How Vans Dominates the Summer Sand With US Open Brand Partnerships

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The dog days of summer typically provide a lull in the traditional big four American sports. This is not the case, however, in the world of action sports. 

One of the biggest events in that particular sector occurs when Vans, the footwear and athletic apparel brand located in Costa Mesa, California, hosts its annual surfing and skateboard contests in Surf City, USA from late July into early August with massive turnouts.

The nine-day event, which is sanctioned by the World Surf League, includes men’s and women’s competitions in the ocean, while the Vans Park Series takes place steps away from the beach in the concrete skate bowl. With over a half million people visiting Southern California and an estimated $21.5 million brought to the local economy, the U.S. Open is considered the largest surfing event in the world. 


The temperatures can soar into the high 90s during the summer season, so Hydro Flask is a key a partner in helping beach goers remain cool. The company, based out of Bend, Ore., makes insulated stainless-steel water bottles, and had the busiest activation from spectators all week.

“Hydro Flask has a North American partnership with the WSL, and we’re in our second year of that deal,” said Micah Thompson, the brand’s event and field marketing manager.

Using TempShield technology, each bottle has vacuum insulation with the promise of ice cubes inserted lasting up to five hours. This is key for those long surf sessions or outdoor hikes. Fans were treated to custom water bottle colors and designs made within minutes.

“We activate at each WSL stop on the North American tour, with upcoming events in Central California, and Hawaii. It’s been a great experience working with the surf industry,” Thompson said.

Meanwhile, for the adult crowds, Michelob Ultra provided a unique activation with free yoga surfing instructional classes. Fans were able to test their balance and learn stretching techniques on moveable boards, and afterwards were rewarded with front-row views of the surf contests.

The popular low-carb beer has attached its brand to fitness-minded audiences; in addition to this activation, Michelob Ultra also recently chronicled what it takes to bike 205 miles in a day.

As for caffeinated beverages, Peet’s Coffee had people covered. The roaster and retail chain brought a drink truck on the beach, handing out free cold brews to passerbys. Its sponsored athlete, professional surfer Brianna Cope, was on hand for a fan meet-and-greet and shared some of her experiences while on tour.

“With competitive surfing, it’s so much more strategy and adapting to the waves. It’s kind of like a chess match with who can find the best move,” Cope explained.

The Hawaiian native has traveled the world, and her roots have contributed to an ambitious and happy lifestyle. “Being born and raised on Kauai definitely shaped me into the surfer I am today. I was surrounded by great waves and it’s a small community, everyone is super supportive. I’ve been surfing since I was four years old.”

As an avid coffee drinker, Cope said it makes sense to align herself with a company like Peet’s that share a positive message.

“I want to make sure all the companies I represent are a reflection of me and myself, not to promote something just because. It’s important to have that organic relationship,” she outlined.

OTT Streaming Services

The World Surf League, which recently inked a deal with Facebook as the official digital streaming home for each of its surf events, has dealt with some backlash. The first broadcast in early July from South Africa had glitches in the feed, and viewership numbers on Facebook Live were brought into question.

“Ultimately we had some technical issues and we’ve cleared them up,” said Beth Greve, chief commercial officer for WSL. “It’s about the fans watching their favorite surfers ride the waves. We love our Facebook partnership and still air on their website, in addition to the WSL platforms until further notice.”

Weather Effect and 2020 Olympics Forecast

While the U.S. Open has been a staple of the community under various tournament names dating back to 1959, Vans has been the official host since 2013. Each year the event dates are locked in on the calendar, and wave conditions can vary from spectacular to mundane.

“Nature is nature; last year we had a significant swell during the event and it died during the finals. What makes this event different then other Championship Tour stops is the set schedule. We need the finals to be on Sunday, unlike others where we have a 12-day window to work with,” said Bobby Gascon, director of global marketing for Vans.

On the skateboarding side, the Vans Park Series holds five global events each year with the championships being held in China this coming November. With surfing and skateboarding being introduced for the first time in the 2020 Summer Olympics, how athlete qualifications will be handled has been a much-anticipated topic.

“The process will begin as of Jan. 1, 2019. Ironically, members of the IOC were on hand this week and conversations are happening,” Gascon disclosed.

WSL Tour Rolls On

The blowout event saw a host of veteran athletes and newcomers participating on the grandest stage, while large audiences came out each day to support the action sports worlds and to enjoy the sun-soaked ambiances.

“There’s something for everyone here; it’s a festival atmosphere that includes the skate bowl, great surfing, and all the activations to keep you entertained for hours. It crosses generations, where young people and young adults come together,” Greve laminated.

The WSL next travels to the French Polynesian islands (Aug. 10-21) with large swells expected at the Tahiti Pro Teahupoo. Following that, stop No. 8 of the Championship Tour returns to the mainland in Lemoore, Calif. (Sept. 6-9) for the Surf Ranch Pro.

A new event on the docket for 2018 and personally designed by Hall of Fame surfer Kelly Slater, it is set to be the first-ever wave pool event on the CT circuit. Also unique for WSL, it will be a ticketed event compared to the free admission at other beach locations. Fans can purchase general admission and VIP experience packages in advance from the Surf Ranch Pro website.