When I think of the lifestyle brand RVCA, images of tattooed surfers, freckly skater chicks, and artsy rock-n-roll all come to mind. Recent ads that I’ve seen in the surf mags feature guys like Alex Knost hanging ten toes off a hand-painted surfboard one minute, while fronting a hip rock band the next. The company’s philosophy revolves around their slogan “balance of opposites” and according to their website they are “renown for pairing contrasting personalities up against one another and celebrating the distinction.” This all made pretty good sense to me and I thought I understood the company’s appeal until witnessing another RVCA athlete during this weekend’s mixed martial arts (MMA) event Affliction: Day of Reckoning.
Vitor Belfort is a Brazilian MMA middleweight and an athlete sponsored by RVCA. On Saturday night’s ticket he was paired against Oregon’s Matt Lindland in one the night’s most anticipated fights. The fight ended barely a minute after the bell rang when Belfort dropped Lindland with a left hook and proceeded to deliver a barrage of deadly blows that left Lindland unconscious and twitching for several minutes. He was eventually able to make it to his feet and be escorted out of the ring (no doubt headed straight for the emergency room). While emergency crews were dodging the maniacal blows of the semi-conscious and highly confused Lindland, the victorious Belfort was donning his RVCA apparel and raising his gloves in salute to the pay-per-view audience. At this point I was wondering two things: One, will Matt Lindland ever recover from the injuries he just sustained at the hands of RVCA poster boy Vitor Belfort, and two, what exactly was RVCA celebrating in the contrast between Vitor and say…Alex Knost?
What I want to point out here is not the brutal nature of fighting because that’s obvious, but rather what I see as a blatant contradiction on the part of RVCA and their marketing strategy between what they claim to be and what they actually are. I see no potential for balance in the juxtaposition between mellow California surf culture and life altering MMA knockouts. Furthermore, if RVCA is a brand “free from passing trends” like they claim to be on their website, why then have they recently jumped on the MMA bandwagon in an obvious attempt to capitalize on this increasingly popular sport?
So what’s next for RVCA? What new trends can we expect to see in their ad campaigns and sponsorship decisions now that they’ve tackled MMA? Maybe they’ll sponsor that Japanese dude who can eat 300 hot dogs in under an hour and use proceeds to fight hunger in developing countries. I guess some distinctions aren’t worth celebrating at all.