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Joe Surf: Nike, Hurley and Converse leave U.S. Open sponsorless

October 03, 2012|By Joe Haakenson | By Joe Haakenson

Remember the days when the surfing contests were all about the surfing and not about the sponsors?

Well, those days are back.

OK, not really. But, for the moment anyway, Huntington Beach's U.S. Open of Surfing — the largest surf contest in the world in terms of fan attendance and prize money — is without a sponsor.

Hurley and Converse along with their parent company, Nike, recently decided to pull their sponsorships and focus on other initiatives.

"Our opportunity is our ability to have a dialogue with millions of kids," Hurley Chief Executive Bob Hurley said in an interview with shop-eat-surf.com. "Will it be in the form of a U.S. Open somewhere else? Probably not. This isn't about moving our investment in Huntington Beach to a similar event somewhere else. It's about looking at new and innovative ways to connect with the next generation. We are continually pushing the boundaries on what might be."

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The decision to move on had to do with a sense of accomplishment about the U.S. Open. Hurley said attracting nearly all of the best surfers in the world to compete — as well as an audience of more than half a million over the course of the event — made the four-year Nike-Hurley-Converse era an overwhelming success.

"In many ways, we achieved the goals we set for ourselves at the U.S. Open," Hurley said. "Now it's time to export the magic created at the U.S. Open and invest it into other aspects of our business, like a renewed athlete focus and new and exciting ways of connecting with millions of kids.

"The U.S. Open was good for Hurley because it proved what three major brands can do when they share a common vision. And it proved the value in putting the athlete and fan experience first before anything else. HB is where I learned to surf ... It was truly a dream come true."

That's great for Nike, Hurley and Converse, but what about Huntington Beach and the future of the Open? It's been estimated that the Open generates $20 million in revenue for the city's economy.

Fortunately for Huntington Beach and surf fans, the Open will continue. IMG Action Sports, which operates and manages the event in conjunction with the city, is already looking for a new sponsor.

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