Corporate-ization of Action Sports

By: Ed Clancy

The corporate-ization of action sports. Live free, or die – like the remaining mom and pop stores?

Cut backs, downsize, lateral move. These are not terms used only to describe tricks in action sports but more-so what is happening in the current economy and the effect on everyone.

I’ve been watching industry trends and talking to many store owners, snowboarders, and workers over the past several years, trying to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of snowboarding. So far the news isn’t good.

There is fear and loathing within the industry. Should start up brands go corporate – to keep production and development competitive – compromising quality? Insiders and veterans in the field hate retail chains for pushing a massive amount of goods into the market; a trade show that is nothing more than a dump site for last years goods, is as much the villain as the internet in cutting out personalized shopping experiences, and retailer profit margins.

We know the origins. In the 70’s, this guy with a unique middle name, and a few others, start to surf down the mountain; production of snowboards then starts in converted garages; fluorescent this, that and everything are the “in” gear to put on to protect your body against the elements; skiers-ONLY friendly mountains (?); competitions on tour; snowboarding becomes an Olympic sport; “hundreds of millions of dollars” are used to describe volume sales.

Fast forward to the present. Now top-tier executives dictate the trends of actions sports through their Madison Avenue advertising campaigns, public relations teams and countless sponsored competitions. The respective owners are often overheard swearing allegiance to keep it “real” but their companies have Wall Street investors, distinguished boards of directors and hundreds to thousands of employees. Do they really care about what is genuine?

Small companies need to survive. They are holding on for the long term, through up and down economies; avoiding a take-over or hasty mergers, or closures and selling out. The experts on staff, selling, traveling, making the 20 a day follow up calls, and calling on customers are working the market individual by individual to maximize the experience and build customer residuals the old fashion way.

A similar venture takes place on the streets of Venice, CA. on Abbott Kinney Blvd. Here, on this mile and a half strip, there is an organized business development association to keep major chain retailers from opening. The small stores thrive, some perish, though pedestrian traffic is constant. Meanwhile, the 3rd Street promenade in Santa Monica, only 2 miles away and many times longer, has anchor stores, big name brand shops, huge signs of clearance sales, 110% off, and empty windows.

The proverbial writing is on the wall. Riders and shoppers alike need to be a part of the program: not gouged on pricing. They need to be educated on quality versus inundated with action photos/videos; nurtured like it’s the first and last set up they’ll ever buy.

Gone are the days of $1600+ to ride Mammoth Mountain(Mammoth Lakes, CA). The Californian “mother of all resorts” is bringing back the MVP pass – a discounted season pass with no black out dates – for under $600 – after a 5 year absence. The loyal customer (and economy) have spoken.

Ed Clancy is a marketing-community based relations expert, and shred jedi., (310) 902-6159

The opinions in this article are not necessarily the opinions of the Board Retailers Association. This blog serves as a sounding board for the industry and as such, we often post submissions submitted by others as a means of facilitating discussion.