Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 21 No. 34
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

New ownership gives Dew Tour some pop

One year after the Dew Tour changed hands amid declining interest, sponsors, agents and even the TV ratings indicate new owner The Enthusiast Network has given the action sports property a fresh head of steam.

Revenue fell short of targets, but the overall tour business ended 2016 in the black, said Norb Garrett, TEN executive vice president. And sponsors, especially PepsiCo, say they’re reaching many more customers today than a year earlier, validating the tour’s pivot toward digital publishing.

“Going into this year, we were really excited about what we thought it could be, and coming out of this year we’re really excited about what we were able to accomplish,” said Michael Craig, PepsiCo’s senior marketing manager for Dew. PepsiCo pays about $8 million a year for title sponsor rights.

Last year’s summer event in Long Beach was one of two stops on TEN’s cut-down schedule.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
Born in a more broadcast-oriented era, the Dew Tour’s ratings and sponsor interest had been flagging for years. At its peak, the tour had seven stops with a full slate of action disciplines, but by 2015, owner NBC Sports told PepsiCo it wanted out and shuttered its action sports division.

Shortly thereafter, TEN acquired the property and promised big changes. It cut the series down to just one skateboarding event and one ski/snowboarding event, and instead put new energy into 24/7 digital publishing of action sports videos and other content.

The company owns a stable of action and motorsports publications, such as Motor Trend, TransWorld Skateboarding and GrindTV. Stakeholders today give TEN credit for leveraging its own action-sports credibility and assets to boost the Dew Tour. For instance, rather than leaving distribution up to NBC, it bought time for tape-delays on NBC and MSNBC, and turned to its own network of streaming sites to simul-stream the tour stops live.

Dew Tour executives declined to provide average concurrent viewership figures, the streaming stat most comparable to TV ratings, but said livestream unique views were 16 times 2015 levels. Social media impressions across the year more than quintupled.

Even though TV was a lower priority this year, the two NBC network broadcasts of the Breckenridge, Colo., stop drew a combined 1.62 million viewers, according to Nielsen, more than doubling viewership from 2015. Overall, ratings were up 36 percent across all Dew Tour telecasts, TEN said.

Steve Ruff, senior vice president of action sports and Olympics at Wasserman, said the NBC time-buys ensured athletes still fulfilled TV-centric contracts with brands. But the tour’s focus on digital content was a huge help to athletes who sometimes feel overwhelmed by the demands of personalized social/digital media publishing.

“From a social/digital side, I think Dew knocked it out of the park,” Ruff said.

At Breckenridge, the tour dealt with serious weather challenges. But agent Tom Yaps said TEN nevertheless brought new energy and bigger crowds by relocating a pair of owned industry awards events — the TransWorld Riders’ Poll Awards and Powder Awards — to the ski resort at the same time as the competition.

“Overall, even with all the [weather-related] cancellations, Breckenridge still felt big,” said Yaps, action sports managing director at Evolution Managing + Marketing.

TEN introduced a new concept at the summer skateboarding event in Long Beach, Calif., in July: Team-based competitions that featured athletes grouped under endemic brand names like Plan B and Blind skateboards. They repeated the concept in Breckenridge last month.

The team concept forced athletes to participate in disciplines they don’t normally emphasize, making it a unique event in a sport that sometimes struggles to stay fresh, Ruff said. Those small, endemic sponsors had felt neglected by the old model, which emphasized major non-endemic brand sponsorships. Aside from Mountain Dew, non-endemic sponsors in 2016 were Toyota, U.S. Army, Circle K, Bud Light, Ubisoft’s video game STEEP, Moto Z Droid, Adaptive Action Sports, Verizon and Breck.

“We’re as integrated and it’s as strong as it’s ever been in terms of our partnership,” said Tyler McBride, Toyota’s engagement marketing manager.

Plans are coming together for two stops again in 2017, though nothing is finalized. General Manager Adam Cozens said the tour will prioritize adding sports or disciplines over additional stops. The Breckenridge contract must be extended, but Cozens said the tour wants to stay at its longtime home. Another key question will be if the Dew Tour can reprise its role as a qualifier for the U.S. Olympic team.