Watching you watch professional surfing!
Can I be very honest with you all right now? I am not a smart man. I spend the vast majority of each day bumbling around in a fog of surf tangents and narrative nonfiction book ideas that feel like pure genius for ten minutes. Like a book about all the different white supremacist groups in the United States and what sorts of parties they throw, how they let their hair down and cut loose called White Knights: Racism After Hours!
And so it is with great awe, and complete bafflement, that I “read” an interview this morning with the World Surf League’s Vice President of Marketing Mr. Chris Culbertson. Would you like a snippet?
What’s unique about surfing from a marketer’s standpoint? How is it different than, say, marketing football?
We don’t know when we will necessarily run an event. We’ll host an event over a two-week window and during that two-week window, we’ll probably run four to five days and it’s really dependent on weather, wind and wave quality. So the commissioners look at the conditions every morning and decide if they run or not. We don’t typically know until 15-20 minutes before an event that it’s going to happen that day.
Imagine the head of marketing for NFL not knowing until 15 minutes before the coin toss whether they’ll play a game that day. Because of this, we absolutely had to connect with our fans through digital channels and create a one-to-one connection in real time to let them know what was happening with competitions.
What was your business need?
We needed a way we could triangulate around all of that data, but there had to be this consolidated view. Our partners AnalyticsPros introduced us to Google’s BigQuery, which is where we could pull all of the data into an unstructured data lake with Google Analytics at the core of it.
So you’re creating your own attribution play in a sense.
We started to pull all the data into BigQuery from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, ad-serving partners – anywhere we felt we could inform strategic business decisions if we had that social data, as well as behavioral data from fans.
In many cases, you can’t understand within the walled gardens how the consumer behaves across those platforms, but what you can see are different variables that match up – such as time a certain campaign ran. Then there are looser variables you can match up that allows us to get a sense for how our fans are behaving in all these different places based on what’s happening with our products and marketing plans.
Why didn’t you go with a marketing cloud or more traditional data management setup?
I think for a traditional marketer or ecommerce company or retailer, [marketing clouds] have a framework set up that’s probably really easy to work in, but being an unpredictable digital media and sports-focused business, we needed a little more flexibility.
I am part owner of an online business (stop laughing) and did not understand one word of this because of my not smart problem. But it seems maybe like the World Surf League is catching our data? And… something?
Is this why there is a new and fabulous partnership with Facebook? Are we professional surf fans but Xs and Os? Or wait, I mean 0s and 1s? Not passionate evolved spiritualists?