We reached out to Evan Slater, Hurley’s Senior Director of Brand Communications, to find out how Hurley approached John John Florence’s second world surfing title from a marketing perspective.
How are you marketing John John’s second world title in stores, socially, in Hawaii, etc.?
Evan Slater: With the title concluding at Pipe, we had a rare, six-week window after Portugal to really focus on building community energy around John John.
Hawaii – and in particular the North Shore – gets behind its own in a big way. And we simply wanted to provide the tools for the community to show their pride and excitement for a kid who was raised by his mom, the North Shore and Pipeline. It really doesn’t get any better than the world’s most celebrated surfer getting an opportunity to win a world title in front of the home crowd.
We let our Hawaii team of Seth McKinney, Leilani Patacchia, Joel Centeio and Lehua Santiago take the lead and tell us what would have the most positive impact for their territory.
That involved two phases: the “Go John John” rally gear and the 2X World Champ gear. The goal was to have a build-up and a payoff.
All the rally gear, including hats, T-shirts and flags, were promo and primarily distributed to local Hawaii surf shops, North Shore businesses and community members. The art was created in-house by JP Olson and Craig Stecyk and highlighted the “Iwa Bird” – believed to be John’s spirit animal.
The 2X world champ product – hats and T's – was for sale on hurley.com within two hours of John winning the title, along with a celebratory image promoting it. We sold out of the product within 24 hours.
Within two days, the world title product was available globally at core shops and windows were installed within 48 hours as well. It took coordination and partnership across all functions.
World Champ product that wasn’t for sale and was mostly distributed on the beach after his win were about 800, hand-made John John Florence pennants. JP Olson led the charge on this one. We had a full-on assembly line running at Hurley HQ. It was a nice personal touch.
Socially, we wanted to celebrate how John approaches competition and life in general. Of course he wants to win and surf to his potential. But he doesn’t let that get in the way of his pure enjoyment of the water, the outdoors and trying new things.
In partnership with John’s production company Parallel Sea, we created a year-end celebratory video released shortly after his win. The underlying message: the best surfer is the one having the most fun.
To complement this and empower the next generation, we also partnered with Florence and Parallel Sea to create a 100-page “Field Guide” of things John is into. It’s basically a compilation of skills and tips to a wide spectrum of activities that utilize the natural elements and outdoors instead of screens.
It supports John’s initiative to “Get Out There and Learn” and is available at local surf shops worldwide. In it, John encourages fans to go out and create their own Field Guides. His whole approach to the tour and the year-end video is in this same spirit.
Is there any difference on how Hurley is approaching his second win vs. his first? Any lessons from last year that you are applying to this year?
Evan Slater: Yes. Timing was trickier in 2016 because he won suddenly in Portugal and there was obviously no world title “pre-hype” going into Pipeline.
We overthought it in 2016 and focused too much on the digital and not enough on the physical. We’re much happier with the results in 2017.
How important to the brand is to have a world champion as a sponsored surfer?
Evan Slater: More importantly than having a “world champion,” we want to partner with surfers and humans who inspire the rest of us. John is leading the charge to becoming the most accomplished and complete waterman of all time, and he’s doing it in way that makes the rest of us want to join him. We’re grateful to be a small part of it.