It’s hard to imagine how brands like Rip Curl and Quicksilver were once almost completely unknown. These board sports brands may have started small but they had big ideas. They wanted to transform their sports from lifestyles into global enterprises. They succeeded and created a blueprint that’s been followed by countless other brands.
Today new brands are still developing new ideas and attitudes way ahead of their time. They’re trying to establish themselves as the new major players. Not just focusing on modern design but also incorporating new ideologies. Sustainable materials and ethical manufacturing techniques are proving that they can break out but still stay true to their roots.
Within the board sports world (which includes sports such as surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding, kiteboarding and wakeboarding), there are three main types of brands: the genre specialists, crossover brands and the global players. Let’s start at the top end.
Global board sports brands
Many of the biggest brands have been there since the beginning of the sports themselves. Australian company Quicksilver was founded back in 1969, just as surfing started to gain popularity. Today it offers specialist surf and snow sport clothing, however it is also one of the world’s best known clothing brands. Rip Curl’s story is scarily similar. In snowboarding, Burton was also founded at the start of the snowboarding boom, back in 1977. Although there are no wakeboarding specific brands that have gone global, wakeboarders often wear board shorts and wetsuits from the major global surf brands.
Board sports brands may have started solely in their respective disciplines but these days they’re global entities. Billabong, O’Neill, Airwalk and others could be legitimately described as mainstream fashion labels. And these days you’re as likely to see O’Neill shorts and Airwalk trainers in a bar as on a surf or skate board. Some brands have even faced the criticism that by chasing mainstream success they’ve ignored the demands of their original market.
However, the success of these brands highlights how sports like skateboarding and snowboarding have assimilated into the mainstream. Sports clothing has always been a crowded market place but by adding style and originality, these brands have fought for their place at the top table. Skate and surf brands in particular have had incredible success, becoming household names. Take a look at the clothing section of a site like Skate Hut and you’ll notice how many board brands are instantly recognisable and how mainstream the clothing is.
There are some board sports brands who haven’t quite achieved the level of mainstream success. However, they have succeeded in bursting out of their original discipline to cover other board sports markets. As mentioned above, wakeboarders wearing shorts and suits from major surf brands is very common and a great example of this crossover success. Brands like Dakine are well known in wake, surf,, snowboard, windsurf, kite and skate circles.
Founded back in 1994 by skaters Danny Way and Ken Block, DC initially specialised in skate shoes and gear. They’ve since grown into snowboarding and even established a foothold in the mainstream fashion market. They’re a little behind some of the global players in terms of brand recognition. However, an active marketing programme and sponsorship of personalities like skater/presenter Rob Dyrdek is building brand recognition.
Other brands like Volcom and Roxy have firm footholds in the board sports market and are anticipating more mainstream success.
The genre specialists
There are many other newer brands hoping to copy this genre transcending success. As one of the newest board sports to really take off, some of the most exciting new brands are currently found in wakeboarding. Brands like Liquid Force (est. 1995) have also broken into the kites industry others like Ronix are well-known within the wakeboarding genre and we are sure looking to make the move into other markets.
Board sports brands have proved that it’s possible to work in tandem with the sport to improve both brand awareness and participation. By selling their products as part of a lifestyle they have changed the way all companies market their sporting goods.