Kelly wears Volcom Linear Mod Boardshorts. Fiji. Photo: ASP/Kirstin
Gossip Girl: Sponsor talk
We know you like the industry stuff but pretend you don’t. You love the back-channeling that exists in the surf industry as much as we do. Here’s what we’re hearing…
While it’s still a while from launching, Kelly Slater’s new brand is called Outer Known. This will be the third surf brand for the Kering Group but, aesthetically and philosophically, it will be kept away from Electric and Volcom. Interestingly, Kelly also rides for Electric but won’t be rocking stickers and, while his brand is tuning up, he's been spotted: Wearing Volcom. Kering Group, head to toe.
There’s much industry talk about Kelly Slater and selling product. Kelly has never been a crazy performer when it comes to selling softgoods. His signature trunks, for instance, have never been showstoppers commercially. His hardware, on the other hand, is a different story. Kelly's FCS fins were his most successful product ever. Strangely, his go-to board from Channel Islands is Conner Coffin’s Fred Rubble model, and not his own Wizard Sleeve. When Kelly is passionate about something, however, he’s sure to give it his full firepower and history suggests this is when the relationship fires commercially.
The Chia Co have the perfect ambassador in Mr Slater with his keen interest in diet and wellbeing. His work with GoPro has been absolute genius and they crafted the best ad Kelly has ever featured in. The sustainable angle with his new clothing brand Outer Known means that Kelly might shake that stigma of not moving product. He’s partnering on Outer Known with John Moore, the Californian designer he worked with on VSTR. John is a real clever cat: he’s California-cool, understands the tricky surf market and creates great product with the right marketing behind it. The VSTR program was dropped after a little confusion and the reasoning by Quiksilver was simple: why would they pay Kelly Slater to ride for Quiksilver when he’s trying to represent another brand on the side? Rumours are the new line isn’t dissimilar to VSTR but with more sustainability focus. From a marketing standpoint, there were two obvious directions Kelly could have taken this brand; full-blown performance, or the very zeitgeist-y sustainable angle. You might remember that when Nike entered surf they were focussed purely on performance. They later admitted that if they had any idea Kelly’s career and dominance would have had so much longevity, he would have been the perfect ambassador to launch them in surf.
Craig Anderson is still one of surfing’s hottest properties and he continues to pull in the big bucks without ever needing to go near a surfing contest. He’s the first surfer to sign with Incase: those sleek cases for laptops and iPhones. He also has some news on the footwear front, with a signing to Huf footwear about to be released. You might recall back in the day as a part of their Quik contracts, guys like Dane Reynolds and Craig Anderson were automatically signed to Quik-owned shoe brand DC. When DC left surfing to focus primarily on skate a few years back, they were still under contract and remained with no footwear sponsors. When Dane’s lapsed, he joined Vans. Craig has been approached by many brands the past few years but has only just inked the new deal with Huf. Our guess is that skater Dylan Rieder, a good friend of Craig’s, recommended Mr Anderson to his footwear fam.
As you know, John John Florence is the highest paid surfer in the world. Despite not winning world titles just yet, he’s still the most sought-after gent in the game. Since the Brazilian world tour event, you’ll notice that John John is without Vans stickers on his boards because the two have parted ways. What’s interesting about John John is that he’s always family first and when he’s inking deals, he usually brings his bros into a family deal. His contract with Stance socks is a blanket Florence deal. We're led to believe that the Vans deal was the same. As a brand fit, John and Vans are seamless. Vans are shoes John would wear every day of the year, but the company aren’t paying to play, and this fallout is unexpected. Insiders tell us that John John isn’t happy about the departure and he only found out about the deal late in the conversation. We’re still unsure whether the deal still stands for Ivan and Nathan.
Bruce Beach and Luke Egan have been quietly working on a new San Clemente-based apparel brand that will be unveiled at the Agenda tradeshow in Long Beach next week. Many will be familiar with Luke’s work as a world tour surfer and later as an ASP commentator. But, you’re probably unaware of Luke’s commercial nous. He was a part of Electric launching in Australia and has equity in the Komune resorts. You might also remember when Luke quit the world tour, he immediately took to a job with Billabong. Those years in marketing will prove invaluable here. And, he also has a vehemently critical eye on surfing. He’s assembled a very talented team: Big wave surfer and hunter and Instagram-famer, Mark Healey, fisherman and tube aficionado Ry Craike and the man many call the most underrated surfer in the world, Matt Meola. Meola, previously sponsored by the French label Oxbow, hasn’t had the advertising spend he deserves and this signing makes perfect sense. As the team roster will tell you, the brand is based around watermen: fishing, surfing, diving, hunting and general man shit. These guys have shot all their marketing material in Hawaii.
There’s talk about movement in the Rusty team. Josh Kerr is their solid world tour rep, locked down. They’ve just re-signed Noa Deane, surfing's it gal, for a decent chunk of change. And there’s whispers of a potential Jay Davies poaching. The opportunity is that Rusty’s team will be top-heavy with big earners and Jay is the man with sharks circling knowing that his contract is done at the end of 2014. From a marketing standpoint, he makes a lot of sense. He looks good, surfs perfect waves and creates his own media. All a marketing manager wants is a guy they can work with. Jay Davies’ KPIs are even better than that. You pay me, I’ll create my own world-class edits and seed it out there myself. He’s a one-stop-shop.
Quiksilver are currently out shopping for new world tour surfer. In February 2013, Quik CEO Andy Mooney rinsed their team almost across the board. Long-term players were now looking for sponsors. There were gripes at the time but it was smart because they still had three of the very best: Kelly Slater on tour and Dane Reynolds and Craig Anderson as freesurfers. When Kelly announced his departure from Quik on April 1, they were left with just Jeremy Flores, Aritz Aranburu, Freddy P, Travis Logie and Tiago Pires.
All of a sudden, team manager Stephen Bell’s job was done after round two of competition. With an immediate need for a world title contender, they've been on the hunt. Rumours of Julian Wilson rejoining the team were afloat (as were light-on discussions with Billabong) but they were quickly shut down when he extended his contract with Hurley. With almost all other title contenders being locked into long contract, there are only three possible men in their sights: Gabriel Medina, Owen Wright and Filipe Toledo. With Gabs looking like a world title contender this year, their Kelly cash could probably buy Gabs easily for a few mill. Or, perhaps the smart buying would be the undervalued Owen Wright, who’s been out with an injury, with reports saying he’d be cheaper at just over a mill a year for a headline sponsor.