing has ever seen. They’ve both been ripping for years, as adept at the newest of new school airs and rotes, as negotiating the heaviest of slabs at places like Teahupo’o and Pipe.
C.J. nearly abandoned his coveted spot on the World Tour last year, but a couple of outstanding late season competitive successes, along with a bit of self-reflection, convinced him to continue in 2012. Having the opportunity to be supported by and in turn, to be able to promote such a meaningful brand/organization like TWOLHA no doubt provided a fresh surge of motivation for Hobgood, a strong self-professed Christian.
If you’ve ever known someone who has struggled with depression or addiction, then you know how debilitating those things can be. I’ve seen it up close and personal and have watched how it affects not only the individuals experiencing the issues directly, but nearly everyone around them in one form or another. Hopefully, CJ and organizations like TWLOHA will be able to use a similar “ripple effect” in reverse to raise awareness for these kinds of problems, and marshall more resources to help those who are fighting to overcome them.
If you are a Fantasysurfer player like me, take it from someone who has finished in the Top 1% of all players worldwide for three years in a row: Keep you eye on CJ this year. Despite a significant influx of rising young talent, CJ is going to be surfing with renewed purpose. If they price him low (likely), be sure to pick him up. And if he under-performs (unlinkely), well– let’s just say that won’t really matter.
You see, some things in life are more important than surfing.
After surrendering to a flood of questions surrounding its executive leadership, the drug-related death of one of its brightest stars, and an unrelenting wave of public criticism concerning everything from the scheduling of events to the scoring of competitors, the ASP announced today that it was ceasing operations, effectively shuttering the governing body of professional surfing. The announcement by ASP Executive Chairman Richard Grellman came just two weeks after former ASP CEO Brodie Carr resigned following a high-profile math error prematurely awarding this year’s ASP World Championship Title to surfer Kelly Slater and only days after releasing its 2012 events schedule which was to feature 12 contests at premier breaks around the world with $5,675,000 in prize money. The announcement sent sponsors scrambling to rethink their global marketing strategies and competitors to rethink their careers.
None of this is true.
But what if it were? Would surfing really be better off?
Clearly, surfing as a professional sport faces unique challenges. It stands at the mercy of geography, weather conditions, powerful brands and an inherent assortment of independent-minded competitors and fans, all with their own strong opinions about what surfing should or should not be. It’s an enigma, and so is easy to knock. But that doesn’t mean that the ASP and competitive pro surfing are worthless. Or worse, as some critics argue– destructive. Indeed, they’ve helped many surfers enjoy great careers in a sport they love. They’ve also helped surf-related brands to thrive, producing even more of these same lifestyle opportunities. And, they’ve progressed the overall level of surfing. Many might argue that this last point isn’t true, but pro surfing provides the macro-structure for amateur surfing, which drives the advancement of our most talented youth. If there was no structured pro surfing, you’d likely lose a lot of that. The ASP also continues to modify its judging criteria to conform with advancement in the sport, quirks like the seemingly renewed emphasis on floaters and occasional questionable scoring, notwithstanding. The ASP and pro surfing have also long provided a generally stable platform for surfer skill rankings and credibility. Is the system perfect? Obviously not. Nothing in this world is. Can it “miss” on people like Dane, Jamie O’ Brien, Bobby Martinez or others? Sure. Which is not to say that some responsibility doesn’t fall back on those same surfers to perform within the existing infra-structure if they or their sponsors feel a need for validation (or prize money). Not all of them do…
That’s a matter of choice.
And choice is always good.
That’s why I’m thankful for the ASP and the sponsors who support them. If you don’t like professional competitive surfing, don’t attend their events. Don’t watch them online. Don’t buy their sponsors’ products.
Take your board and go home.
Just to be clear – I’m speaking from the perspective of a life-long surfer, traveler and pro surfing fan (currently ranked 58th in Fantasysurfer). I’m also a marketing professional (but outside of the action sports industry, and California). But honestly– I am amazed at the voracity of the criticism leveled at the ASP and its institutional sponsors, when all of them have worked extremely hard over many years to advance our sport.
Most of the same people who rip the ASP also knock the surf mega-brands (Quik, Billabong, Rip Curl, etc.) as “soul-less”, but I think that’s lame. Those companies were started by people who were passionate about surfing. They loved it so much, they wanted to build their lives around it and they made that happen. Then, they created more opportunities for so many others to do the same thing, not to mention carrying the load when it came to promoting the sport, sharing it with the “outside” world and helping bring more of it to us through a variety of marketing and media channels.
Some decry the the mega-brands’ burgeoning relationships with China. It is no surprise that their eyes are fixed upon China due to the sheer size of markets there and the fact that China already has a vibrant youth action sports subculture. That is simply the nature of globalization, an inherent byproduct of advances in transportation and (especially) communications technology over the past 20 years. It does no good to stick your head in the sand to try and ignore it. Look at a well-regarded core action sports brand like Camp Woodward. Rest assured, they raked in a chunk o’ change taking their brand to China. And make no mistake- that wasn’t even about straightforward consumerism on China’s part, but rather the Chinese government’s ultimate goal of having the proper training facilities in place to soon begin dominating us in Olympic skateboarding and BMX! The flip side? At least the flow of goods is running from west to east for a change and perhaps as we export more western culture, an unquenchable thirst for freedom and independence will come in the box.
As for the exploitation of surfing in China– as some have noted, Kelly’s wavepool seems the perfect match. We can’t afford it. China can. And while I know better than to bet against Kelly getting his pool built somewhere, I have to confess that even the one he describes would not be that interesting to me. I should clarify that it sounds like it would be great fun to ride, just not interesting in terms of watching contests. Mechanical waves. Talk about “soul-less.” I strongly believe that the unpredictability and varying conditions of Mother Nature is a vital characteristic of what makes the current ASP world tour events so compelling and that wave selection is an integral part of a surfer’s skill set. That’s why I believe thinking about future contests in terms of wavepools will always be lacking (which is not to say that it won’t be successful, or shouldn’t be). And so we circle back to pro-surfing’s numerous core challenges. Surf in a wave pool and you increase accessibility; likely improve judging; provide viable platforms for Olympic inclusion and more affordable network broadcasts; paving the way for broader audiences and increased advertising revenue.
But you neuter its soul…
At least, in my own opinion.
Which brings us back to choice.
CHOICE is always good.
So, for those of us who appreciate the ASP and pro surfing as it exists currently – what can be done to make it even better?
I think you begin solving problems of these kinds with no-holds barred idea-fests– where no idea is a bad idea. I’ll start with a couple of softballs:
Stop giving the cold shoulder to non-traditional brands like Nike. If they can bring more people (and money) to the party, then by God, welcome them in! If Quik, Billabong, Rip Curl and Red Bull can’t fund MAJOR NETWORK BROADCASTS by themselves, then find corporations that can. The way action sports continues to grow, certainly most major brands even remotely trying to target youth have, or are creating divisions exclusively for it. And what kind of elitists are we to say who is, or isn’t cool enough to surf?
ASP: Take control of your media rights and get the events on MAJOR NETWORK TELEVISION. The ASP’s new media offerings are uneven (per event sponsor), but improving rapidily. The heat analyzers are brilliant. And certainly, distribution via the web has massive reach potential. However, online media, despite its propensity for complete, accurate measurement isn’t highly valued (everything on the web should be “free”, remember?)- not like network television broadcasts which ultimately bankroll organizations like the NFL, NBA, PGA, MLB, etc. And contrary to popular belief, kids are not abandoning TV for new media. They watch TV more than ever, up to 3.5 hours per day. Perhaps, when our televisions and our computers finally become one (Apple and Google may argue this has already happened, but many problems still exist), then the ASP will be in a great position to leverage it further. But network television has, and will continue to be king.
How to sell the major networks given the production expense, unpredictability of conditions and no assurances that anyone further than 50 miles from any coastline will care? How about simply identifying a world-class salesperson and media rights negotiator and incentivizing them with a minimum threshold and unsparing commission structure. I mean come on– Are you telling me that you couldn’t show anyone -and I mean anyone- the slabs that I saw during Chopes this year on an off day, and dare them to not be compelled? Can you imagine watching that contest on a 50″ HDTV? Live? Heck, even if it wasn’t live! And you don’t need to show the whole contest- just highlights and the finals. Even a fully pre-produced, creatively edited special, set to popular music. Then, jack the prices up and sell that #$%!. And if Quik / Billa / Rip Curl can’t afford it, don’t assume that just because they won’t swallow it, that no-one else will. Go over their heads. Bring in Ford, McDonald’s, Apple and Target. Better yet– get all of them. And if you can’t sell events like Brazil, then can those and replace them with Mavericks. Or more Hawaii. OrShipsterns! (How insane would that be?!) The ASP generally seems to have done a terrific job with pulling together a dream tour. They just haven’t done a good job of selling their dream.
Perhaps the ASP should invest in establishing its own network or production company.
If it can’t afford to regain control of all events immediately, take a stepping stone approach and begin taking back control of one event at a time, starting with the most compelling.
Finally, for the ASP and every corporate sponsor it is connected with: GIVE BACK. You want to connect with today’s disenfranchised youth (and all the rest of us)? Show them you care by making it a point to DO GOOD in the all the areas of the world where you play. There is a fundamental cultural shift underway in reaction to a world that has been broken by greed run amuk. That doesn’t mean that capitalism is bad, that all corporations are sinister or that the ASP sucks. Only that the entire world could use a little more selflessness. Corporations have it in their power to affect serious change in the world, while inspiring an army of brand loyalists. Critical is approaching charity earnestly and creatively and in a way careful not to suggest self-appointed elites pushing Marxism as “progressive”. When you approach anything in life with this mindset, you will always enjoy success. Eastern religions call it “Karma”. Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism) call it “God’s Will” or “Cause and Effect”. Bob Marley simply said, “What goes ’round, comes ’round.”
I’d like to see the ASP and competitive pro surfing come ’round.
I’m a FAN, and I’d like to continue to have that CHOICE.
Author’s Note: This is my latest piece for The Inertia, the highly-popular action sports website billed as, “The Planet’s Largest Network of Thinking Surfers” To see the response and full discussion of the article, please visit: http://www.theinertia.com/author/tim-hamby/