All around the world people are brought together by the things that they love doing. From vinyl record collecting, to mountain biking to snowboarding. Arranged in a way that is not entirely different to that of an ancient tribe this is a look at the snowboarding tribe and how brands use snowboarder stereotypes.
The ‘Dude’ behind this snowboarding tribe rant
So I’m John, a keen snowboarder from ‘Bonnie Scotland.’ I have just recently finished Uni and now have a full time job working out what to do with my life. I have a passion for the outdoors but I’m most comfortable with a piece of plywood under my feet.
I’ve been boarding for a number of years now, mainly in Scotland and Mainland Europe. After a full season on university exchange in Norway, I came back to Glasgow for the 4th and final year of my degree.
I studied Business and Marketing and somehow wangled a deal whereby I got to do a dissertation all about snowboarding. This gave me a great opportunity to delve into a big pile of Shhnooww…
I researched the history of snowboarding and came full circle to understand how, this passion for many around the world, has morphed and changed over the years. I managed to interview members of the snowboard community from all over the world and at all levels of involvement and opinion.
Keep reading for some of my key nuggets of knowledge about the snowboarding tribe and how brands use snowboarder stereotypes to help sell their gear.
The snowboarding tribe
Boarders all over the world tend to find some form of common ground. and can enjoy a couple hours shredding with some dudes they have met on the slopes that day. In some ways it can be seen as a global community, built on the foundations of anti-establishment, style and freedom.
In the early days snowboarders were seen as a menace to toffee nosed skiers, who disdained their sideways, carefree, teenage angst and attitude. Today the sport is very different, the snowboarding tribe has branched out, with different levels and styles of riding – the most prominent of which are freestyle and freeride snowboarding.
Snowboarding however, was conceived as unique, pure and outside of the normal parameters of society. Brands make use, and in some cases take advantage of, consumer tribes for financial gain. Particularly in instances where the tribe requires said brands to continue in its existence – it’s hard to snowboard without a board….
So without posing the clichéd question ‘has snowboarding become mainstream?’, let’s have a think about how and why brands have entered the sport and how it has changed as a result.
Snowboarder stereotypes: What we wear and how we ride
Snowboarders are divided by skill level, how they ride, and what they wear. Quality brands or sponsor stickers are seen as the identifying factors a of a skilled boarder, therefore when a ‘snowboarding tribe member’ does not have the skill to match their apparel, observers are left disappointed and may even become judgemental towards riders who can be seen as posers and pretenders.
But why do brands matter so much anyway? It is clear that companies such as Burton and Sims are the founding fathers of snowboarding, however plenty more brands have joined the party since. Some have even become sceptical of the practices of these aforementioned founding fathers.
Ultimately it’s all about commitment. Snow sports and the snowboarding industry has become a very crowded space between producers, manufacturers and sponsors as well as event organisers. It has become increasingly difficult to understand which brand a boarder should swear allegiance to. Those brands that stand out, and are often favoured, are those which display a genuine commitment to furthering the sport and contributing to the ‘snowboarding tribe’.
Those companies that are just there in a grab and go sense do not last long, particularly if they may seen as trying to cash-in on snowboarder stereotypes. However, as snowboarding events around the world grow, it’s crazy how much snowboarding is changing. I just hope we never see the day when a rider is dropping into the halfpipe with a big yellow ‘M’ on his chest.
Snowboarding tribe influencers
The biggest influence in snowboarding is the riders that we look up to. They influence our style, how we ride and what we ride. The companies know this, why else would they sponsor them?
But without going on an anti-establishment, man versus the machine rant, let’s think about how this benefits the snowboarding tribe as a community. With the rise of social media, digital marketing and in particular video marketing via Youtube, riders all over the world can make their careers or get their ‘big break’ from one little ‘sick’ GoPro clip.
This offers an even playing field and gives those with the talent every opportunity to show it to the world. At the same time though, we don’t just by a board because it has some pro’s name on it. We want to be connected to brands and for their ambassadors to fit in with our personality and outlook. Companies therefore have to understand what type of segment of the snowboarding tribe they are targeting and to adjust their campaigns to match.
How brands use snowboarder stereotypes
Ultimately us snowboarders like to do what we want and ride how we like, we don’t just do something because someone else is or because a brand tells us to, we do it because it feels great. If a snowboarding related product makes us feel cooler, radder, sicker or whatever the current term of awesomeness is then we are gonna buy it!
The issue is though that as the sport becomes more commercial and mainstream it loses its uniqueness and becomes part of the establishment it originally rebelled against. I mean don’t get me wrong I think everyone should have the chance to snowboard and experience it, simply because it’s one of the best things you can do.
But what is looked down upon by snowboarders is when companies seek to abuse the snowboarding tribe or snowboarder stereotypes purely for commercial gain, without contributing to the worldwide snowboarding community. Look at the world of surfing. The brands have become bigger than the sport, you’re now more likely to see the founding father surf brands on the Tube rather than surfing a tube.
Wrapping up the snowboarding tribe
Anyway, time to bring this rant about the snowboarding tribe and snowboarder stereotypes to a close….
To re-cap a consumer tribe is a group of people with a common interest in a certain something or activity. The snowboarding tribe is made up of various levels according to a boarder’s style, skill and preferences for example backcountry boarder as opposed to a park rat.
Brands make money by selling to tribes; athletes make a name for themselves by showing talent and becoming associated with accepted brands within the snowboarding community. The way that companies sell to us and their involvement within the community may affect our purchase decisions, especially those of more dedicated boarders.
But ultimately if a brand helps us have a good time in the park, piste or POW then we put a blue thumb on it. We just don’t want them to change the thing we love too much.
As I mentioned up top, I wrote one of those dissertation things on snowboarding tribes, so if you want a copy for some light bedtime reading – or feel like slating me – drop me an email at email@example.com