What can we learn from these tumultuous times?
All this chatter, the last few days, of brands dropping athletes (Reef x Luke Davis) and athletes dropping brands (Dane Reynolds x Quiksilver) has got me thinking. My phone is still screaming, my MacBook Air molten lava (a smashing rumor coming to you soon!), but instead of indulging immediately, I am sitting back with an early morning vodka x ginger beer and pondering the value of loyalty.
In traditional stick and ball sports, fans generally speak highly of the days before giant paychecks and free agency. When players and teams would be bound for life. The fans, who don’t think twice about tattooing team logos on their bodies, wish the athletes would exhibit a similar commitment and die-hard love. When an athlete leaves the fans crow about greed. Likewise, when a team cuts an underperforming but well-loved athlete, the fans crow about greed.
Does loyalty, then, have any value aside from sentimental?
It is the same, more or less, in surfing. Our brands act as teams and build rosters of surfers who get paid very well…until they don’t and are cut. It seems both brand and surfer live in an unhealthy symbiosis. The brand pays the surfer but can cut out at a moment’s notice (from what I hear Luke was cut without excuse), especially as the surfer ages. The surfer gets paid to ride for the brand but often feels put upon if ordered to appear here or go there or surf in professional contests. It seems, over time, both grow increasingly suspicious of each other.
I suppose the crux of the issue is best summed up with Kelly Slater x Quiksilver. The brand paid him millions upon millions upon millions of dollars over the years. The surfer helped make the brand iconic. Should the two ever have broken up? It seems to me no. It feels like Joe Montana playing for the Kansas City Chiefs.
At the end, in our capitalistic environs, it is naive to think brands will be benevolent and surfers grateful but, we can dream like schoolgirls, like Boston Red Sox fans, can’t we?