"Honored and super excited!”
There seems to be two entirely different, entirely separate narratives when it comes to our World Surf League.
One one side we have the Grumpy Local. She enjoys the show, and very much, but can’t really imagine hundreds of thousands of fans tuning in to the monotone, nonsensical drone of ’89 World Champion Martin Potter and complete vacuousness of Joe Turpel. He also looked into the corner, during the Facebook Live day, and saw an embarrassingly low number of concurrent viewers dancing there, throwing frowny face’d emojis over the hot surfing action.
She sees Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch never expanded beyond God’s least favorite town, title sponsors like Samsung fleeing and being replaced by Michelob Ultra Gold brewed with Organic Grains disappearing and being replaced BF Goodrich tires signing on for one contest only.
He sees money being thrown after money, neither good nor bad, but assumes it can’t keep up forever and the League will eventually either fold entirely, sell and get hacked to bits or morph into a slam-type tour with five majors a year and a handful of U.S. Open of Surfing-esque specialty events.
On the other side we have the glorious vision of the World Surf League itself. That this is the most exciting time in professional surfing’s history. That engagement is growing by an astronomical 25% year on year. That with the upcoming Olympics, surfing itself is ready to bust free from the stagnant backwater and become a force that rivals major sporting leagues from around the world.
Which is true? Who is right? I stand with the Grumpy Local, of course, but who knows because the League keeps snagging top-level talent and let’s read about the newest executive haul.
The World Surf League (WSL) has hired Nike marketing veteran Pri Shumate as its chief marketing officer, while the NFL UK’s head of marketing, Sarah Swanson, has been named senior vice-president of strategic insights and consumer growth.
Surfing and its associated organizations are already experiencing a boon in brand marketer interest before the sport makes its debut at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Shumate previously ran marketing for Nike’s global running business and departs after 17 years with the sportwear brand. Working out of Portland, Oregon, she previously led the company’s marketing activity throughout the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and headed up its surfing brand, Hurley, as chief marketing officer.
In a statement, Shumate said she was “honored and super excited” to take on the same role at the WSL.
“There’s never been a better moment or opportunity to share what makes surfing so special with the world,” said the marketer. “I’ve approached every role I’ve ever had from the perspective of the consumer, in this case, the athletes, fans and people who love surfing, both the sport and culture.
“I can’t wait to dive in and get to know them better so that, as a team and a brand, we can continue to serve them well into the future and build further equity in the portfolio of WSL brands.”
Swanson will report into Shumate as senior vice-president of strategic insights and consumer growth – a new role for the league. She has been tasked with leading the WSL’s talent marketing division, as well as the data, insights and analytics division.
Swanson joins after building the NFL’s UK brand presence in London for the past four years.
“There is so much we can learn about what our fans, and our potential fans, want from us and look to us to deliver,” she said.
“I’m incredibly excited about the opportunity to learn, strategize and create opportunities to bring surfing and some of the world’s most talented and aspirational athletes to an even broader audience.”
Now, what do you think about this? Do you believe in the power of surfing to unite and inspire or do you still hate anyone who paddles out and sits next to you in the lineup?
Can you wait to be known better and served?
Much to think upon.