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Day of Reckoning Has Arrived for RVCA’s Brand Image

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 rvca

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.


Posted by Caleb on Monday, January 26th, 2009 in Brands.

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17 Responses to “Day of Reckoning Has Arrived for RVCA’s Brand Image”

  • hoon Says:

    i heard they are expanding into Pac Sun (filling the void from Quik, etc.). i threw up in my mouth. fvck.

  • Jalapenyo Says:

    well said!

  • Shaun Says:

    Fantastic post bru!….I’ve been on the fence with this one, but after seeing the gruesome video of the fight and the horrific images of a twitching, incoherent Lindland on the ground while RVCA images are all over the screen, I was left wondering just what it is RVCA is “celebrating”.

  • Chad Says:

    they are celebrating how much money they are all making. they will be the next VonDutch. i think one company got it right when they called them KVCA. next to KVCA, Volcom actually looks more and more like the real deal and true to what we all do.

  • hoon Says:

    i have come to the same conclusion. leaning more and more towards Veecom and Analog (yah i love burton)…

  • Juan Says:

    lol rvca jumping the mma bandwagon? How long have they sponsored bj? Just because you may not like fighting and think it is barbaric does not not make it an art.

  • Jeff Bollock Says:

    Chad says: “Is RVCA selling there product in Macy’s, like VOlcom? Nope they only sell in surf shops and high end boutiques.”

    Is PacSun a surf shop or a high end boutique? I think not and RVCA is being sold there. Couple more years until they show up in Costco at this rate. Lets face it, all these companies will put their product anywhere for the almighty dolla-bill.

  • Shaun Says:

    @ Juan….You probably know better than me, but I thought BJ Penn was originally sponsored by RVCA for his world class BJJ and not necessarily his MMA. I know that sounds like splitting hairs, but to some degree I really dug RVCA for that. Now it seems like they are moving more and more into “Ultimate Fighting” and it’s hard not see that as a bandwagon jump. Just my 2 cents. Thanks for the thoughts!

  • Chris Says:


    I agree with you it is about love for all, PT and all those guys at RVCA are smart and they can do what they want with their brand. But when I went to youtube and was watching videos on the Vitor Lindland fight there is a lot of co-branding going on with RVCA and Affliction and that whole MMA scene. I do think it is a little bit of a tangent for RVCA.

    Also RVCA is sold at Nordstroms and Nordstroms rack, and that is definitely not a boutique.

  • momar Says:

    even if you win the RAT RACE…YOUR STILL A RAT!!

  • MIke D Says:

    Caleb, (I think that is the person who originally posted this link?) – I think you are coming to this conclusion with a bit of naievete. While I cannot speak for the brand, I can speak for the sport of MMA. It sounds like you were quite affected by the knockout of Matt Lindland, and while it was a serious knock out, this is all part of the sport. Just like in football, Boxing, and Big Wave surfing there is an inherent risk involved. There can be an argument made that NFL Football is far more brutal than MMA when it comes to head trauma.

    In defense to RVCA, they have been supporting MMA, and more specifically Jiu-Jitsu for a handfull of years now, and well before Vitor stepped into the ring last Sat. so, they hardly “jumped on the MMA bandwagon”. It sounds a little like you have just jumped on the bandwagan, or you would have known this.

    To argue your point of contrasting styles, and weather or not they are legitimately accomplishing this goal with supporting Vitor and MMA is futile, since it is all subjective anyway right? Look at any of the surf brands and you can make that claim…Bottom line is, for you to come out and attack a brands image based on what you have written above is reckless, and without proper journalistic integrity. It is only opinion, and should be noted as such.

    All the best,
    Mike D.

  • tieyouinapretzel Says:

    mma or not, rvca goes against all their “indie” roots and “diy” dna when they sell to a giant mall based “surfshop”…

    rvca at pacsun is just so retarded. period!

  • SurfReel Says:

    Where is RVCA during all this discussion?

  • Caleb Says:

    Maybe they’re busy nursing BJ Penn’s wounds and pride after being annihilated by GSP in UFC 94.

    Thanks for your comments. I was indeed affected by the knockout of Matt Lindland. Fortunately, this effect was offset by having won five bucks betting on Vitor.

    Touche on the bandwagon comment. RVCA founder, PM Tenore is a long time MMA fan so, bringing on guys like Vitor and BJ might not have been a bandwagon jumping endeavor after all, but rather a personal one. With that said, my criticism of the brand image stands. Which brings me to your last point…

    If phrases like: “when I think of…” and “I thought…” and “I was wondering…” and “what I see as..” don’t convey that I am writing an opinion piece, then I don’t know what language possibly could. While my post may not have been a conservative one, it certainly wasn’t “reckless.” My journalistic integrity is still in tact!

  • Echigo Says:

    Vitor has been with RVCA long before MMA took off, and he has the sort of chill vibe that fits perfectly with the brand.

  • Rod Says:

    For everyone to say how barbaric MMA is, and how chill the California surf scene is, in my opinion, a little off. I think the guys that RVCA sponsors for MMA fit the company and both sports well. In my own personal expierience, I have come across plenty of A Hole surfers with a sever case of localism and the same case with tons of skaters. We have all scene the video part of Mike V punching out the two douche bags or how about Sunny Garcia (and a ton of other surfers) punching guys on the beach for back dooring him? My point – violence and competition are a part of our sports as well. Look at Slater try to intimidate his opponets before a contest. Seems pretty silly to me, but that is the competition side of it. I’ll agree that Vitor’s knockout of Linland was brutal, and working as a paramedic (which is my full time profession),it sent shivers up my spine. But allow me to point this out – How many MMA fighters have died in the UFC or Affliction? Zero. How many guys have died in big wave accidents or avalanches? Plenty. Did other athletes turn their back on the companies that sponsored these events or these athletes? I think they realized it is just part of the game. Shitty none the less, but part of it. Linland knew that was a possibility when he got in the ring, just as any one who has ever tested themselves against the elements knows the outcome could be fatal.

    Although RVCA may not be hitting all core fans when they market to MMA, they are still hitting some of them. Proof is that you guys saw the fight so you must have some interest in the sport. Don’t judge all of MMA by idiots wearing Affliction, Tapout or who have ten different colors in their hair. There are plenty of “cool cats” who participate in it as well like BJ and vitor.

  • rob Says:

    wow you people are taking this way too seriously.image conscience are we? are you all defind by t-shirts and hats. does everything you wear have to have be political and or lfestyle advertisement of who you are jeez. chill out believe what you want to believe wear what you want to wear…its always funny how people are such fans of something until it becomes mainstream does it make you feel less special because you see your same rvca t-shirt on the back of someone who is obviously not the starter of trends you are,,gimme a break

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