Skateboarding Isn't Selling Out, It's Just Starting To Sell

Rob DyrdeckRob Dyrdek riding the world’s largest skateboard.

Photo: Wikipedia

Skateboard entrepreneur Rob Dyrdek (Rob and Big, Fantasy Factory, Wild Grinders) has been busy creating a competitive skateboarding league more similar to the MLB and NFL and less like a weekend hangout at the halfpipe.  Dyrdek’s vision for “Street League” is to bring together 24 of the world’s best skaters for a tour of events that will create a consistency that the industry has been lacking. The biggest difference between Street League and other competition tours is in the contract: competitive exclusivity. Until this series, athletes have been able to pick and choose which events they will attend.  For the top tier skaters, this usually includes the X-Games, the Dew Tour, and the Maloof Money Cup Series (operated by Joe Maloof whose family owns the Sacramento King’s and the Palms Casino/Resort in Las Vegas). 

However, with the introduction of this competitive exclusivity clause, the landscape of the industry will change over night pushing the Street League into the spotlight while possibly making other competitions less relevant.

Will It Work?  

Although this will be the second year of the Dyrdek’sStreet League, it is the first season the competitive exclusivity clauses take full effect.  Last year’s series allowed riders to compete in 2 outside events, the 2011 series will not allow any outside events except under special circumstances (i.e. Skater Paul Rodriguez is contractually obligated to participate in Dew Tour events, as Mountain Dew is his beverage sponsor).   This has not scared away riders, and most have been enthusiastic about signing on the ‘x’.   A number of the industry’s top riders have agreed to deals.  The skaters include Ryan Sheckler, Chaz Ortiz, Nyjah Huston, Paul Rodriguez, and Chris Cole all of whom are well known and recognisable athletes within the skateboarding world.

They are attracted to the largest prize purse of any event series at 1.2 Million (winner taking $150,000.00 at each event) as well as revenue sharing for skaters involved in the league.  X-Games gold medalist Chris Cole told,ESPN that he is interested in the stability the league will give skaters who have families.  Cole is a skater who has been around the block, and during the same interview he said:  “supporting the Street League is something I believe is better for skateboarding as a whole”.  With the backing of the industry’s biggest riders,Street League will be similar to an All-Star weekend series of events, highlighting the Kobes and LeBrons of skateboarding.

The Numbers

The inaugural series created a solid foundation of fans and viewers to move forward without concern. According to the Street League website,  1.2 million fans tuned in to the broadcast on ESPN 2, while 500 million page impressions worldwide were produced from various Street League websites such as the berrics, ESPN, Monster Energy and DC Shoes.  The only disappointing statistics came in the number of tickets sold, with only 15,000 paying customers over the course of the season.

These days, some of the most important statistics are related to social media, and the target demographic of the Street League makes social media a very powerful tool for exposure and audience growth.  As of 3/6/2011, the league had over 95,000 “Likers” on Facebook.  (That’s 9 times more than other outlying sport ‘Major League Lacrosse’, and only about 35,000 less than ‘Major League Soccer’ which has been established since the Mid 1990’s).  The two main sponsors of the league, DC Shoes and Monster Energy, have a combined 12,000,000 followers on their official pages.  It is obvious that social media and online distribution of content will be a major player in the Street League’s success, and the demographic is already beginning to “like” it into a powerhouse.

Not For Everyone 

While Dyrdek and his backers (DC Shoes and Monster Energy) are world leaders in marketing, they haven’t sold everyone.  Agents of the participating athletes are concerned (for good reason) that their clients will be missing exposure opportunities.  Simply put:  they will be.  While the 24 skaters won’t be able to compete in other events adding to their exposure, the idea is that in 5 years those other competitions won’t matter.  These athletes are taking a gamble.  They are investing their careers in the Street League at the ground floor and crossing their fingers it pays off.

Other competitions aren’t standing on the sidelines while Dyrdek’s newest project walks off with all the best athletes. In 2011, the Maloof Money Cup is offering $1 million bonus to any skater who wins four straight Cups, as well as adding two more events to the calender (This will be pretty enticing to Chris Cole who has won the last 3).  While the Dew Tour tells ESPN they are confident there is big enough talent pool to support all the event series.  I’m not convinced.  The Street League’s competitive exclusivity clause will either make it the world’s premier skating event or will cost it’s athletes too much money and fizzle out.

In 20 years it is possible that Rob Dyrdek be remembered for his incredible performance as his alter ego named Bobby Light OR he will be remember in the likeness of Lamar Hunt for organising the skateboarding best athletes and biggest names in a professional manner, creating unity, and propelling the sport into the mainstream.

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