Quiksilver Riding Advertainment Wave

Pics, TV, and books all on slate

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%%STORYIMAGE_LEFT%% While surfing had its moment in the sun in the '70s and '80s, the $6 billion industry is enjoying a renaissance as it hopes to broaden its audience while not alienating its core, grass-roots surfer constituency.

Quiksilver is one of the brands that wants to spread the love for board sports. And it's doing it through an innovative and aggressive branded-entertainment push, honing its image as an aspirational brand for the coveted youth market.

Quiksilver, the largest brand in the category—with $705 million in sales in 2002— has such a strong belief in the blending of brands and entertainment that in 2001 it went as far as to create an entertainment division.

The unit is headed by President Danny Kwock, who over the years has turned around his inauspicious start at the company. Kwock, a teen surfer back in the day, drove a getaway car for a friend who ripped off some Quiksilver shorts from a warehouse. As part of his punishment, he was put to work at the company and has remained ever since, rising to marketing chief before taking the entertainment post.

"We want to spread the love. We want to spread the lifestyle," says Kwock, unabashedly hitting a svengali-esque note.

The 2-year-old unit already has a number of projects under its belt. In the works now are two feature films, including one based on the book "The Tribes of Palos Verdes" by Joy Nicholson, a girls' empowerment-through-surfing story

The unit's projects already have hit books and TV, and some of the content pushes surfing as a sport with little or no mention of the brand. To fuel the sport among a younger generation, Quiksilver signed with HarperCollins for the Luna Bay book series, which the company hopes will strike a chord with young girls. Luna Bay also is slated for TV and film spinoffs.

Kwock and his crew have also partnered with Fox Sports Net to create "54321," a daily action-sports news show. It also helped launch "Surf Girls" on MTV on May 12, a reality program involving a surfing contest sponsored by Quiksilver line Roxy.

"We all believed a cooler, more authentic show [would result] by partnering with Quiksilver," said Ferris Thompson, head of entertainment marketing at United Talent Agency, who helped package "Surf Girls."

Interestingly, Quiksilver has not signed any music deals, even though music has long been a core part of the surfing scene and other surf-wear and board-wear firms are going the music route. Because so many marketers are trying to leverage music, Kwock said Quiksilver will take its time before jumping in.

Despite Quiksilver's attraction to Hollywood, it doesn't mean it's completely ignored traditional advertising. A national print campaign developed in-house runs in surfing, snowboarding and skating publications as well as in men's mags. A national TV campaign isn't far off according to Randy Hild, senior VP, marketing. "We are getting to the size where we have the budget to do it."

Quiksilver, as it turns out, is not the only brand in this adrenaline-rush category to link with Hollywood. Billabong USA was involved with the film "Blue Crush," and Vans backed the documentary about a gang of Santa Monica skateboarders in "Dogtown and Z-Boys."

%%PULLQUOTE_RIGHT%% Kwock attributes his unit's track record to its nimble nature. Kwock's team includes VP Matt Jacobson and Rob Colby, director of business development. "We want to be the benevolent market leader," says Jacobson, noting that Quiksilver does not require hosts or guests on its TV programs to wear its gear.

So is this latest round of enthusiasm for surf culture just another fad?

Unlike other times the surf craze crashed ashore, Quiksilver and its competition are better positioned to stay atop the wave. Many of the brands have added skateboarding and snowboarding to their mix, providing products for other seasons and for youth who don't live on the coasts. They have also significantly broadened the market by targeting females, who generally spend more on clothing.

While these results are impressive, Nike needn't fear that youth will be swayed from the urban marketplace for its cultural cues. "It would take a dramatic paradigm shift" to put Quiksilver in the same league as Nike, Reebok, and its competitive set, opines David Morrison, president and founder of trend-forecasting firm Twentysomething, Philadelphia.

Peter Townsend, former surfing champion and director of marketing and events for Primedia's Action Sports Group of magazines, disagrees. He says the surfer lifestyle can be imparted to middle Americans who might not be living near a coast, but can still soak in the iconic value of the clothing and the lifestyle.

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