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RVCA + BJ Penn = ?

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

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 = ?

RVCAbj penn

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