Gretchen Wegrich, Stoked & Broke: Local business owners, professional surfers taking a stand against Nike
Posted: 07/29/2012 01:30:08 AM PDT
Just [don't] do it. A local organization is standing up to Nike in the surf/skate industry. The Don't Do It Foundation [DDIF] hopes to inspire surfers and skaters to buy local, making choices that support a healthy industry made up of independent surf and skate shops and surf companies.
Although the DDIF is an ant compared to a Goliath like Nike, the sport industry giant is protecting its image. The DDIF saw its most recent ad campaign effectively barred from print after Nike threatened to pull its own advertising from major surf magazines.
"We want to keep the industry in passionate hands, the mom-and-pop shops and independently owned surf and skate companies," said Steve "Birdo" Guisinger, owner of Consolidated Skateboards.
"We don't want outsiders coming in with a really big plan for taking over this community," he added. "It leaves behind all of the people with dirt under their fingernails, people that tilled the soil and built this industry. Now, because there's money in the industry, these big companies come in and say, We'll take that.'"
The Don't Do It campaign was started in 1997 by Consolidated Skateboards. The DDIF's supporters include professional surfers John Florence, Joel Tudor and Liam McNamara, as well as a slew of Santa Cruz professional surfers such as Josh Mulcoy.
This is the second time Nike has blocked a Don't Do It Foundation ad campaign, Guisinger said.
"People are scared of the repercussions of
what could happen if they were to voice out loud what they really feel about Nike in our industry," Guisinger said. "We don't understand, because they're going to get squished out of the industry anyways, so they might as well put up a fight."
Buy in, sell out
Nike's infiltration of the surf industry began several years ago with the introduction of Nike 6.0, the sports company's extreme sports division. Nike 6.0 assembled a youth-centric surf team that included red-hot picks like Kolohe Andino and Carissa Moore.
In 2011, Moore was the center of a bidding war between surf companies and the surf industry's newest members, Nike and Target. The big companies won. Moore is sponsored by Target, Nike and Red Bull.
Fast forward to 2012, and Nike [no 6.0 needed] is a successful "surf" brand. Nike's maturing surf team is now dominating around the world, and Nike sponsors huge events like this week's U.S. Open of Surfing at Huntington Beach. The Nike athletes have successfully legitimized the brand to millions of surfing consumers.
"It's just crazy to see a company that was never accepted in surf culture and now I see it on people's surfboards," professional surfer Josh Mulcoy said. "Nike is good for some people, but the amount of people it's good for is so small. It's just crushing the little guys."
Nike's marketing strategy is turning the surf industry on its head. Nike pays its top athletes huge dividends and doesn't support regional teams, a long-standing tradition in the surf/skate industry that allows local pros to make a modest living doing what they love.
"We know the passion [of the surf/skate industry] and we want the next generation to understand the same thing," Guisinger said. "Our vision of the American Dream is to do what you love, and it's not to take over everything and crush the other guy."
Instead of the American Dream, Nike is selling a rockstar lifestyle to the athletes it signs.
In order to compete for the top athletes, surf companies such as Rip Curl, O'Neill, Billabong and Quiksilver are following suite.
"What has happened now in the surf and skate industry is the surf companies have had to really cut their teams back so they can pay less people more money," Guisinger said. "That's not supporting the sport."
The big box effect
"Can you imagine having to buy a bar of surf wax in Target?" Mulcoy asked, imagining a dystopian future where local surf shops no longer exist. "People will say, Oh, we can just go to Target where something is $20 cheaper than at Santa Cruz Surf Shop.' What's happening now in the surf industry is going to drive all of our surf shops away."
DDIF supporters say Target and Nike's entrance into the surf industry represents the kind of "big box" takeover that has seen stores like Walmart, Home Depot and Lowe's drive out local businesses and homogenize the market.
"These companies have a distribution that can serve everyone in the world," Guisinger said. "At the time Nike entered the market, surf, skate and snowboard shops were a thriving ecosystem of independently owned shops. My biggest fear was that if we legitimized these companies, they would take this industry and plug it into their distribution.
"Now, Nike is totally dominating. They're going into the mall chains and mainstream distribution like Target and making a full blown push in surfing. If they can squash us, there's nothing else stopping them."
At Pacific Wave in downtown Santa Cruz, employee Miles Clanton said he hasn't noticed a big shift in shoe sales. But he knows Nike is up to something.
"I saw Nike starting to make a push, taking all the main up-and-coming kids that are into surfing and skating. I feel like, because they have the money to pay whoever they want X' amount of dollars, they're in on the surf/skate scene. Nike has enough money to buy whoever they want."
"I think there's hope," Guisinger said. "I see people buying local, shopping local. I just want to save the infrastructure in the surf skate and snow industry before it gets too far gone. There's a lot of people out there that don't support Walmart and Target. I'm hoping that mentality continues to move in a positive direction."