NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association and outerwear retailer the North Face are announcing a major sponsorship deal today to mark the creation of a new brand within U.S skiing known as U.S. Freeskiing.
The brand will include the Olympic event of skicross, along with the potential events of halfpipe and slopestyle skiing. Andrew Judelson, the chief revenue and marketing officer for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, is leading the charge to have the new freeskiing events gain approval from the International Olympic Committee for inclusion in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
The North Face is taking an eight-year partnership with U.S. Freeskiing. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed but executives with knowledge of the agreement believe it to be at least $8 million, if not more, over the life of the deal -- somewhat of a risk for North Face given that U.S. Freeskiing is a new brand.
"Yeah, it's a little bit of a risk, but we're the first movers on this because we see the opportunity as a big one," said Aaron Carpenter, VP-marketing for North Face. "We're pretty confident it will be a big opportunity."
The IOC won't decide until April whether the freeskiing events will be added to the Olympics, but breaking them out into their own entity under the new U.S. Freeskiing brand is the first step, and all involved believe it can be as popular as the snowboarding craze, which has produced marketing sensation Shaun White.
"The exciting thing for any brand marketer is the opportunity to start something from the ground up," Mr. Judelson said. "You have an established brand with the U.S. Ski Team and an emerging brand with U.S. Snowboarding. You can see there's a standalone opportunity to create a brand that clearly is differentiated from skiing and snowboarding."
Mr. Judelson said he brought the industry stakeholders together last month -- athletes, suppliers, coaches, media partners -- and asked if they felt freeskiing was a distinct marketing platform.
"To a person, they said this was something different from alpine skiing and snowboarding," he said. "You ask anybody and they'll tell you freeskiing is exploding."
To be clear, freeskiing is not freestyle skiing, which is already an Olympic sport. Freeskiing takes the tricks and jumps from snowboarding and puts them on twin-tip skis, in which the back of the ski is turned upward like the front. This allows freeskiers to ski backward as well.
"I think if you've been at resorts lately you're seeing that the sport has really evolved," Mr. Carpenter said. "You can see how skiing and snowboarding has evolved and that evolution of freeskiing has attracted us. We're seeing a lot of young people enter the sport this way."
Dan Hansen, public relations manager for the popular Mammoth Ski Resort in California, agreed.
"Just from what I've seen in the industry, it's exploding," he said. "It's not caught up to snowboarding, but it's on the direction there."
Added Greg Wright, associate publisher for Freeskier magazine: "Freeskiing is the new energy in skiing, and that trend leads to new energy in the industry. The demographic that tends to attach itself to freeskiing is 18 to 25 years old, and that attracts advertisers and sponsors."