Rip Curl WSL Finals: Larger Crowds Expected on Beach, Online in Year 3
Rip Curl’s looking to seize on the growing popularity of the Rip Curl WSL Finals, firing up marketing efforts around the upcoming competition amid a lofty goal by parent KMD Brands Ltd. to improve the brand’s North American market share.
Attendance projections for the surf competition are upbeat so far.
Rip Curl North America Director of Marketing & E-Commerce PJ Connell said about 7,000 people are expected to attend the competition on the beach, which would be up from the roughly 5,000 in attendance in prior years. Online viewership estimates are currently at over 9 million viewers, up from last year’s 8.9 million.
The in-person attendance could very well be even more given that San Clemente local Griffin Colapinto will be competing for a World Title, Connell pointed out.
It’s a buzzy event as the brand looks to nab more share in North America, a market that comprised about 25% of the overall business’ sales for the 12 months through January. Parent KMD is looking at specialty store growth, licensed retail, expansion in the Hawaii market, and new leadership to help guide the business toward that goal.
The company is currently on the hunt for a new leader of its North America business to succeed Dylan Slater, who left this year for the CEO position at Firewire.
Rip Curl for the first half of its fiscal year ended Jan. 31 had sales of NZ$306.4 million ($182.4 million), up 18.8% from the year-ago period and up 8% in the U.S. EBITDA increased 11.4% to NZ$37.6 million ($22.4 million).
“Our number one goal is to be considered the ultimate surfing company in all we do, and there’s really no bigger day in surfing than the Rip Curl WSL Finals,” Connell said. “With three years of that (sponsorship), as far as brand awareness and brand impressions, there is a tangible aspect to it. But, for the most part, it’s really about that positioning as the ultimate surfing company. With that comes brand strength. It opens more doors and it potentially opens new conversations about growing space at retail.”
Marketing for the competition encompasses multiple channels and events, with about 95% of Rip Curl’s overall creative work done in-house. The company works with an outside agency to handle paid marketing efforts.
At the top of that marketing funnel for the finals is the tie-in with the launch of the Flashbomb Fusion, a wetsuit that’s 90% stitchless to eliminate leakage. The suit starts at $519.95 for the 3/2-milllimeter thickness.
The suit launched in the Australian market at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach in April and is now making its North America debut with the Lower Trestles finals.
The Flashbomb Fusion will be stocked and marketed at key retail partners for the brand, including Jack’s and Huntington Surf & Sport. Surf Expo this week will be the first time the suit is being shown at a trade show.
That’s in addition to marketing for the suit at Rip Curl stores, digital, and social. It’s a hero campaign for the company, with spend “above and beyond” what the typical product launch commands due to the technical innovation involved, Connell said.
“Budgets will be heavily allocated to this suit. You’re not going to be able to get away from it,” Connell said of the marketing.
Flashbomb Fusion was in development for about eight to 10 years and tested by a number of Rip Curl athletes, including Mick Fanning and Tyler Wright, prior to release. The suit was even referred to by the code name Pony up until about a week before its Australia rollout as a safeguard given the competitive nature of the wetsuit marketplace.
On top of the wetsuit launch and marketing across channels, a series of events are also being held in conjunction with the competition.
“There’s this huge community aspect that we’re trying to tie into the event, which is really important to us to make it more than one day of surfing,” Connell said.
That kicks off with a book signing at Rip Curl’s San Clemente store with Tom Curren on Sept. 7. The following day is the premiere of Rip Curl’s new “Search” movie, then The Rhythm + Resin Fest on Sept. 9, and on Sept. 10 a beach cleanup at the San Clemente Pier and another signing at the San Clemente store with the company’s pro team.
Rip Curl earlier this year became a B Corp Certified Corporation, making beach cleanups and the ecological restoration work it’s doing with the World Surf League’s One Ocean an important part of the business.
It also keeps Rip Curl in lockstep with a new generation of consumers that want greater transparency from companies on aspects such as the materials they use or how they treat their workforce.
“It’s a generational evolution that it’s expected,” Connell said on the subject of sustainability and the modern consumer. “And it should be that companies are acting in a responsible manner. B Corp is not just a certification you get overnight. It’s something you work hard for over the breadth of your brand, whether it’s the product, people, or environment. Everything we do has to be through the filter of a B Corp company and that echoes over to the consumer.”
The Rip Curl WSL Finals take place Sept. 8-16 at Lower Trestles in San Clemente.
Kari Hamanaka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.