SBD/Issue 209/Events & Attractions

IMG Notices Surf's Up, Looks To Boost Extreme Sport Presence

IMG, which recently purchased the U.S. Open of Surfing for an undisclosed amount, "hopes the annual contest [in Huntington Beach, CA] will serve as a springboard for its belated push onto the alternative-sports world dominated by Walt Disney Co.'s X Games," according to Greg Johnson of the L.A. TIMES. IMG "also would like to see the Open's supporting land-based games and entertainment evolve into a model that can be reproduced profitably at waterfronts around the world." As CA-based market research firm Board-Trac estimates that "nearly 8 million teenagers nationwide ride skateboards and 2.5 million have snowboards," IMG is "looking inland for inspiration," and is building an "attraction bracing enough to intrigue Southern California's media-savvy teens and young adults." IMG crews spent the last week "erecting elaborate wooden facilities atop the sand for skateboarders, motocross riders and in-line skaters," and Bands Ozomotli and Common Sense will play on a nearby music stage. But Johnson added the "expanded focus on landlocked sports offends some of surfing's purists." Meanwhile, IMG Senior Exec VP Bob Kain said that the firm will "help bridge the gap between corporate marketers and surfers." Kain: "We adapt to the event. We're responsible (to corporate customers), but we don't mess with the sport's culture." IMG X-Sports VP James Leitz called the Open a "good buy for IMG because it can be a prototype for IMG globally. Clients say, 'We know you have golf and tennis, but what do you have for the 12-to-34-year-olds in action sports?'" Johnson notes Philips Electronics, which spends about $100M a year on advertising and marketing, is "one of IMG's clients that needs to polish its image among younger consumers." Philips Global Brand Management Project Manager Robert-Jan van Dormael: "We want to make our youth sponsorships as relevant as possible. And that means extreme sports, music and technology." At the Open, Philips has display tents with big-screen TVs, DVD players and MP3 devices (L.A. TIMES, 8/1).

ALREADY RIDING THE WAVE: NBR's Pat Anson reported, "With time on their hands and money in their pockets, teenage shoppers are one of the few bright spots in a shaky economy." Vans President & CEO Gary Schoenfeld: "Teens are spending their own money. They still have good earnings power ... and it's very discretionary." Anson: "As the company rides the growing popularity of skateboarding, its marketing strategy is focused more on being cool that it is on selling shoes." B. Riley & Co. analyst Jeff Van Sinderen: "I think that's been one of this company's claim to fame is that they have been able to maintain an image that I think has really been embraced by that demographic." Anson said the "danger for Vans and other stores is that teenage fashions change quickly." Wedbush Morgan Securities Senior VP Liz Pierce: "The risk is you have to be very nimble when you deal with teen retailers" ("NBR," 7/31).

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