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RVCA + BJ Penn = ?

RVCAGo ahead and finish that equation if you can. I have tried and tried to come up with an answer for awhile now and to no avail. I’m not necessarily saying I agree or disagree with this partnership and am actually sitting on both sides of the fence when it comes to understanding the reasoning behind it. With RVCA making “The Balance of Opposites” their main concept, the partnership between them and the mixed martial-artist BJ Penn brings that statement to fruition in both a positive and, potentially, negative manner.

RVCA is built around the concept of being an all inclusive, outside-the-box company that stretches beyond the limits of your typical action-sports clothing companies. On top of skaters, snowboarders, and surfers they are represented by musicians, artists, and any other that excels in and is driven by passion and creativity in their particular fields. Penn has proven himself to be just that by showing the drive and God-given talent to excel in that which has made him as popular and well-known as he is today.

By bringing in an unbelievably successful MMA athlete to the team, RVCA is stepping out of the limits to include ‘artists’ of such differing and contrasting styles and genres. This goes right along with their “The Balance of Opposites” concept and accomplishes that which they have set out to do.

Penn recently fought and won the UFC lightweight championship over in the U.K. While their PPV numbers have yet to be released, based on previous fights featuring BJ Penn it will be in the hundreds of thousands as far as buys go. Between that, the live gate, and everything else Penn does in the UFC he is one of, if not the most visible representative that RVCA has. He comes into the octagon sporting RVCA logos from head to toe and his ties with the company are very well known and easy to see. Here is where this may end up being a bit tricky for RVCA.

Penn has always been, and now more than ever as their champion will continue to be, one of the biggest stars of a company and sport that is one of the fastest growing in the world. Where the UFC was once a niche market aimed at the hardcore MMA enthusiasts, it is now blowing up and subsequently aiming to market itself to any and everyone. Specifically, as seen on their most recent shows and advertisements, they are going after the viewers and customers that we will simply call the World Wrestling Entertainment(W.W.E.) market. RVCA has no control of just how and where BJ Penn is marketed by the UFC. And if the UFC has their way the same fans that go out to cheer on and follow Hulk Hogan, Triple H, Ric Flair and cheer for the chair-smack, figure-four, and royal rumbles will without a doubt begin becoming a much larger percentage of their target audience. And inadvertently, with Penn being a walking advertisement for RVCA and their most recognizable advocate, they may be unexpectedly advertising to an unexpected and unintended audience.

Fans want to be like their champions (i.e. I wanna be like Mike), they want to walk like them, perform like them, and they want to wear what they wear. As the UFC continues to grow and expand its market there should be no surprise when RVCA starts showing up in places and areas they never expected. Is this what they had in mind with “The Balance of Opposites”? I highly doubt it.

It’s hard to say where this will lead. Depending on the UFC’s continued growth and expansion as well as Penn’s success with the organization this could lead to a variety of results for RVCA. Their is a point of no return for companies in the action-sports industry that once they reach are almost impossible to come back from, but with so many variables in this equation there is just no way to tell how this ends up for RVCA.

So where does this leave us? Pretty much right where we began – RVCA + BJ Penn = ?

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Posted by Cameron on Thursday, January 31st, 2008 in Brands.

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10 Responses to “RVCA + BJ Penn = ?”

  • Chris Says:

    Check out the thread on the Sherdog fighting forums,

    Everyone is asking where they can buy BJ’s RVCA shorts. None of them know what RVCA is, but they all know they want the shorts.

  • Shaun Says:

    Smooth… Wait until you see those same peeps at beaches and pools rocking the signature “BJ Penn black-belt” boardshort RVCA sells

  • abe Says:

    Personally I don’t for see this being a problem for RVCA (or any asr company for that matter). I mean it’s pretty much expected in this industry to see a successful clothing manufacturer reach out and market themselves to a potentially profitable target demographic of people.

    I’m sure RVCA will bank roll it with this new batch of consumers. Just as long as they don’t invest a whole line plan to the meat heads. If that’s the case then I could see some confusion when it comes to identity. Give em’ SMU’s and don’t over advertise the movement and they should be just fine. Heck, I’m sure the larger sell out mfc’s will follow.

  • MIKE Says:

    The MMA (for the uninformed ) training is a method used by some of the best surfers in the world and quite a few of the top MMA athleates are hard core surfers . If you trully surfed ” I am talking about roots ( not just Hawaii ) but on any coast you would get it . Open your eye’s and thinkout of the box like a real surfer not a me too . RVCA is a real deal !


  • Rod Says:

    Whats the big fuss about? If RVCA wants to sponsor a fighter like BJ, I say go right ahead. For those of you who don’t know, BJ is from Hilo, surfs, and is not by any means a “meat head”. If you are worried about skating or surfing being discovered by new people, think back to when you first started it and how much you fell in love with the sport and everything it stood for. There will always be guys rocking clothes that they have no idea about (other than they saw the local neighborhood rat wearing ‘em) so I don’t think BJ is a big threat. And also, Mike is right. I train BJJ and the class is full of guys who surf. It is a great way to get in shape. But I guess if there is no board invovlved, you are a meat head…….

  • Shaun Says:

    Thank you all for the well-thought comments. The main point I was making didn’t so much have to do with RVCA or B.J., but more with the UFC’s unmatched growth and expansion, as well as their targeting of an audience that RVCA probably wouldn’t go after. I’m almst certain we would never see RVCA advertise on an episode of WWE’s Monday Night Raw. It is to this effect that the brand Affliction has spread like the stinky wild-fire that it is. On the other hand, being from Hawaii and having visited Hilo many times, I have taken a special interest in BJ’s unbeleivable talent and passion for what he does. And to me, that same passion and skill are what makes tne match of he and RVCA very fitting.

  • johnjohn Says:

    Bj Penn & jock figting each other sucks ass… Those RVCA dudes are wack!

  • Spike Says:

    Shauns on the right track in questioning the MMA entry into Surf/Skate. It doesn’t have as much to do with Rvca or BJ as it does to sports like MMA and FMX. Unlike surfing and skating, they are really spectator sports more than participatory. The number of people that actually ride Freestyle MX or will ever actually fight in MMA is tiny. As a training method, I say rock it. But understand that when we market through that avenue, we market to the “meathead” posers. If thats your gig, fine. But call it what it is. In Rvca’s case it’s to support a surfer that plays in another sport (participant) and/or a way to increase sales outside the core. In the case of Tapout, Affliction, Metal Mulisha, Fox and the next 50 MMA, MX, WWE brands that want to show at ASR, this is a way to tap into the energy of our participants.

  • BigClunke Says:

    the story is really pretty simple. PM tenore, the owner of RVCA is extremely into MMA, wrestling, etc. He met BJ penn and wanted to make him a short.
    You really don’t have to over think it, he is just into the sport.
    kind of like Ken Block making DC FIA approved driving shoes…
    there are actually tons of examples of the skate/surf industry crossing boundaries based on other interests.

  • npnk Says:

    i just saw bj penn on sports tv over here in germany , and when i goggle “rvca cage fighters” i came to this site, and though i can really understand the points you guys are trying to discuss here…

    personally, i have to say that rvca is one those brands that i just recently discovered, and i was blown away by the fragile and detailed artwork
    i really like what they do…but a clothing brand who supports cage-fighters is really not the type of company i would like to support

    the overbearing machismo and brutality of that so called “sport” is nothing i see represented in the artwork and attitude of the company when i look at their clothes…
    not to mention the questionable kind of folks these cage-fighting-events attract over here..i do not wanna get mixed with that kind of crowd

    i’m sorry rvca, but you lost a customer

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