In case you missed it, French-born woman surfer, Johanne Defay, won the ladies‘ side of things at the WSL event in Lemoore last weekend. No surprise really as she has been a consistent standout on tour for a few years now, including a huge win back in 2016 at the Fiji Pro and numerous top-five results since then.
What is surprising – and actually kinda sad as well – is that she’s done most of that without what you’d call a “major” sponsor. You know, Roxy, Bong, O’Neill, etc. Fortunately, she does have the support of brands like Smith Optics, Go Pro, Superdry, and a few others, to whom we applaud for that support, but to see one of the world’s best surfers without sponsorship from a top surf brand is a telling insight on our industry today.
Yeah, we get it when a perennial back half of the draw grinder can’t find a nose lam – and there’s a few on the men’s side as well these days – but Johanne is far from that.
So what gives?
It has been noted from various sources that surfing is more popular today in terms of participation than at any other time. Given that, one would think there are deep buckets of promotional cash lying around the marketing offices these days. But what we’ve actually seen of late has been a tightening of belts, so to speak, as there are numerous surfers with talent out there today without a prominent sponsor.
So is that a lack of promotional funds or is it simply a reallocation of where the available cash is now going being the real underlying issue?
Here are a couple of things to consider.
First and probably foremost being that the uber elite – The Medinas, Stephs, Jordys, etc.- are taking a huge slice off the top. No pun intended. Without really doing any real research mind you, we do assume that on a percentage of what’s being spent basis, much more is going to the top dogs than in years past.
Conversations for another day being are some of those salaries justified in terms of a return on that investment.
Or, more simply, is everyone in that upper echelon actually selling stuff relative to the money spent?
Another factor being the move away from brand-oriented marketing in lieu of “performance marketing,” as it is sometimes called. That being a focus on strategies that create a direct sale of a product. Amazon, Google, etc., where every promotional dollar spent can be tracked directly to a transaction.
Buy now over building any brand loyalty.
The bean counters love this shit as it’s easily justified against things like athlete or event sponsorships, which have so many intangibles. They don’t really get the age-old premise that consumers buy shit because they want the brand identity and not just another easy to attain widget.
Considering the huge amount of revenue that is being generated by the combined pool of all the brands that associate themselves with surfing, surely there is a place among those brands for a surfer of Johanne’s talent level and correspondingly, some long term brand loyalty from huge group of young girls that want to grow up to be just like her.
Go get ‘um Johanne.