Roxy, Vans See Very Public Severing of Athlete Ties in New Year
Shifting industry dynamics are leading to some very public endings of surf sponsorships, with the latest hitting Roxy and Vans.
Former Roxy-sponsored surfer Kelia Moniz was the most recent athlete to cut ties with Roxy, doing so in a video posted Tuesday to Instagram in which she bluntly explained the reason for ending a 17-year relationship with the brand.
“After COVID, I signed the best contract that I’ve ever landed in my athletic career,” Moniz said in her video. “It took a lot for my team and I to get here and this contract was supposed to last another year. Unfortunately, after the buyout of Roxy, the contract was terminated and then they offered me a 90% pay cut to re-sign.”
“After years of fighting for fair pay and equality, there’s just no way I was signing that deal, especially knowing that I wasn’t the only athlete that this happened to. I’m not about to be strong-armed by some corporation who not only knows nothing about the sport, but doesn’t give a s—t about it.”
Moniz’s comments can be viewed in their entirety here.
The company, when asked for a comment about Moniz’s video, sent SES the following statement from David Brooks, executive vice president for action and outdoor sports, lifestyle at Authentic.
“We are extremely proud of the work and support that our brands have provided for the athletes and communities that they represent over the course of many decades. Prior to being acquired by Authentic, the Boardriders portfolio faced significant challenges due in part to stagnant marketing strategies and overlooked consumer demands. While these challenges predated Authentic’s stewardship, we recognize our responsibility to pave the way for the brand’s enduring success. We are approaching these decisions thoughtfully which includes changes as well as new additions to our global athlete roster, positioning the brands for sustainable growth.”
Brooks previously worked at Boardriders as the global general manager of RVCA, among other positions. He is an action sports industry veteran, and is familiar with athlete sponsorships – he worked at Wasserman Media Group for 13 years prior to joining Billabong when it was independently owned.
The Moniz video received more than 35,000 likes as of Wednesday afternoon, with comments of support from RVCA founder Pat Tenore, former Rip Curl-sponsored surfer Alana Blanchard, and Hailey Bieber.
RVCA was also part of the former Boardriders company that was bought by Authentic.
Former RVCA-sponsored surfer Billy Kemper told his Instagram followers in November he declined to renew his contract with the brand partly due to Tenore no longer being at the helm. A “Tenore” brand has since emerged on surfboards and apparel, including those seen on Kemper, in addition to an October trademark filing.
Gudauskas Brothers and Vans
Not all sponsorship deals are ending on a bad note.
Vans’ roughly two-decade-long relationship with surfers Tanner and Dane Gudauskas came to a close at the end of 2023. Those deals appear to have ended amicably.
The departures were confirmed by both brothers on their respective social media accounts in which they thanked Vans.
“Finishing up this year reflecting on a meaningful chapter of life coming to a close,” Dane posted on Instagram. “After nearly 20 years of working together, you build quite a relationship. Throughout the tenure at (Vans Surf), we have had the pleasure of working alongside some incredible people, many of whom have become lifelong friends.”
Tanner added, “I am sad to see this chapter close. However, it’s given me so much gratitude for my ride with Vans. Let me reflect and decompress almost two decades of living life with the foot on the gas peddle to experience every opportunity that came my way. The cup is full! So, thanks to the entire company, team, and family of Vans.”
Tanner ended his post also tagging Steve Van Doren, son of co-founder Paul Van Doren, and Kristy Van Doren-Batsen, Paul’s granddaughter.
Patrick Gudauskas had also inked a deal with Vans at the same time as his brothers.
Vans did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
The end of the brothers’ contract comes as Vans and parent VF Corp. continue work on a turnaround. Part of the plan includes VF layoffs totaling roughly 500 globally and across the brand portfolio.
VF CEO Bracken Darrell told The Wall Street Journal in a story published Wednesday that Vans has lacked innovation and product newness, with the company’s classic styles largely carrying the business for many years. It’s a pain point that had been identified by former Vans Global Brand President Kevin Bailey, who stepped away from the position in October to lead VF with its broader turnaround plan. Darrell is currently working closely with Vans until a new global brand president is hired.
“Vans caught a wave,” Darrell told The Wall Street Journal of the growth it enjoyed more recently. “That’s a dream, but if you’ve misdiagnosed why it grew, it can be a nightmare on the way down.”