Skateboarding frenzy: Summer tour lure

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Skateboarding mania this year has spawned a boom in skateboard-inspired apparel, surging ad sales for industry magazines, a well-received film, and now a pileup of summer skateboard tours.

Pepsi-Cola Co.'s Mountain Dew brand, a longtime sponsor of various skateboard tours and competitions, this month kicked off its own, the Mountain Dew Free Flow Tour, visiting 12 cities with skateboard demonstrations and contests, including a stop at ESPN's X Games in Philadelphia in August.

ESPN last week also announced details of its third annual Tony Hawk's Gigantic Skatepark Tour, which begins next week and will yield eight hours of programming next month on ESPN2. The Vans Warped Tour, a combination of music acts and skateboard demonstrations sponsored by the skateboard-shoe giant also hits the road this week for the eighth summer, expecting to draw a record cumulative crowd of more than 450,000 in 47 cities.

In April, Vans sponsored the film "Dogtown and Z-Boys," which was a hit with skateboarders and is now driving brisk merchandise sales online (

But skateboard manufacturers are paying the most attention to the Aftermath Tour, making its third annual cross-country trek with two dozen stops, a record number of sponsors and a new cable TV coverage deal from Fox Sports Net.

in the aftermath

Despite its new mainstream media exposure and growing number of sponsors, the Aftermath Tour, created by a tiny Oceanside, Calif., ad agency, still covets an "uncommercial" image that is crucial in securing the loyalty of teenage boys, its primary audience. "We want to be the opposite of the Warped Tour, the X Games and all those big, commercial events that care about numbers," said Matthew Martelli, owner of Mad Media Design and the tour's founder.

Aftermath's principal sponsor is skateboard shoe manufacturer Osirus; other sponsors include Tribal Clothing, DVD Express and Virgin Records.

"There's a lot of power in association with this event, and being part of the environment, vs. a hard sell," said Carl Arellano, VP, Tribal Clothing, San Diego.

"Skateboarding has always been its own media, but the Aftermath Tour is a prime example of an event driven almost exclusively by peer-to-peer marketing, which is the most powerful media of all," said Fran Richards, publisher of Time4Media's TransWorld Skateboarding, the industry's leading magazine, which is a sponsor of the Aftermath Tour, as well as the Vans Warped Tour and the Mountain Dew Free Flow Tour.

Up to 2,000 people are expected at each stop on the Aftermath tour, with demonstrations by top skateboarders.

Although Mountain Dew continues to sponsor other skateboarding events, owning its own tour seemed to be the next logical step for its close association with the sport, said Mary Briggs, associate marketing manager for Pepsi.

The tour "helps us support skateboarding at the local level. The tour puts the spotlight on great local skaters who may otherwise go unnoticed and gives them the attention and recognition they deserve," Ms. Briggs said.

Fuse Sports, Burlington, Vt., is executing Mountain Dew's tour, which includes the opportunity to win prizes including cash, a year's supply of Mountain Dew plus Mountain Dew-branded skateboards and apparel. Print and radio ads back the tour, via Omnicom Group's TLP, Dallas. Co-sponsors include Media Skateboards, TransWorld Skateboarding and Vans.

"The interesting thing about action sports on this level is that it's about participation, not being a spectator, and kids get a chance to connect with the best skateboarders in the country instead of watching from a distance," Mr. Richards said.

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