Billabong a MEDIA company, not just a surf brand

Billabong really get it. They create content, not ads. 40hrs of it a week actually, distributed via Fuel TV, mobile phones and the web. They have an army of loyalists following their pro surfers every move. If I was going client side, I’d go here…or Red Bull :)   Here’s an article I found..

Billabong is not just a surf brand, it is a media company, says the person in charge of producing the hours of surf-related content.

“This just ups the ante,” says Scott Wallace of the deal announced last week with Sony. “We are turning into a media company as well as a clothing company.” The strategic partnership between the companies marries Sony’s expertise in video technology with Billabong’s street cred cool. Sony gets access to Billabong’s audience of tech-savvy surfies and followers while Billabong gets help in creating the content and getting it to as many people as possible.

Wallace, a former executive with the sports marketing company IMG, now vice-president, new media and strategic partnerships, is a busy man. Two weeks ago VAS, the company contracted to sell Billabong content around the world, was at a MIPCOM TV sales conference in Cannes marketing a 13-part series to potential buyers. “It’s centred around our athletes. It is less about the sport and more about the lifestyle of the athletes,” says Wallace.

The surf label produces up to 35 hours of high-definition video a year, drawing on events around the world – there’s almost one every week – and its small army of athletes as the subject.

“We use everything. We cut it up and use it for the web and then we use it for phone content.”

Each week Billabong produces 40 minutes of material to be used on mobile phone networks. When asked if it was working, Wallace is unable to share any figures but says: “It must be okay as they keep asking for more.”

A 25-strong audio visual team will be at the Billabong Pro Tahiti – one of four events in the world series the brand sponsors – in May to film the event, which will be made into a one-hour film that IMG sells around the world. During the tournament Billabong streams live feeds to its website, which attracts 1 million unique visitors during the event. Since last year the average visit has increased from 18 to 27 minutes, according to Billabong’s figures.

Now it is giving Sony Handycams to its athletes, who include surfers Joel Parkinson, Andy Irons, Taj Burrow and Tiago Pires, to film every aspect of their lives. Apparently there is demand to watch them eating breakfast, or at least the edited highlights, says Wallace.

For Sony’s marketing director, Toby Barbour, it is a way of getting his products before a younger audience. “We want to get them early so that we can follow [them] through the life stages with products such as Sony Ericsson mobile phones, Handycams and Bravia [TVs].”

But to what end does all of this serve Billabong? Wallace says it is hard to measure the return on investment of producing all this content, the cost of which he will not reveal. “I guess the ROI [return on investment] is about raising the profile of the sport, our athletes and, yes, ultimately our brand.”

He admits the proliferation of such content will help all surf brands but it is down to Billabong to bring that to life in its stores. As part of the Sony deal, the videos will be shown on Sony screens in 300 stores it owns around the world.

But it is clear that traditional communications such as TV ads do not work for the surf brand. “Our market is very tech-savvy … they all have a good still camera or a Handycam. [TV ads] are just not something they accept. “

Tim Flattery, a director of Carat Engage, a branded content agency, says the announcement of a new broadband network has galvanised the industry. He predicts more companies will view the high-speed network’s ability to allow video content on demand as the turning point and move into areas such as that pioneered by Billabong.

“I think that will put to the sword the interruptive model. What we will see more of in the future is a sponsorship model for television.”

3 thoughts on “Billabong a MEDIA company, not just a surf brand

  1. Interesting! Especially since the surf industry has steadily dropped off my radar since my Gold Coast youth.

    Billabong has always been a big producer of video content, its great to see them moving on to the next logical step and incorporating brand synergy with Sony. I remember laughing my ass off at the shenanigans of old school surfers like Mark Occalupo and Barton Lynch on Billabong VHS tapes as a kid. Surfers are still mischievous rapscallions, give them a camera and you’ll get Taj Burrows shaving off some poor sod’s eyebrows or Mick Fanning leaping out of a tree wearing a hockey mask.

    It might be an insular world invisible to those who don’t surf, but the industry is certainly thriving online. There’s a proliferation of UGC services specifically catering to surf video, whether standalone or as part of a mag’s website. has a pretty slick site and appears to be growing an engaged community.

    Because the surf market is somewhat insular, I assume advertising is more targeted?

  2. Pingback: Is every company now a media company? | www.amusingourselves.com

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