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Group Y at Red Bull Panel Review

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Red Bull made sure to keep us all hydrated, caffeinated and intoxicated in preparation for another great discussion held by Group Y at the Red Bull headquarters in Santa Monica which was co-sponsored by Fuel TV. The panel consisted of four influential figures in the action sports industry: Chris Stiepock VP and GM of X Games Franchise, Per Welinder President of Blitz Distribution and Chairman of the Board, IASC, Todd Roberts co-owner of ZJ Boarding House and Chairman of Board Retailers Association, and Don Brown senior VP of Sole Technology. Angelo Ponzi senior marketing executive and co-founder of Board-Trac, Inc. led the hour long discussion inquiring the panel about how each of their businesses has been affected by the shift in popularity, accessibility and distribution of action sports role models and product in their involvement in the industry.

group y

Angelo started the discussion with a statistic that in 2001, 23% of mainstream America’s purchase decisions of apparel, shoes, and accessories were influenced by action sports. By 2008, that number jumped to 60%. How has this spike in popularity come about, how has it changed the business and how will it continue to alter the action sports industry in the future?

The panelist teetered from serious responses to light laughter provoking jabs throughout the discussion. Topics covered ranged from accurate and inaccurate portrayal of action sports in the media, the shift in marketing over the years and the effect of larger corporations capitalizing off the sweat and blood of die-hards in the industry.

Publicity influenced by movies, Olympics, and corporate sponsorship does indeed build brands and increase sales in both hardgoods and apparel. As Per Welinder points out, however, when a larger non-endemic brand is better able to financially back an athlete, the hardgoods brands in the sport have a more difficult time being primarily associated with that athlete.

Sometimes the integrity of the professional athletes and the company heads in action sports brands is questioned. Less efficient management of smaller operations is also an issue. Larger corporate brands have access to a marketing staff which may or may not give a shit about action sports but could sell speedos to a surfer if need be. Whatever the case, a lifestyle considered as sacred as Jerusalem to those who religiously cherished their rebellion in action sports has appealed to the masses on an undeniably superficial level. What at first was a way to make quick extra cash off “posers” has become what some view as a threat to the sanctity of action sports.

A hot topic was the specifically generation sensitive influence of the internet on the industry from the consumer, to retail, to distribution, to marketing. The internet has allowed news and marketing to cross the globe instantaneously. At the retail level, as the mainstream adopted action sports more and more, local retailers thrived. Todd Roberts of ZJ Boarding House has noticed that in recent years the availability of discounted product from various online vendors has been the biggest threat to small scale retailers. Consequentially, specialty retailers have been used for their expertise without being rewarded with business.

The panel concluded with talk about the future. Special events and quality in-store experiences are key in maintaining the core of action sports. Let it not be forgotten that the bad ass events that we all love to attend are primarily funded by the mainstream participation in the action sports world. As long as mainstream remained distant and the cash flow provided was the main effect noticed at the core we could live harmoniously on one planet. But when the core no longer exists, what does the mainstream have to model itself after? Both parties need each other; the mainstream lives vicariously through their action sports heroes and is absolutely necessary to reward the stars with the truly admirable reckless abandon mentality of action sports or die. Cake’s very wise frontman John McCrea has already posed this life long question which is applicable to the current state-of-affairs in the action sports industry; “How do you afford your Rock ‘n’ Roll lifestyle?”

Check out the full event photo gallery at ZexSports.

Posted in Industry | 2 Comments »

Happy Earth Day 2009

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

earth day 2009Have you gone green this year? Or do you want to learn how? As action sports enthusiasts and individuals that embrace the outdoors such as we do, taking care of the earth has always been a fighting cause for surfers, snowboarders, and skateboarders alike, This month we celebrate Earth Day on April 20th. What better time to learn how to care for our earth and take action to do so. Here are some simple ways to participate in giving Mother Earth a fighting chance.

Join in a beach clean up. All around the country and the world, you can join in with the Surfrider Foundation and one of its many chapters to participate in cleaning up your local spot. Check out their site to find a chapter near you and see what you can do to tidy up your local shoreline.

Take action at home. There are small steps we can all take in our homes and offices to start ourselves in the right direction. There is no better way to change the way people think then to lead by example. Here are a few simple steps you can take to start the process. These helpful tips and more listed on www.earthday.gov.

Save Energy
* Turn off appliances and lights when you leave the room.
* Switch out light bulbs to Compact Flouresent Light bulbs (CFL). If every household in the U.S. replaced one light bulb with a CFL, it would prevent enough pollution to equal removing one million cars from the road.
* Use the microwave to cook small meals. (It uses less power than an oven.)
* Purchase “Green Power” for your home’s electricity.
* Have leaky air conditioning and refrigeration systems repaired.
* Use a programmable thermostat to save on heating and cooling costs when you’re not home.
* Insulate your home, water heater and pipes.

Use Less Water
* Don’t let the water run while shaving or brushing teeth.
* Take short showers
* Keep drinking water in the refrigerator instead of letting the faucet run until the water is cool.
* Wash only full loads of laundry or use the appropriate water level or load size selection on the washing machine.
* Buy high-efficient plumbing fixtures & appliances.
* Repair all leaks (a leaky toilet can waste 200 gallons a day).
* Water the lawn or garden during the coolest part of the day (early morning is best).
* Set sprinklers to water the lawn or garden only – not the street or sidewalk.
* Sweep outside instead of using a hose.

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

Reduce:
* Buy permanent items instead of disposables.
* Buy and use only what you need.
* Buy products with less packaging.
* Buy products that use less toxic chemicals.

Reuse:
* Repair items as much as possible.
* Use durable coffee mugs, cloth napkins or towels.
* Clean out juice bottles and use them for water.
* Reuse boxes.
* Purchase refillable pens and pencils.
* Donate extras to people you know or to charity instead of throwing them away.
* Reuse grocery bags as trash bags.

Recycle:
* Recycle paper (printer paper, newspapers, mail, etc.), plastic, glass bottles, cardboard, and aluminum cans.
* Recycle old/unused electronics and toner.

Shop Smarter

In the market to stimulate the economy? Take the time to research the facts. As a nation of consumers, we constantly are in need for things… take the time to learn about the emission rating on your new car or the percentage of your MacBook that can be recycled when in 6 months the new one comes out and you ditch your current one. These little tid-bits of knowledge will not only help you shop smarter, think greener, but is a great way for you to spread the word and tell a friend. You could unknowingly start a chain reaction of awareness.

Posted in Industry | 2 Comments »

Vacation Rentals for Shredders at Solikai.com

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

Like most of you, I travel a lot in the search of fresh pow pow each season. Most of the time I stay with friends/family, but a lot of times I like to get a nice vacation rental when I cant, so I can feel at home on my trip (and to avoid the gnarly overcrowded hotel scene when possible). Almost always I rent directly from the owner, and there are a slue of great vacation rental websites our there, but sometimes they are not always great for finding that perfect property that is close to where you want to go, especially if you are unfamiliar with your destination. I stumbled across an article for the first vacation rental website catering specifically to surfers and snowboarders, www.Solikai.com. I checked it out and here is what it has to offer.

Travelers who visit Solikai.com search the user-friendly directory, find a rental in the desired location, and access all of the property’s amenities. The site will then connect you to the property owner or manager directly to book it. There are no fees or sign-ups for the traveler; just direct access to the information and contact source. Think of it more of an online property directory rather than a travel site, you cannot book anything directly on the site. If you own a home or condo in a destination hotspot, the site offers owner services to increase the exposure of your vacation rental. No management or commission fees and interested surfers and snowboarders can contact you directly. You just need to sign up and become a member of their site (again, which is totally free!)

The Solikai staff will verify the location of every property that is listed and check the proximity to the local activities. The site and its staff have surfed and rode all over the globe in search of waves and fresh powder, and in doing so, have found some of the best locations around the world including Nicaragua, Fiji, Costa Rica, Italy, Morocco, Chile, South Africa and Tahiti.

Check it out and start planning your next trip in a home away from home.

Posted in Industry | No Comments »

Marketing with Twitter

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

twitter fail whaleWhen it comes to winning stuff in contests there’s always someone that’s willing to step up to the plate and go for the gold. Now add to that how well online contests function with all the social media outlets and you have a recipe to get even more people involved. With Twitter being the popular choice right now you have yet another medium to grab peoples attention.

Tony Hawk was the first one to utilize Twitter for a contest. Pure gold when it comes to getting your followers involved and making people active. Following in his footsteps is Johnny from the blog South of the North. He’s hosting a skate shoe Easter Egg Hunt on the 11th. While he doesn’t have as many followers as Mr. Hawk it’s still a great way to generate interest in your site. Kudos to him for seeing the potential and running with it.

Is this going to be a new trend in the action sports world? Who knows, but it’s not a bad idea. Think about the potential an entity like a shop or magazine could have with hosting a scavenger hunt at at a ski resort for gear. You have hundreds, if not thousands, of acres to hide something and could tweet hints or GPS coordinates to find it. The true advantage of this is getting people aware of your business or site and getting people physically active and involved in our sports. That’s something we can all agree on, that people should be a bit more active and less inclined to be arm chair warriors, wielding the mighty remote.

Another idea that has passed through my mind is the ability to do on the fly meet and greets for athletes. A tweet pops up saying an athlete will be at this location and you can go hang out with them. Sure there might be the scary stalker possibility but you also get the ability for social interaction with the fans. This could help benefit the public image of a figure who maybe had some negative publicity, or help to hype an up and comer on a professional team. Perhaps the local skate shop has a pro in town visiting, they could throw a tweet out that they’ll be at the shop to sign some autographs.

Twitter could possibly be one of the better alternatives to sites like Facebook or Myspace when it comes to interaction with readers, fans, and the like. Granted you still get a lot of boring tweets about people walking dogs, seeing ugly chicks on the bus, or some other crazy random thoughts. The potential to utilize this as a superior marketing tool is there and it’s a good thing to see people using it.

Posted in Industry | 2 Comments »

The Active Story Continues

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

active ride shop A follow up to a story we touched on a few days ago, today has another chapter… Chapter 11 that is. Yesterday afternoon Active Ride Shop filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Chapter 11 bankruptcy is a form of bankruptcy reorganization available to individuals, corporations and partnerships. It has no limits on the amount of debt as some other types of bankruptcy do. It is the usual choice for large businesses seeking to restructure their debt. Within the last week Active has removed 3 more stores from their website, Irvine (Alton Location), Mission Viejo, and Westwood. With the quick turn of events more locations are most likely on deck to close their doors as well.

Check out the official press release:

Active Ride Shop to Reorganize Under Chapter 11 – Active Ride Shop Remains Fully Operational and Open for Business

Mira Loma, CA, March 23rd, 2009 – Active Ride Shop today announced that it has filed a voluntary petition for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code in the United States Bankruptcy Court in Riverside. The company is focusing on executing a comprehensive corporate restructuring plan without interruption to business operations.

Active Ride Shop recently announced that it was taking action to address the company’s financial challenges. Alongside the strategic counsel provided by Marc Winthrop, of Winthrop Couchot, one of Southern California’s leading bankruptcy law firms and Stephen Bell, of Phoenix Group Advisory Services, LLC, a professional financial and operational advisory firm, the company has determined that it would be in the best interest of its stakeholders to file for reorganization protection under Chapter 11.

Operating under the protection of Chapter 11 will provide the company’s vendors with assurances that they will be paid for merchandise the company receives post-filing so the company can be sufficiently stocked for the spring selling season. The restructuring plan will position Active Ride Shop with a stronger business foundation, an improved multi-channel distribution source for its vendors, and a more meaningful offering for its customers.

The company recognizes that, to achieve these objectives, there is a critical need to create a more efficient operation with a reduced cost structure. As previously announced, the company has closed 8 under-performing retail locations. This week, the company took action to realign its corporate support structure alongside the smaller store base, which will include 21 retail stores as well its e-commerce storefront. The store closings and corporate workforce reductions will result in combined workforce compensation and related costs in excess of 30%. Further, as part of its restructuring efforts, the company will continue to evaluate the productivity of all assets, analyze additional cost-cutting initiatives and research strategic alternatives to maximize the value of the business.

John Wallace, chief executive officer and founder of Active Ride Shop, said “The swift and dramatic downturn in the local economy had a major impact on our business in the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2008. In combination with the robust growth and expansion we experienced during the previous 24 months, this perfect storm of economic retraction left us with no other option.” He continued, “The preemptive cost cutting initiatives that we took throughout 2008 were not enough to protect our investments without filing for Chapter 11 reorganization protection.”

“We appreciate the support we have received from our vendors and suppliers during this downturn. With this support, we have every reason to believe that we will emerge from Chapter 11 with a stronger business and a more impactful market presence. Most importantly, Active Ride Shop will be restored to solid financial footing as a direct result of this support.”

“The recent work force reductions and downsizing activities have not been easy for the employees of Active Ride Shop which makes us even more appreciative of their dedication and loyalty. We are especially saddened at the loss of employment for many long term employees. The impact of these decisions is far reaching, and we deeply regret the effect this has on our employees and their families.”

“We move forward with this reorganization with the firm knowledge that the steps we are taking will bring lasting positive changes to our business and satisfaction and value to our customers” concluded Wallace.

About Active
Established in 1989, Active Ride Shop maintains its position among the top retailers and mail-order businesses in the action sports industry. Awarded Surf Industry (SIMA) Men’s Retailer of the Year Award (2008), #1 Specialty Retailer by the Future Trade, #36 on DNR’s “top 50 most influential menswear retailers”. Active has locations throughout Southern California and delivers catalogs to action sports enthusiasts nationwide. Active Ride Shop sponsors the most elite skateboarders and snowboarders in the world, and is proud of its offering of the finest brands and hottest trends in the industry. For more information about Active Ride Shop visit www.activerideshop.com

Posted in Industry | 2 Comments »

Active Ride Shop set to Close More Stores

Monday, March 16th, 2009

active ride shopActive Ride Shop, one of the industry’s largest action sports retail shops in the Southern California area, is set to close some of its 20+ doors in the upcoming months. The retailer has closed five stores to date due to under performance. Shops once located in Chula Vista, Lake Elsinore, downtown San Diego and at the Shops at Las Americas, also in San Diego, are no longer listed on the homepage of Active’s website. Over the past year Active opened a bunch of new stores and a new headquarters in Mira Loma to continue the predicted momentum the stores and the brand would have in the future. Active has almost doubled its store count within the past few years; most of the growth, expansion, and investment was underway before the economy took a turn for the worst.

Active currently has 25 stores and from what I gather online, approximately 10 stores will close by the beginning of April. With online retail being a place of never-ending completion, Active has a good chance to still hold its own amongst the competition such as CCS and other direct brand shops. A strong private label business, Active has been able to re-create a lot of on-trend apparel and accessories that are more accessible to kids and their family’s budgets. The shop also has a strong skate and snow hardgoods offering as well, and has been one of the few shops to mainstream the apparel and hardgoods offerings into major malls and retail centers. This niche could be a good crutch as the economic crisis continues to effect brands and retail businesses alike, this may give Active a fighting chance as we see where the rollercoaster ride takes the action sports industry over the next few months and years.

Posted in Industry | 12 Comments »

Getting in the Loop’d

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Ever since I was little, growing up with skaters and surfers alike, my friends always wanted to find ways to get noticed and obtain sponsorships in the hope of one day turning pro. I cant tell you the countless hours we stayed at the beach, went to every contest, hung out and the skate parks just to see if anyone would take notice. These days with all the social networks available, there is an endless amount of exposure you can get if you just know how to market yourself right. But if you are just putting yourself out there on YouTube, Myspace, Facebook or what not, how are you sure that the key people in the action sports industry will find you. Where can you go to meet people who can point you in the right direction in your quest to someday be a sponsored rider?

loopd

One site that I’ve been following and is seemingly still pretty new to many in the industry is the Loop’d Network. Formerly Sponsorhouse.com, the Loop’d network has set it self up as not only a platform for individuals to get in contact and interact with companies, but to join communities and make friends with others that have the same love for their sport and lifestyle. The have communities for a whole spectrum of action sports from skate to surf to snow and everything in between.

The site, which recently underwent a rebranding effort, really focuses on self-promotion so you can #1 get noticed and connected with participating brands who are constantly on the lookout for new team athletes. Oakley, Nike 6.0, Monster Energy, and Fox are just a few of the brands putting themselves in the mix. Loop’d has been so successful that many of these brands have been participating on the site for years. Some even have dedicated websites setup for their hosted communities on Loop’d. From a business perspective, it’s a fascinating model that’s a win-win for both the advertising brands and Loop’d. For brands, they can create their own branded micro communities that have instant access to tap into the larger targeted audience that makes up the Loop’d community.

The site not only is a place to gather with kindred spirits and brands, they encourage you to come back by hosting numerous contests and supporting their partnered brands by linking up to their online stores. And guess who I found on Loop’d’s Myspace page, 5ones’ very own Ruben ‘Studdard’ Najera.

ruben najera on loopd

Posted in Industry | 2 Comments »

ESPN Action Sports Steps it Up, Partners with Surfline and Shred or Die

Friday, February 27th, 2009

espn action sportsWhen EXPN rebranded to ESPN Action Sports last month and updated the web presence, we grilled them pretty hard. Our reasoning is that we thought they were off better keeping their action sports content as a separate brand and we also thought they needed to work on improving their overall content quality. They must have been listening, because today they’re announcing several partnerships and strategy changes to do just that.

While we still think they have much improving to do–namely keeping the action sports content separate from all the other sports–they’re definitely heading in the right direction.

ESPN Action Sports announced that they’re adding several more bloggers and content partners. They’re teaming up with Tony Hawk’s Shred or Die to provide more user generated video content. They’re also partnered with On the Snow and Surfline to provide applications for snow and surf reports.

ESPN still has a long ways to go in regards to the authenticity and quality of their content. And please, do a better job keeping the regular sports stuff out of the action sports portal. But this move is one that takes them in the right direction. My advice is for ESPN is to keep creating more content partnerships like this one. If they’re not capable of providing good content themselves, they might as well partner with those who are.

Posted in Industry | 3 Comments »

Backcountry.com’s Brociety Launches Tomorrow

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

brociety-logo

BROCIETY.com, Backcountry’s latest “Im so effing cheap you can’t pass me up” site specifically geared for snowboarding launches tomorrow Feb 19th. This is their latest WOOT similar site since WhiskeyMilitia.com and it will take all the snow specific gear from WhiskeyMilitia and offer only that on its pages. The reason stated by Mike Geraci Backcountry’s PR,

“In the past, snowboarders had to sift through the sometimes seemingly endless surf and skate deals at WhiskeyMilitia before a prime piece of snowboard gear came online,” says Backcountry.com PR’s Mike Geraci. “This made snowboarders frustrated…So, Brociety is pure snowboard gear all day, every day, and WhiskeyMilitia shifts to skate/surf only…hopefully everyone is happy.”

Makes sense to have a snowboard only site as it is one of, if not the, most expensive action sports. I got no problems paying $80 for $250 bindings or $35 for a pair of $180 Goggles. They also shared in the press release…

“Brociety.com may be cash-saving ecstasy for snowboarders, but manufacturers also dig the ODAT model because the ODAT set-up moves their products without hammering brand equity. The limited-time availability forces people to act, so gear sells fast. This keeps the product pipes clear and reduces retail backup and overstock.”

When Whiskey first launched there was a lot of talk about how it may hurt brands by offering stuff at such a cheap price but Whiskey has proven to help brands by moving caseloads of their leftovers in as little as an hour’s time. This model isn’t going anywhere and there is still room for other companies to do this as well, I don’t know why they aren’t. There could easily be a sustainable Surf only site, Womens Apparel, and Skate Site. I wouldn’t be surprised if they started adding one niche site a year. They also own, ChainLove (bike stuff), TramDock (skiing), and Steep and Cheap (outdoor stuff).

Via: TransWorld Business

Posted in Industry | 3 Comments »

Highest Paid Action Sports Athletes

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

Have you ever wondered just how much your favorite action sports athletes are getting paid to “work”? I know I have. Thanks to Forbes Magazine we can all get a little insight into just how much these pros are raking in every year.

Action sports stars are starting to get noticed by a broader audience, and that has meant bigger paychecks, thanks to rich sponsorship deals.

shaun white lamborghini

Topping the list, and not to anyone’s surprise, is Tony Hawk. Shaun White’s not far behind though and at the rate he’s going, it won’t be more than a couple years before he passes up Mr. Hawk.

shaun white lambo

The list is rounded out as follows…

1. Tony Hawk – $12 mil/year
2. Shaun White – $9 mil/year
3. Ryan Sheckler – $5 mil/year
4. Travis Pastrana – $3 mil/year
4. Kelly Slater – $3 mil/year
6. Laird Hamilton – $2.5 mil/year
7. Paul Rodriquez – $2 mil/year
8. Danny Kass – $1 mil/year
8. Dave Mirra – $1 mil/year
8. Travis Rice – $1 mil/year

Excluded from the list are women athletes, not because Forbes is sexist, but they just don’t make the cutoff of earning $1mil or more per year. The highest paid females are estimated at making about $750,000 per year. Also notably missing from the list is Rob Dyrdek. His MTV shows, combined with his endorsements, are surely netting him at least a cool mil every year. Is there anyone else you can think of that is missing from the list?

Remember kids–if you want to grow up to be rich and successful, forget about spending 20 years in school to become a doctor or lawyer. Just drop out and build a vert ramp in your backyard.

shaun white lamborghini
Photo Credit: Kevin Ou

Posted in Industry | 7 Comments »

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