Just as we’d finally finished puddying the tack holes in our bedroom walls, Metolius, Scarpa, and Outdoor Research just gave us reason to resume athlete worship (and poster-hanging!) by announcing they’d added three of the most well-known athletes in climbing and skiing to their pro teams (Chris Sharma, Chris Davenport, and Hans Florine). With a raised eyebrow, we ask, “is this the return of the sponsored athlete?” Our fresh walls looked too tidy anyhow.
The past few years indicated a paradigm shift as budgets tightened and brands were more keenly focused on ROI and less about having their gear on your wall via shirtless athletes on dramatic first ascents. There was a shift against exclusive big name signings to a more everyman brand ambassador; someone who “got out” but who was also handy behind the laptop and provided resourcefulness (and links!) to the consumer for direct purchase or product research purposes.
But now, as athletes learned about the dramatic improvement in their marketability by using social media to represent their sponsors (and, subsequently, brands trust that these athletes’ Tweets, Facebook posts, and blog entries will come swift and often), we are seeing the pendulum swing back to marquee signings. Our clients are seeing substantial traffic to their websites and blogs by way of big name athlete search terms. Brands are also experimenting with diversification between a mix of big names and “up and comers.” Content as product is a popular investment to support brand culture and marquee athletes are back to factoring prominently in this mission.
A less thoughtful approach to the question yields a simplistic answer: our clients are just, plain, on fire. Their ability to snag athletes like Chris, Chris, and Hans asserts their place as category leaders in climbing and skiing. Consumers look at the pros who are pushing the limits of our sports and think, “If this gear is good enough for those feats, then it’s good enough for mine.”
Thankfully, our industry cares as much about bottom line as it does about genuine innovation and progression. These athletes will help make our clients’ products better. Chris Davenport is, after all, a self professed gear geek:
“I’m a product guy, a gear geek if you will. I love equipment, I love tweaking it, and I believe that you can always make a better product,” Davenport said. “SCARPA is super well respected in the world of skiing, so for me, this a chance to work with an already great line of products, but also a chance to help create something innovative and new.” -POWDER, Sept 12
And just to be on the safe side, we’re going to invest in a truck-load of Sharpies to preempt the poster-signing swell.