WSL Deal with Lexus Continues Bid to Diversify Revenue Streams
Lexus also becomes the official automotive partner of the Sunset Pro, official partner of the Lexus WSL Awards, and curator of the food served to event VIPs and athletes. Meanwhile, its GX SUV, which Lexus is hoping will appeal to the outdoor consumer, will get exposure on the sand and also while shuttling athletes and influencers around for the competitions.
The WSL, which is in search of a permanent CEO after the abrupt departure of Erik Logan last year, sees its latest deal as a good example of how it’s looking to stay close to the core, while broadening its reach.
The strategy comes as some of the larger surf brands see marketing budgets contract amid a more challenging business environment.
“We want to grow the categories and bring in new partners to sustain and grow the industry, but at the same time, we’re making room for endemics in different ways,” WSL Chief Revenue Officer Cherie Cohen said in an interview with SES. “You can see Florence Marine and Vissla here. They might not be the title partners but we’re making sure that we’re staying connected to the brands and keeping active with the endemic brands in the industry on tour. I don’t know where that will go longer term, but I believe the future should always have a mix of endemic and non-endemic businesses.”
Additionally, Yeti is now in its second year of its WSL partnership and has moved to presenting partner of the Pipe Pro, with the plan to sell event merchandise at its new Honolulu store.
Reaching a Broader Audience
Interest in surf from a more mainstream consumer is furthering the WSL’s ambitions.
The organization is working with both Buzzfeed and Complex on coverage around the event.
“They’re interested in covering it from a cultural standpoint,” Cohen said specifically of Complex. “They see surfing as breaking through culture right now. They actually came to us.”
The digital publication covers music, sneaker culture, streetwear, and other related news. It also hosts the annual ComplexCon festival in Long Beach centered around streetwear, music, food, and pop culture.
Cohen, when asked if the WSL would ever consider a presence at ComplexCon, said it has potential.
“We’re talking about all kinds of ways we can partner moving forward, whether its around their events, content series, or coverage of our events,” she said. “We hope to extend this partnership through the U.S. Open et cetera, but we just want to make sure we execute really well here before we execute bigger things.”
The potential with Complex is part of an increase in interest from businesses outside the industry in the WSL, which expects to end this year up in the double digits.
Among the 20 partners for the upcoming Pipe Pro, there’s a good number of businesses from outside the industry, including Apple and Shiseido.
Cohen and her team will work in the near term to continue expanding media rights deals, while also building out the merchandising strategy along with athlete membership and participation.
Cohen pointed to coming athlete deal announcements from non-endemic businesses that include packaged goods, beer, and banks as additional examples of increased interest in surf.
Ultimately, even with a lot of non-core companies entering the picture, Cohen underscored partnering with industry brands is still important to the WSL.
“This year’s strategy is not about abandoning the core,” she said. “We’re actually reconnecting and focusing our efforts on our core fans and supporting the endemic businesses where they are today, but while also expanding our reach to grow the sport.”