Marketing the Billabong Pipe Masters During the Pandemic
The Billabong Pipe Masters is always an important event, and this year it is even more special given that it marks the return of the WSL Championship Tour after a long absence due to the pandemic.
We asked Billabong VP of Men’s Global Marketing Evan Slater how Billabong is adjusting the marketing around the event given the COVID-19 crisis. One burning question: How are they going to replace those great parties at the Billabong house?
How have marketing plans changed for the Billabong Pipe Masters this year given the pandemic?
Billabong VP of Men’s Global Marketing Evan Slater: Like most things in 2020, the Billabong Pipe Masters will be almost entirely virtual. No fans on the beach. No backyard ragers. No community events.
So, we’ve partnered with the WSL to try to make the most engaging, inclusive broadcast ever. They’ve been amazing in the short amount of prep time we’ve had and we’re confident it will be “must see” TV.
How are you tying what’s happening in the water with what’s happening with the brand?
Evan Slater: The event is called the Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons, so the brand DNA is naturally connected. With this being the 50th Pipe Masters and the 10th anniversary of the three-time World Champ’s passing, we’ve created a special AI Forever collection inspired by his impact on the way we surf and the most iconic boardshort prints he wore during his reign.
We’ve also created brand spots and a short film in partnership with Stab Magazine featuring tour surfers Griffin Colapinto, Seth Moniz and Ethan Ewing wearing these iconic prints and riding Andy’s old boards. The film is called Thank You, Andy, Part 2 and launches today.
Will Billabong teams be working from Hawaii? Usually, you guys host retailers during the event – will that happen this year?
Evan Slater: We are closely following the protocol and restrictions as outlined by local and state health officials and the World Surf League. That being said, we have a very small team on hand to make sure the athletes are taken care of and we’re executing on our digital plans.
Unfortunately, so much of what we know and love about this time of year — like hosting retailers at the Billabong Pipe House — just can’t happen in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Will there be an activations at retail accounts?
Evan Slater: Physically? No. But the WSL will be hosting a “virtual fan wall” in the broadcast much like what the NBA did so successfully this fall. There’s an easy process to upload videos of yourself cheering for your favorite surfers and those videos will then be featured on the broadcast. Go to WSL website to participate!
Will you be doing anything new on the social media front?
Evan Slater: We have a lot of great athlete and product stories planned for our social channels, but I think my favorite element will be the surprise visits from The Grinch during the broadcast. It’s his first trip to Hawaii and he’s ready to party — socially distanced, of course. By the way, that collection has been a huge success this holiday season.
Billabong used to have some great parties during the event. How are you trying to replace that energy and in-person component?
Evan Slater: Like I said, our focus is to work with the WSL to make the most engaging and inclusive broadcast ever. We haven’t had a World Championship Tour for a year now, so it’s a major opportunity to bring the global surf community back together again and celebrate our amazing sport and culture.
And with this being the 50th Pipe Masters, we partnered with WSL and Travis Ferre from Inherent Bummer to create a series that will roll out during the broadcast, highlighting the 50 Heaviest Moments in Pipe Masters history as voted by legends like Gerry Lopez, Tom Carroll and Jamie O’Brien. There are so many great stories connected with the Pipe Masters, and we can’t wait to share them.
And the best thing about Pipe is: you never know when that next heaviest moment will happen before your very eyes.