January 24, 2017 - Down The Line Surf Podcast
NICK CARROLL: “Did he jump or was he pushed?”
We are year 5 years into the WSL experiment with competitive professional surfing
Speaker leaves on high note ; great broadcasts; increased pay for athletes; the co-opt of Slater’s wave pool; the purchase of the XXL Big wave awards and creation of the big wave tour; everything is quite rosy except for the finances.
NICK CARROLL: The original business plan drawn up by ZoSea Media, the Santa Monica-based sports marketing vehicle that took ownership of the ASP at the end of 2012, called for a tour that earned more than its keep. There was the million a pop for each CT’s naming rights. Lucrative tour partnerships with a range of non-endemic companies would be sold across a range of categories. Cars, electronics, cosmetics, travel and airline, beverage, and several other categories were mentioned. This would all be in sync with a range of equally impressive new broadcast deals, which would work to secure the partnerships and open more and more doors for all concerned.
It was epic blue sky thinking. And for all the shiny coherence of today’s CTs, for all the hard work of Paul and his many loyal staff, it clearly hasn’t quite worked. Deals had to be cut immediately around that naming rights fee; major CTs in Fiji, Rio and Maui remain without corporate names (or fees) attached. A fortune has been spent on trying to lure non-endemic backers through the door, with limited success; indeed three of the most prominent names on the WSL site, Samsung, Jeep and Corona, aren’t strictly newcomers — all had prior relationships with professional surfing events. The media platform is still essentially the web broadcast: massively improved from the stumbly event-to-event ASP version, for sure, but still largely preaching to the converted.
It is January of 2017, the revenues being brought in don’t meet the forecasts.
Plan A was to test pro surfing's place in the grander sports market place; it has done that. Outcome of Plan A is that surfing is small time. At least according to dollars and cents: THE WSL seems to have a huge fiscal gap.
The hemmoraging of Ziff’s money continues; so it was time for Speaker to leave; the small amount of eyeballs watching the WSL webcasts will never be enough for the WSL to court big time umbrella sponsorship from corporations such as Coke-a-Cola-, Toyota, IBM, Royal bank Of Scotland – any huge corporation in any huge sector can climb onto any number of better suited content platforms Major League baseball, Major League Soccer , Lacrosse ; Samsung rolled the dice, relatively cheaply and the ROI on that deal could be great, we don’t know, it could be break even, we don’t know, could be not so great – we don’t know.
So, if the amount of money going out is far greater than the amount of money coming in why keep going? Year 5, no fiscal ROI- why keep going?
A question for you David: Who is the greatest sprinter on the planet? Who is the greatest Swimmer on the planet?
If you went Bulgaria and asked some one at the outdoor market “What does the green jacket represent in Golf? “They wouldn’t know. You and I would know. But in Bulgaria or Nigeria not so much. You ask that same person who the greatest swimmer is: that person will tell you it’s Michael Phelps.
Surfing and the 2020 Olympics has the potential to pull this whole WSL endeavor out of the red and into the black. At least that what Ziff is thinking. Four more years. And he may be right.
But only if there are waves early in the waiting period;
NBC will cover this new sport if there is something to cover;
but Mother Nature always sings last.
If no waves show up in Japan early in the waiting period surfing in the Olympics is screwed; there is no way NBC covers live surfing during the second half of the Olympics when they have swimming gymnastics, soccer, track n field and other guaranteed sports with huge fan bases that sponsors will be demanding they cover.
So Ziff and the WSL, and fans of professional surfing are already trying to forecast a swell which is four years away- 2020.