Here Comes Vans Surf – SES Podcast
Here Comes Vans Surf – SES Podcast
I once had a high level executive at a major surf company tell me that if Vans ever got serious about its surf business, they could become a major force in the surf apparel market.
That’s because Vans invests as much, if not more, than any other brand to support surf with sponsorship of major events such as the Triple Crown of Surfing and the Vans US Open, as well as other surf initiatives. Plus, they are the most successful company in action sports and have lots of resources behind them.
That time of focus may have come. Vans has done a deep dive into its surf program, and acknowledges they are not where they want to be in terms of consumer mind share.
So they have launched a major repositioning of the surf program that includes:
- Surprising new products such as surf booties and a performance-oriented boardshort.
- A new focus on celebrating those in surf that carve their own path and take risks – internally Vans describes it as “Outside the Lines.”
- A campaign launch that features an elaborate, poster-sized zine for distribution in surf shops, that includes special codes for free camera access to Surfline
- And new content such as “Weird Waves,” an original video series that explores the unconventional faces and places of surfing.
We have two pieces to this story: A written Q&A with Scott Sisamis, Director, Global Sports Marketing, Surf and Snow, about the thinking behind the revamped strategy, which is below. And an audio interview with Kevin Casillo and Kyle Martin who talk about the new surf products and more. That is above – click on the arrow to play the audio.
The audio interview happened a few days before the first piece of the new positioning debuted on Friday Feb. 1.
Q&A with Scott Sisamis, Vans Director, Global Sports Marketing, Surf and Snow
How is the Vans Surf positioning evolving and why?
Scott Sisamis: We realized we were doing a lot in surf – the Triple Crown, Duct Tape Invitational, Vans US Open, air shows, film releases, shop relationships, etc. – but we weren’t gaining that much traction in the consumer’s mind.
About four years ago we took a step back and did some research, and we discovered that there was still a real opportunity for Vans but we needed to approach it differently.
We stand behind everything we were doing but we needed a powerful, unique voice to unify all our efforts. That led to a positioning exercise to give us the proper lens to guide our efforts.
How would you describe the new aesthetic and voice vs. the previous one?
Scott Sisamis: The lens is conveyed internally at Vans as “Outside The Lines.” It celebrates thinking differently, and looking at new ways to progress. The campaign champions the rich and diverse culture around surf and the unique characters that move it forward through sports, art, music and experimentation.
I would say that the approach is a frame of mind, a point of view that guides decisions concerning everything we do in surf vs. a set aesthetic.
The difference is focusing through the “Outside The Lines” voice, and underscoring the impact of what we do to contribute and participate in surf culture.
Why create the zine?
Scott Sisamis: The idea was to create something special and visually compelling for the launch – something tangible that could be saved and held onto.
It’s quite big. Can you describe how many pages and the size of the pages, and why you chose those dimensions?
Scott Sisamis: All folded it is 16×22, unfolded it’s 22×32.
Unfolded, each page pulls out and serves as a statement for the Outside the Lines positioning, the first proof points of the ethos. The zine is curated in a very specific manner as a first view into the new, more focused mindset driving Vans Surf.
Where will the zines be distributed?
Scott Sisamis: They were part of a select media and retailer seeding kit as well as offered in our limited surf doors.
How is the zine tied into Surfline and the idea behind giving kids access to free cameras?
Scott Sisamis: The zines contain codes for free trial memberships to Surfline. By visiting select partners, you can grab a zine and a code.
We want to drive interested consumers and fans into our limited surf doors.
Will the zine be the only way to access the free cameras?
Scott Sisamis: No, there will also be a link on Surfline to follow through to a page with the info.
The idea was to give surfers access to cams without ads, or any of the hurdles usually encountered on the site. We wanted to remove barriers and provide consumers with a better experience, in this case, checking the surf daily.
I previously have not thought of Vans Surf product in a technical light. The new products sound technical, however. Can you describe how they came about and the role VF’s innovation center played?
Scott Sisamis: I wouldn’t call them technical – progressive is more accurate.
Each product is the physical proof point of the positioning come to life. Our designers, Max Vorlop and Matt Nosbusch, really embraced the experimental mindset and ran with the idea.
The innovation center helped to fine-tune later in the process, but both product teams worked through several stages and iterations to get to the final products.
Finally, our surf team played a crucial role in testing and feedback. These products are really just the beginning, and I’m really excited to see where our design team takes us next.
Do you think the new products and new positioning will help Vans get more floor space at surf shops?
Scott Sisamis: More floor space and sales are the byproducts of doing something meaningful.
In this case, our goal is to offer cultural experiences, in addition to products that help individuals enjoy the world of surf.
Vans is really at its best when participating alongside our consumer, sharing insights and listening. This is the goal for this next chapter of Vans Surf.
If we can move forward while keeping this philosophy in mind, we are in for a very exciting future.