It used to be that you needed to play in the NBA, NHL or any nationalized sport to get your face on the proverbial box of Wheaties. That may be starting to change, however, as more brands are wisening up to the fact that not everyone saw the appeal of being screamed at by their high school coach, and thus never forged a connection with traditional sports. Consequently, more brands are looking to broaden their audiences, reaching out to sports "outsiders" by sponsoring niche athletic lifestyles.
Hurley Cycle Zombies:
Southern Californian brothers Turkey and Scotty Stopnik grew up homeschooled by a dad who replaced shop class with motorcycle mechanics and P.E. with surfing. Though the brothers grew up cruising on bikes, they still found plenty of time to surf and skate for fun. Bridging the gap between the motorcycle and board sport worlds - as many young men of their generation are currently doing
- they started calling themselves Cycle Zombies. Following Gen Y protocol, they started a blog
to share bikes they're fixing up and selling, to promote parties they're throwing, and to connect with other would-be Cycle Zombies all over the world. That's when Hurley found the brothers and stepped in to sponsor their lifestyle
. The action sports clothing brand pays the bills, only asking that the Zombies wear some gear and keep doing what makes them happy without any regard for PR or mass marketability. Hurley's sponsorship of the Stopniks introduces a unique focus on enjoying board sports for sheer pleasure rather than on winning competitions: something to which the majority of skaters and surfers can relate.
If you love Puma but don't typically engage in any athletic activities that are more strenuous than straddling a pinball machine or flagging down a cab, then this new initiative is for you. The campaign is celebrating those whose passion lies in "after hours" amusement, bringing partiers together with the same admiration and sense of community as a marathon training group. Though the Puma Social site is in its beta phase, visitors can sign up for a Social Club newsletter than will alert them to where the next ping pong match or skeeball tournament is happening. Whether or not the actual site will offer much more than an underused message board
remains to be seen. But doesn't it feel good to know that a brand like Puma is noticing all the practice you've put into your foosball skills over the years? Finally, someone understands athletic discipline that is enhanced by beer rather than Muscle Milk
Even though gulping down electrolytes certainly doesn't make one an athlete by default, Gatorade recently started aggressively targeting alternative athletes. They're going after the dancers, the kite boarders, and, perhaps the most long overdue, the skateboarders. One of the first skaters to sign with Gatorade is up-and-comer Sean Malto
. The brand created a cross country skate tour for Malto, showing that even the athletes who don't have designated practices and game times still need to hydrate while being active. Gatorade's sponsorship of Malto is not only interesting because he is one of the first alternative sports figures that the brand has endorsed, but also because he is a street skateboarder (rather than a competition skater), connecting the brand with the skateboarding lifestyle more than the primetime X Gamers
who rarely earn the respect of core skaters.