When it was announced in October 2012 that ZoSea would be taking over the reigns from the Association of Professional Surfing (ASP), questions were raised about the direction professional surfing was heading. It was hard to predict at the time, just as it’s hard to say what will happen in the next two years. But we can see what’s happened in the last few, and Craig Jarvis takes a look at where we are at now with the World Surf League.
THE WORLD SURF LEAGUE – WHERE ARE WE AT? – by Craig Jarvis
It has been a year and a half of massive changes in professional surfing. When the WSL arrived at Snapper in 2014 for the first ever event of their newly designed pro tour, it was a pretty momentous occasion. There was massive infrastructure, there was attention to detail, there were a lot of smiling faces from the professionals on tour, and the Women were sent out on the best day of competition, which was previously unheard of. Shit was happening, and it was good. So good, in fact, that Jimmy Buffet played a set on the beach. So good that Paul Speaker’s mate Nicholas Cage came down to hang out and watch the surfing.
The next 15 or so months have been interesting times for the WSL. There have been some great things, and some not so great things, but either way, they have shown their true colours in the fact that they want to run events, and they want to run good events. Their commodity is events, the webcast of such events, and the associated media around these events. They are working hard to make their commodity valuable.
WSL events attract a lot of attention. Barra da Tijuca was packed for the Oi Rio Pro.
Since then they have come close to signing off some big deals, most notably with Red Bull, a deal that went sour towards the end, with lots of the dirty washing hung up to dry. Still, this did not deter them on their mission: to run said events and form professional surfing into a cohesive package that is attractive to mainstream audiences.
In the interim, there have been some great new deals signed that show enormous potential for the growth of the sport, as well as for the growth of the WSL business model. We’re surfers though, and are simply looking at the growth of the sport however, and as mentioned, the surfers on tour are stoked. Kelly approves of it all, Jordy approves, Kerrzy loves it, and Owen Wright, to name but four, are all for the changes. Things are happening in a world tour that was pretty much learderless after the resignation of Brodie Carr.
First up – the Jeep brand has signed on as the first-ever automotive partner of the WSL. Jeep will now own the naming rights of the Men’s and Women’s Championship Tour rankings, which is now known as the Jeep Leaderboard. On top of this Jeep will be awarding two vehicles, one to each of the 2015 Champions. That’s a sweet little bonus on top of the prize money and massive sponsorship incentives from world champion sponsors. These days it really does pay to be a world champion. For more on the Jeep partnership with the WSL, go check it out here.
Adriano De Souza is the frontrunner on the WSL’s new Jeep leaderboard.
Not to be outdone, the Big Wave Tour has picked up a new sponsor, and it’s a doozy. Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer has become the official timekeeper of the Big Wave Tour, and everyone seems stoked with the partnership. TAG has a current campaign going called #Don’tCrackUnderPressure, and will use the Big Wave Tour to dovetail with this marketing campaign. What it means for the surfers is that there is an official timekeeper, which will affect the events in a positive way, and will have a great knock-on effect for the surfers. TAG has also taken over the ‘Biggest Wave’ and ‘Biggest Wipeout’ categories of the Big Wave Tour, and has also signed a multi-year partnership. So who knows, their involvement could easily grow over the next few years as the WSL continues to thrive. Either way, it’s the first luxury brand to enter the surf world, and the repercussions might be awesome. Imagine a surfing tour filled with luxury item sponsors. Cigars and champagne and bespoke suits might become the norm for the top professional surfers in the word. Wouldn’t that be a hoot?
It has also already been mentioned that the Brazilian sponsorship deals have been flourishing with the recent partnership of massive telecommunications giant Oi with the Rio Pro after Billabong let it go. This ties in with the WSL partnership with broadcaster Globosat, who promises to deliver surfing to 50 million TV’s in Brazil and South America. It’s all happening.
Stoked with his new timepiece, Shane Dorian gives the TAG Heuer partnership the shaka.
Many like to write off the WSL, but they have just signed four new deals and there are more to come. The last version of professional surfing couldn’t do that, they simply ran with 11 surf brand-sponsored events. The easiest way from A to B was always via a straight line.
Is WSL selling our sport? Something had to happen. Something had to change, and boy oh boy, are the winds of change blowing like crazy around WSL global head offices.
Where to next? Well, the question that rears its head is that of a global energy drink. After the intense Red Bull negotiations, and the almost Monster negotiations, it’s pretty clear that a partnership with an energy drink label would definitely work for both the Championship Tour and the Big Wave Tour. It might even be a bigger beverage company that has an energy drink in the stable, and is big enough to be able to write off huge marketing to their energy drink business silo. Who could it be? Do you know of such a global brand?
Oh yes you do.