Stab Magazine | Brands That Don’t Sponsor The WSL Are Not Allowed On The Podium
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Brands That Don’t Sponsor The WSL Are Not Allowed On The Podium

Is this tyrannical or just good business?

news // May 12, 2017
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

A leaked piece of information just landed on Stab’s desk. It’s a “confidential” letter updating competitors on a WSL approved list of brand hats or drinks bottles on the podium. The list is, unsurprisingly, exclusive to companies that support the WSL. 

“Wearing a hat or holding a drink bottle with branding (or co-branding) that has not been approved by WSL is a violation of section 5.1(k) of your CT Surfers Agreement (“Contract”)”, states the letter. 

The list of “approved” brands that can appear on hats or drink bottles are Quiksilver/Roxy, Rip Curl, Billabong, Hurley, Vans, Outerknown, Oi, Moche, Jeep, Michelob Ultra, Corona, AirBnB, Hydroflask and Swatch. 

Red Bull faces the biggest blow here. They have nine competitors on the CT: Kolohe Andino, Michel Bourez, Mick Fanning, Jordy Smith, Leo Fioravanti, Kanoa Igarashi, Julian Wilson, Adriano de Souza and Carissa Moore. All of whom are likely to stand on the podium at some point in the year. For sponsors, especially drink companies hat space is their most valuable commodity and appearance on the podium is the pinnacle. 

Still, special allowances will be permitted after consent of the WSL. Which just poses an extra hoop. “If you wish to have branding of any kind (including co-branding) on a hat or drink bottle while on the podium and that brand is not in the above list, you cannot wear or hold it on the podium without specific approval from WSL. If you have any questions or wish to apply for approval of a brand that does not appear in the above list, please contact us as soon as possible and we can work with you on what is needed,” continues the letter. 

The WSL and Red Bull’s tumultuous relationship goes back to 2013 after a sizable deal fell through going into the 2014 tour. Since then, Red Bull’s been virtually invisible from the world tour scene, save stickers on boards and hats. Also, this isn’t the first time the WSL or ASP has gone after brands outside of the family. In 2014, Jordy was threatened with a $50K fine for wearing his Red Bull hat on the podium. Michel Bourez was asked by the ASP to remove his hat before the podium that same year and declined. Also in 2014, Carissa Moore stood on the podium multiple times sans hat. This precedent is not foreign in sports broadcasting. The Olympics don’t allow any branding on athletes unless they’re an official sponsor of the Olympic Games. And, in the NBA, Nike owns the rights as the official sock of the league, stealing the bid from the previous owner, Stance. But, there is a difference between individuals making their income from sponsorships and team salaries. 

This fuss over a hat or a bottle seems silly, especially as both items are overlooked on a broad scale. The podium, as it stands, is heavily branded with any combination of the approved companies. And, the ladies or gentlemen standing on the podium already have the event’s title sponsor printed on their chest. Bells, for instance, featured Rip Curl, AirBnB, Jeep, Corona and event winner, Jordy Smith wearing a co-branded hat with Red Bull front and centre and O’Neill on the side. For the podium at Rio, if Jordy, Julian, Adriano, Michel, Riss or on the off-chance that Kanoa or Leo make the finals they’ll now seek special approval or face an undisclosed penalty.

If the WSL’s firing shots at Red Bull it’s still not as blatant as the walking papers recently handed to FBI Director James Comey.

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