Published September 25, 2012
Nike last week informed IMG execs that the company would discontinue its sponsorship of the U.S. Open of Surfing. The company had been the title sponsor of the IMG-managed event in Huntington Beach, Calif., since '09. Its subsidiary, Hurley, sponsored the event in '08. Sources valued the title sponsorship at $2-3M a year. Nike used the U.S. Open as one of its primary marketing vehicles as it raised the profile of its action sports lines like Nike SB and Nike 6.0. It also promoted its other lifestyle brands, Hurley and Converse, at the event. IMG Senior VP & Dir of Action Sports James Leitz said, "We worked really well with those brands. They helped us elevate that event to a whole new level. We had fun doing it." Nike communication officials did not return calls seeking comment. In an interview with shop-eat-surf.com, which first reported Nike's decision, Nike Global Action Senior VP Sandy Bodecker said, "We are always looking for new ways to connect with athletes and consumers. In the spirit of evolving, we are exploring new opportunities to help elevate the sport beyond the sand to new audiences around the world." Leitz said that IMG has begun looking for a new title sponsor. Previous events were title sponsored by Honda, Phillips and Bank of the West. Title sponsorships include national media and "an immersive partnership" that allows the sponsor to help shape and organize the event, Leitz said. IMG will continue working with Nike on the Hurley Pro competition in Australia. Leitz said, "We're grateful for our four years."