Southern California surfwear marketer Quiksilver could be the exception thanks to Matt Jacobson, 43, VP of Quiksilver Entertainment, a unit of the surfwear retailer. The division has developed movies, TV shows and books. It's lent its muscle to a few fun consumer products, such as a kicky Roxy Phone from Nextel Communications' Boost Mobile, complete with ring tones that play "California Dreamin'."
Mr. Jacobson has helped Quiksilver do this without being too blatantly commercial-a must to retain the loyalty of surfer dudes and skateboarders who consider such activity a turnoff. A former exec VP with News Corp. and onetime agent at Creative Artists Agency, Mr. Jacobson provided the necessary Hollywood links and negotiation skills to pull it off.
Quiksilver's entertainment ventures started in 2000. Longtime marketing executive Danny Kwock (a surf champion of the 1970s), approached Mr. Jacobson. "I had some ideas and vision, but I wasn't from that world [Hollywood]," says Mr. Kwock, now president of Quiksilver Entertainment. Mr. Jacobson "had access and he was a hard-core negotiator." The fact that Mr. Jacobson had been a surfer since childhood sealed their bond. The pair wrote Quiksilver Entertainment's business plan for six to eight months. It would operate as a standalone entity with its own profit and loss statement. The goal: to develop entertainment properties that showcase board riding and the surrounding lifestyle authentically. It would also forge partnerships with a few advertisers eager to reach elusive youth.
Quiksilver Entertainment envisions the entertainment business as a way to propel sales in the overall $12.1 billion action sports goods category. If it can stimulate enthusiasm for its core sports, and sales of board riding apparel and gear rise generally, market leader Quiksilver benefits most, or so the theory goes. "We're not here to be shills for the Quiksilver or Roxy brands," says Mr. Jacobson.
Picking the right projects is the tough part. Two years in, Quiksilver Entertainment has had hits and misses. It injected cash into Stacy Peralta's landmark big wave epic "Riding Giants," the first documentary to open the Sundance Film Festival (earning $2 million-plus at the box office). It backed MTV's 2003 hit "Surf Girls," a reality-fest about 14 surf competitors. Misses include Harper Collins axing Quiksilver's "Luna Bay " book series.
Marie Case, managing director of Board-Trac, a market researcher that follows the action sports industry, believes Quiksilver's strategy is on target. It keeps the sports on which it depends in front of 12-to-20 year-olds at a time when many young viewers tune out traditional commercial messages. "If Quiksilver propagates the sport, it will fuel the business," she says.