How Billabong is Marketing the Billabong Pro Pipeline
With the Billabong Pro Pipeline getting underway and a good chunk of the industry on the North Shore for the event, we checked in with Billabong’s global marketing leaders to see how they are activating at the contest and marketing it to the larger world this year.
What are the key marketing initiatives for Billabong Men’s and Women’s at the Billabong Pro Pipeline this year?
Evan Slater, VP Billabong Men’s Global Marketing: We learned a lot from last year’s inaugural Billabong Pro Pipeline. It’s a different window from the Pipe event we previously sponsored for more than a decade, so we’ve had to shift our thinking a bit as far as key story rollouts and activations. It’s really become our kickoff for the new calendar year. And if we were to sum it up in one line, we’re doubling down on local community connection to the world’s only WSL Championship Tour event at Pipeline.
We partnered up with well-known local PowWow artist Kamea Hadar again on the event poster art and a Hawaiian-origin-story collection worn by last year’s runner-up, Seth Moniz.
We’ve re-imagined the Andy Irons Forever artwork and launched a new collection celebrating his legacy. A portion of proceeds from this collection go to the Andy Irons Foundation, which supports important local organizations like Kids Hurt Too Hawaii. We even had our surf team (including our full CT rosters) spend an afternoon with the group in Waikiki, teaching them to surf and hearing their stories.
Finally, we partnered up with the Na Kama Kai organization from the west side and spearheaded a North Shore board drive for the next generation of Hawaiian surfers. More than 100 boards, food packs and gear were distributed by Na Kama Kai and Billabong athletes at Makaha.
On top of that, we’re giving a nod to Billabong’s 50th year through our ad spots and an interactive space at the Ehukai Beach Park event site, inviting surf fans to “Know the Feeling.”
Stephanie Hendrickson, VP Billabong Women’s Global Marketing: Billabong Women’s key brand and product campaign is “Dream State.” Drawing inspiration from the ’90s, and a moment in time when the power of surfing was etched into the core, when nothing else mattered but good times and the outfits were loud. It’s a mishmash of prints and colors.
To us, and our surfing family, there has always been something special about the North Shore. Whether you live there or visit, it’s a part of Hawaii that always sticks with you. From the epic surf, warm water, palm trees, and endless rainbows to poke bowls, friends, and community, Hawaii is our dream state! For our CT surfers, this time of year is pretty special. It’s the start of the new tour, they are excited to surf Pipe and make their dreams come true.
Are there any major changes from past years?
Evan Slater: From grassroots events to our Ehukai Beach Park activation, everything is upgraded from last year. The world’s finally “normalizing” again, so we’re allowed to do events like the one in Waikiki without Covid restrictions looming over us. Our Beach Park display includes a 6′ x 9′ LED display, which features a living mosaic of Pipeline featuring thousands of fan-submitted images.
Steph Hendrickson: More of an evolution; as always we are invested in the community and surf culture of Hawaii. This is captured and shared through our Dream State content shared on our platforms as well as our grassroots event activations. We also continue to evolve our investment in future generations of Hawaiian surfers and we’re excited to announce our new sponsorship of rising star Ewe Wong.
Does any of the marketing at the event relate to what is in-store right now?
Evan Slater: Yes. We’ve created a whole campaign around the event merch, so it’s marketed heavily on our digital channels and featured in key doors around the world. The Kamea and AI Collections also launch globally in sync with the event.
Steph Hendrickson: Absolutely, our Dream State campaign celebrates a collection that is available in-store now.
How are you tying what is happening in the water to what is happening with the brand?
Evan Slater: The key on this front is to “create your own luck.” In other words, we make sure all of our competing team riders are wearing key marketed styles. Then, we script out all the possible event scenarios and prepare to celebrate the moment however it plays out. It’s all about being nimble and anticipating what’s next in the water so we’re ahead of it when it actually does happen.
Steph Hendrickson: The inclusion of women’s surfing in the Billabong Pro Pipeline and the showcasing of women’s surfing on the world stage at such an iconic break is testimony to the progress of women in surfing as well as to our commitment to inclusion. We are proud to be supporting women’s surfing and the WSL at this event.
Can you describe the social media strategy?
Evan Slater: On top of the “real time with Billabong” strategy we employ every year around this event, we’ve also created a series in partnership with WSL and media group Inherent Bummer. Called “The Best One Ever,” it celebrates a wide spectrum of “waves of a lifetime” at the Pipeline. The series includes 25 men and women and will be shared on our social channels and during the broadcast throughout the event waiting period. The goal of the series? Paying tribute to the biggest star of the event: the wave itself.
Steph Hendrickson: We have planned content around our 50-year campaign and the women’s Dream State campaign. We also plan to be nimble and in the moment when it comes to event content and happenings throughout the contest window. We will be covering a number of our grassroots events and activations through social stories on Instagram and TikTok. We will also communicate our key messages and happenings through our athlete and ambassador network worldwide.
How are you utilizing team riders during the event?
Evan Slater: During the broadcast, we’ll be premiering the trailer of Trilogy Vol. 2, a film featuring Ethan Ewing, Seth Moniz and Griffin Colapinto. Ethan and Seth will be interviewed on set after the trailer. We’ll also have Shane Dorian sit in on some heats during the live broadcast, allowing the world’s best big-wave rider of all time to share his insights.
Steph Hendrickson: Laura Enever is one of the WSL commentators, and our WCT athletes Isabella Nichols and Macy Callaghan will be integrated into all of our grassroots content. We will also integrate our local Hawaiian athletes and ambassadors into our grassroots activations including, Luana Silva, Ewe Wong, Nique Miller, Haley Otto, Kaiya Oliva, Tara Chrystal and Kalei Fukuda.
How many people do Billabong Men’s and Women’s each have working on the site for the event?
Evan Slater: Both the Men’s and Women’s teams are lean, but this is a big event for us so we do have a crew on site. For content capture and distribution, the men’s team has three talented humans in the trenches. On top of that, between athlete, event and retail support, we’re running about eight deep, including our local teammates.
Steph Hendrickson: There are a number of shared resources when it comes to athlete support. In addition, we have a team of six women from both our USA and Australian offices working on our marketing execution. We have a number of other staff visiting to host retailers, participate in our grassroots event and experience the event in person.
Is the brand hosting retailers there? If so, which ones?
Evan and Steph: Yes. For the first time since 2019, we’ve been able to host valued retail partners from around the world, including WRV, Hanger 94, Sun Diego, Cinnamon Rainbows and Sport Radical in North America, Murasaki Sports in Japan and Coopers in Australia, along with all of our local partners like Surf N’ Sea, T&C, HIC and Local Motion.
We were able to show our appreciation to this group at a celebratory kick-off dinner at Waimea Falls on the first evening of the waiting period. This is such an important component of the Billabong Pro Pipeline experience and it’s so energizing to be able to support it again.