Board In The USA!





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By: Michael D. Vogel

© February 1997. Michael D. Vogel.  All Rights Reserved.

 Published in:

Virtually Alternative magazine – February 1997


Gilby rocked anxiously in the checkout line of “Bob’s Ultimate Ski Land”, the largest ski and sport store this side of the Pacific Ridge. When asked about his reasons for getting into snowboarding, the young grunge rocker freely admits `It’s the thing to do!’ It is pretty easy to laugh at this type of response especially for altruistic reasons like the thrill and joy of the ride. But as an “alternative” to skiing, snowboarding has quickly become the norm.

Snowboarding has become winter’s equivalent to extreme warm weather sports like in-line skating and skate boarding. Since 1989, snowboarding has experienced an unprecedented boom in the United States and across the world. During its early stages, there were less then 75,000 snowboarders across the U.S. As an initial estimate this number may seem significant, but it hardly compares to the predicted 12 million at the end of 1996. This group is not entirely made of men either, as females help make up a major part of this growth in participants. In 1989, the ratio was close to 9:1, males to females where as today it is closer to 3:2. There was also a period of time where the ski resorts were worried about the decline in guests and ski-related activities. Things have changed! Snowboarding has been credited with bringing the young and old alike back to the mountains in overwhelming numbers.

As Gilby and I ride the first chair up from the main lodge to the mid chalet, on one of the Sierra’s largest mountains and co-host to many international skiing, snowboarding and even mountain biking competitions, we witness the beginner slopes filled with a plethora of snowboarders. The mass crowds of people resemble an army of ants charging towards a pile of sugar, except all the soldiers are clad in snowboarding gear.  Black baggy pants and dark sweaters, ski caps and thin sunglasses seem to be the clothing of choice. 

Living the alternative life style is not relegated only to the schools, streets and concert halls though. “A radio promotion can attract the active segment of the audience that demands and embraces these type of lifestyle events as well as those looking to explore new things. By involving local retailers and sponsors helps to create a fun and educational event for the listeners as well as a win/win situation for the advertisers, and the radio station” offers Rob Endsley, Promotion Director for KWOD in Sacramento.

The biggest problem seems to be a way to negotiate around the mass throngs of people talking with one another or are simply psyched out by the magnitude of the slope itself. Further down the mountain, those that have successfully navigating through the masses, stop to catch their breath and contemplate the nature of their descent while linking it to the meaning of man’s existence. To those hard-core riders, who feel the ride is like a Zen experience, negotiating through such obstacles is a necessary evil in the high-speed rush to the bottom of the mountain.

It was Gilby’s first day on the mountain. After having spent nearly $1,500 on board, boots and “threads” – a color-coordinated combination of baggy-pants, jacket and gloves in dark colors popular to the younger, “alternative” crowd – he’s now ready to discover if he likes snowboarding. Unfortunately, Gilby seems to be more of the rule then the exception. The vast majority of new riders take to the slopes dressed to the nines without ever trying the sport itself. The “snowboard fashion” industry for the most part has taken the baggy clothes and colors of skate-style, along with the somewhat rebellious image of boarding and adapting it to a more newer, cleaner image of itself.

The business side of the sport is something that is hard to overlook. One side of this that has brought about an unexpected result is the rise in radio involvement around snowboarding events. While preparing for “The End’s” Second Annual Board Stiff, KNDD Promotion Maven Keri Lee offers this advice. “Lifestyle promotions need to be something that is of genuine interest to the listener. In order to better understand your audiences interest – you have to live the lifestyle!” But there is a gentle balance to be maintained. If a promotion is too much, the purpose of the event will be lost, and not enough will lose the interest of the listener. “In all, any lifestyle event can be done successfully through the proper co-ordination, execution and co-operation between `on-air’ and sales staffs.”

Bud Light, a sponsor of snowboarding governing body the U.S. Skiing Federation, has signed on as a title sponsor of both the “American Snowboard Tour” and U.S. Grand Prix” for more then $1,000,000 as well as a series of winter snowboarding/music festivals featuring alternative bands and a cornucopia of snowboard/ski manufacturers and apparel companies. The festivals, sponsored by On Board Entertainment, a music and sports marketing firm, are supported on average by $200,000 in local radio spots and print advertisements based on market size and an average five-week promotion.

“Generally speaking, radio’s focus is on the music so sometimes they miss reaching the audience with lifestyle promotions” states Sarah Haynes, co-owner and promotion guru for O.B.E. “With so many concert tours, radio needs to distinguish their in-house events as something unique – the difference being the addition of a lifestyle element. We help provide a promotion that is the perfect blend of music and sports activities that connect with the interests of the stations listeners.”

“When radio has a limited promotional budget, O.B.E. can bring additional sponsors to the event in exchange for on-air promotion. Events of the magnitude like Board Stiff and Kamp K.O.M.E. bring in sponsors that have different budgets then those who already buy time on the station” continues Sarah. This helps produce an awesome effect for the promotion as well as bringing in additional revenue for the station – additional dollars on top of what the client already invests through direct station advertising.

Lifestyle promotion provides something that is useful to both the sponsors and advertisers as well as the station itself. “Once the goals and objectives of the promotion have been established, then a package can be created to match the needs of both the client and the station.” Most companies who purchase time-buys on alternative radio and MTV are looking to bring an added dimension to their products. “For example,” furthers Sarah, “companies like AirWalk, Sony Playstation and Levi’s 501 Jeans want to connect with their consumers. Lifestyle events like these help to reach that goal.” In addition, the bands involved in the event get to participate in something other then your typical radio sponsored concert promotion, thus helping to establish an identity for the artist outside of concerts and music video’s.

For the best example of how this event can be applied to radio for an over-the-top, completely out-of-control promotion, one need to look no further then Mountain View, CA.

“It is imperative that alternative radio embrace lifestyle events. But to be effective in this type of promotion, the station needs to create a lifestyle balance by defining the important elements within your audience and not letting one particular aspect dominate the event, unless it makes sense for your market. This is a major component in the definition of “alternative,” states Robin Rockwell, promotion goddess for KOME, San Jose.

Following the lead set by Grafix ’95, a snowboard/music festival held in Denver, On Board Entertainment and Levi’s 501 Jeans teamed up with Northern California alternative rocker, 98.5 KOME to transform the grounds of the Shoreline Amphitheater into Kamp K.O.M.E. “We identified snowboarding as an important element to the lifestyle of our audience” continues Robin. “Snowboarding is not just a sport but a lifestyle and that falls into the alternative category.” This was no summer camp by any stretch of the imagination. Some of the camp’s activities included a snowboard ramp complete with forty tons of snow; a half-pipe covered in graffiti art, shared by skateboarders, in-liners, and BMXers. On center stage, a slew of bands, such as No Doubt, 311, Beck, 7 Mary Three and Filter, helped keep the masses occupied while watching the dare-devils and psycho-kamikaze’s. All event proceeds were donated to “The Snowrider Project”, a new division of The Surfrider Foundation. Up next for On Board Entertainment is the North American Snowboard series – on snow sports and music festivals with `The End’s’ Board Stiff, KWOD’s Extremely Board, X96′s Spring Board, WBCN’s Totally Board and KNRK’s Snow Job.

While the music may be going through a transition, as well as the term `alternative’ itself, the `lifestyle’ is the element that will always remain constant. “Radio needs to stay hip to the trends of their audience to create the alternative balance that will ultimately translate into a highly successful  `lifestyle’ promotion”, concludes Robin.

On a more conservative level, WARP Magazine and Airwalk‘s “Board AID 3 For LIFEbeat”, an annual snowboard/skateboard event to help raise money for AIDS service organizations and educational programs. The event included a dream line-up of Bad Religion and Sublime to name a few as well as members of Rage Against The Machine, the Offspring and the Go-Go’s showing up to board and party. During the in-stage presentation, LIFEbeat gave double platinum honors to the event sponsors as well as MTV, which made it possible for Board Aid 3 to reach thousands of viewers by broadcasting the event during the “Alternative Nation” program.

“These types of lifestyle promotions are what our listeners do in their spare time. it is also helpful if there are people on staff that are into these kinds of things as well – it helps bring an extra level of importance to the event itself” offers Cha-Chi Loprete, promotion man extraordinaire for WBCN. “By participating in the event itself, the listener is better able to relate with the station because it promotes common interests between the two.”

At the end of 1995, the International Olympic Committee ratified its decision to have snowboarding included in the next winter Olympic games in Nagano in 1998. One thing is for certain, with the growing international acceptance of snowboarding as a major sports activity as well as a significant cultural event, and radio’s ever increasing creativity in promoting the sport, it seems unlikely that the snow will ever stop falling on boarding anytime soon.

As for Gilby, after trying “Dragon’s Tail,” the double black-diamond run reserved for experts, he spent the rest of the vacation in the hospital with a broken leg, swearing never to return to the mountain again! ^m^


© February 1997. Michael D. Vogel.  All Rights Reserved. This originally appeared on the Vogelism blog at authored by Michael D. Vogel. This article may be shared or reprinted as long as the entire copyright message, including the source location of this article, accompanies it.


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