Arbor Snowboards is enlisting a legendary surfer in new ads aimed at catching a demographic wave -- aging Gen Xers.
The rapidly growing, 3-year-old company inked a deal with 60-year-old surfing icon Mickey Munoz to endorse a signature line of snowboards. A campaign, created in-house and breaking in November issues of several alternative culture and snowboarding publications, includes ads showing Mr. Munoz in his famed younger years, not snowboarding but surfing.
SURFING THE MOUNTAINS
"We wanted to use classic surf imagery to connect our sport to its roots, because when you're snowboarding you're really surfing the mountains," said Bob Carlson, president of Arbor Snowboards. "Mickey . . . represents the quintessential California surfer lifestyle and epitomizes the image we're after."
Arbor's business plan hinges on the maturing of the extreme sports consumer. The stereotype is young punk, late teens or early 20s. But snowboarders are growing up.
"The kids are growing up, the skiers are crossing over and participants in general have adopted it as a lifestyle activity. It's not a passing fad," Mr. Carlson said.
Arbor -- known for handsomely crafted, wood-topped snowboards -- is recognized in the industry as the only company exclusively marketing to an older demographic. Its hardwood boards harken back to the early surfboards and reflect the passions of Arbor's 29-year-old founders, Carlson Jensen and Chris Jensen, southern California natives who grew up surfing and working with wood.
Mr. Carlson wouldn't disclose sales figures; Arbor sold an estimated 2,000 boards in 1997, a 400% rise from its launch year. Mr. Carlson expects sales will double for '98.
Arbor will spend $40,000 to $50,000 on ads over the next three months, when the industry sees the vast majority of its sales. As sales increase, it will ramp up the budget for buys in such books as Men's Health and Men's Journal.
Arbor also greatly relies on getting product placement in the ads of marketers latching onto extreme sports imagery.
Coors Brewing Co. and Toyota Motor Sales USA are considering using Arbor products in upcoming ads, according to executives familiar with the plans.
One challenge Arbor has to overcome is convincing older snowboarders to give up the brands of their youth.
"These are definitely brand-loyal kids," Mr. Carlson said. "But we've been able to get people to change brands because of the product; at some point, the kids get sick of all those youthful bright colors and cartoon graphics."