Surfing Sports Report
Surfing’s counter-culture persona doesn’t sit parallel to those of traditional Olympic sports. However by July 2020, the sport will have hit a global event audience larger than its existing cross-continental footprint, as it makes its Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games. Along with a host of other reasons, surfing’s shiny new Olympic status alone should make it an attractive investment opportunity for brands.
Surfing’s changing face presents a pain-point for the more traditionally minded surfer; waves will be more crowded, the cost of commercialisation could be the soul of the sport itself. However, for brands with serious and sympathetic intentions to build authentic audience trust among surfing’s committed following, there are considerable opportunities to build brand loyalty. Particularly brands outside of surfing’s saturated sponsorship apparel environment.
Current statistics are also busting the ‘surf-bum’ stereotype. Research shows that the surfing demographic is young, economically secure and well educated. They’re also global. World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour events take place year round across six continents. The tour is digitally focused with live broadcast taking place on Facebook but also on mainstream television. A range of brands, including Airbnb, Corona, and Jeep have engaged in creative activations with the WSL.
Surfers themselves already attract investment from big brands as ambassadors and will have growing athlete profiles. In 2018 the WSL became the first elite championship tour to offer equal prize money to both its male and female competitors. This commitment to showcasing equality is evident even at grassroots level. From 2019, the UK Pro Surf Tour announced it would do the same for both its men’s and women’s Open competitors. There are 500,000 surfing in the UK alone, a figure predicted to rise further with the opening of new inland wave pools around the UK.
A values-driven approach to partnerships in surfing is a strong starting point for brands not currently involved as major sponsors, many of whom we believe would be a good fit for sharing a focus on sustainability, female empowerment, building a counter-culture image or aiming to have more of a presence in the Australian market.
Overall, surfing could bring significant value to sponsors. There is opportunity to reach both global and local audiences, to differentiate and to enhance brand image. But brands must be sure that surfing is the right match for them, it is a unique sport with its own history. It may be a more mainstream sport than previously but is certainly not on the same level as sports like football that seem to be suitable for almost all brands. Think creatively and you can ride the wave of surfing’s success.
- Executive summary
- Governing body structure
- World Surf League structure
- World Surf League formats
- Global participation
- Media coverage
- Social media
- Surf culture
For an example of a full Sports Report, see our Skateboarding version.