When the Dew Tour added a winter series in 2007, organizers wanted to turn the three-event series into Olympic qualifiers. That would allow NBC, which owned the tour, to promote the athletes and the 2010 Vancouver Games, raise the profile of snowboarding, and make it possible for snowboarders to earn prize money and qualify for the Olympics at the same time.
But the idea never gained traction because of sponsor conflicts and competition issues between the Dew Tour and U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, which sanctions Olympic qualifying events and has its own series of events called the U.S. Grand Prix.
|The Dew Tour’s Breckenridge stop will help determine U.S. snowboarding and freeskiing teams for Sochi.
The USSA and Alli Sports, which runs the Dew Tour, are close to finalizing an agreement that will see this year’s Winter Dew Tour count as an Olympic qualifying event. The competition, which will be held in Breckenridge, Dec. 12-15, will be one of five Olympic qualifiers to determine who makes the U.S. snowboard and freeskiing teams for the Sochi Games.
The deal is a breakthrough that took nearly a year of negotiation. Discussions first began when Michael Jaquet joined USSA as its chief marketer in July 2012. He began discussing a possible deal with then-Alli Sports President Wade Martin and Alli Sports Vice President Chris Prybylo.
One of the first things the Dew Tour had to agree to was ceding some of its control over the competition. To sanction the event, USSA had to manage the participation of U.S. athletes and have a voice in judging and format.
But Jaquet also had commercial interests to pursue. He hoped sanctioning the Dew Tour would help USSA land Mountain Dew as a sponsor of the USSA-owned Grand Prix series. The parties weren’t able to reach a deal, but a move by Alli Sports to pass some sponsorship assets and commercial inventory on to USSA sponsors helped them overcome that, and both organizations worked to ease the concerns of their only conflicting sponsors, video camera manufacturers Ion, which sponsors the Dew Tour, and GoPro, which sponsors USSA’s Grand Prix series.
The deal gives USSA increased TV promotion for its four Grand Prix events, which will air on NBC in the weeks after the Dew Tour. It also is receiving 30 advertising spots in the Dew Tour and six spots in a special, one-hour feature on snowboarding and freeskiing ahead of the Olympics.
The organization is selling those spots to its existing roster of sponsors and expects to make at least $500,000 in incremental revenue as a result. It also secured on-air integrations in the Dew Tour broadcast for its two biggest sponsors, Visa and Sprint, which will be featured on leaderboards that show the standings for U.S. snowboarders and skiers vying to make Team USA.
“If we weren’t able to better the Grand Prix franchise and brand, which is an event franchise that drives a lot of critical sponsorship revenue for the organization, then we wouldn’t have done the deal,” Jaquet said. “We found a way to do that.”
For Alli Sports and the Dew Tour, the sanction from USSA ensures that the event will be more attractive for top snowboarders and freeskiers. In 2010, top competitors such as snowboarder Louie Vito skipped the Dew Tour because they couldn’t earn points for the Olympics at the event and making the U.S. snowboard team was their top priority.
Having top athletes should help draw more spectators in Breckenridge and viewers on TV, and it should allow NBC to begin to highlight some of the stars it will focus on during the Sochi Games two months later.
“We think it will ensure we’ll have a world-class field of athletes for this event,” said Rob Simmelkjaer, NBC Sports Ventures senior vice president. “We do think that being able to tout this as the beginning of the Olympic qualification process will help get fans interested on television, in person and on digital platforms. No. 3, our sponsors are uniformly thrilled at the fact that this is part of the Olympic qualification process.”