Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 24 No. 112
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

Surf's Up! World Surf League Sees Growth Behind Wave Machines, Olympic Inclusion

Buoyed by the emergence of new artificial wave pool technology and the inclusion of surfing in the ’20 Tokyo Games, the World Surf League believes the pro surfing property is poised for exponential future growth. WSL CEO Paul Speaker on Thursday outlined the organization’s vision at the ’16 Momentum Sports Marketing Symposium along with Chief Commercial Officer Mark Noonan and A-B InBev Global Dir of Experiential Marketing Lara Krug. Aiding the development of WSL is its fully integrated model in which the events and content and sponsorship rights are all fully owned and marketed by the league. “We offer as comprehensive a package as is out there,” Noonan said. “There’s not a right that we don’t control and can’t package in.” Added Speaker, “It was imperative for us to own all of everything and offer literally one-stop shopping.”

RIDE THE WAVE: The creation of wave pools, fueled in part by the purchase earlier this year of the Kelly Slater Wave Technology, will ultimately allow WSL to offer a more predictable schedule and not be as dependent on weather and tides. The pools cost roughly $20-30M each to construct, plus land costs. “These are essentially like golf courses for us,” Speaker said. And that, in turn, will continue an evolution in which more than 80% of WSL’s audiences are mainstream sports fans. “Our fan base is not Jeff Spicoli,” Noonan said. “That stereotype has been dead for a long time.”

Quick Hits:
* Facebook data shown to the WSL indicates the property boasts one of the most affluent fan bases of any sports property. “We’re very strong among the 18-34 demo. And they’re affluent, educated, and in some cases ridiculously rich,” Noonan said.

* WSL features one of the most globally diverse audiences, with strong penetration into Europe, Australia and South America. Asia remains more of an emerging market. “There is some work to do in places like Japan, but this is truly a global sport,” Speaker said.

* On the goals for surfing in the ’20 Tokyo Games: “We have to demonstrate to the IOC this is a sport that is worth continuing, but I do think we will help the Olympics get younger,” Speaker said.