IMG Buys U.S. Open Of Surfing From Bluetorch

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. ¿ Los Angeles, Calif.-based IMG X Sports, theyouth sports division of International Management Group (IMG), haspurchased the U.S. Open of Surfing from Irvine, Calif.-based Bluetorch. IMG is pairing the U.S. Open, America’s largest professional surfingcompetition, with several action sports, music and technology to createthe two-event Philips Fusion series that begins July 30 to Aug. 5 inHuntington Beach, Calif. and culminates Sept. 29-30 in New York, NY. International electronics giant Philips Electronics is the umbrellasponsor, while Bluetorch TV is the primary broadcast partner.

Founded in 1994 as a successor to the venerable Op Pro (first held atthe famed Huntington Pier in 1982), the U.S. Open of Surfingconsistently draws the largest field, most media coverage and biggestcrowds ¿ up to 50,000 ¿ of any surfing event in the world. In California,the U.S. Open anchors the $240,000 Philips Fusion, attracting more than600 world-class athletes from across the globe and features surfing,bicycle freestyle, skateboarding and inline skating in a variety ofchallenging venues along with an interactive festival area and liveconcerts.

“IMG has absorbed the U.S. Open and all its history under the PhilipsFusion umbrella,” said IMG X Sports vice president James Leitz. “Thismove guarantees Philips immediate impact in the youth sports, musicand entertainment marketplace through one of the largest sportsfestivals in the country.”

IMG’s X Sports division was launched in May of 1998 charged withcreating and developing opportunities in the action sports andentertainment fields for both IMG and its vast array of clients. According to Leitz, the division has doubled in size, scope andpositioning each year. And, has at its disposal, the combined resourcesof the world’s oldest and largest sports marketing organization¿IMGhas nearly 3,000 employees operating from offices in 85 cities in 33countries. Every day of the year, IMG is involved in an average of ninemajor events around the world.

“Pursuant to achieving that goal, Philips and Norelco were desirous ofbuilding a strong media platform in North America that targeted sports,music and technology,” said Leitz. “IMG identified the U.S. Open as anevent that had history, crowd support, tradition and a ‘media buzz’surrounding it. The opportunity to own one of the nation’s perennialsummer events allows IMG to create something special for our companyand our clients. The U.S. Open is the Super Bowl of surfing.”

In addition to a known sporting event, the acquisition of the U.S. Openbrings to IMG a strategically significant media alliance with Bluetorch. Considered the world’s premier action sports media brand, Bluetorchoffers unique daily television programming, live events, home videos,online and interactive TV entertainment for the youth culture. BluetorchTV, airing on Fox Sports Net (FSN) weekdays at 4 p.m., has quicklybecome FSN’s most popular show for the highly sought12-to-34-year-old audience.

IMG and Bluetorch are creating a synergistic, broad-shoulderedcampaign for Philips and Norelco that extends over several months withevents, television, online and interactive promotions. “Our targetaudience is watching Bluetorch,” said Leitz. “They’re multi-taskers whoprefer Bluetorch’s high intensity, magazine-style format.”

According to Ian Cairns, Bluetorch’s vice president of events anddirector of international development, “The strategic alliance betweenBluetorch and IMG is part of a larger Bluetorch strategy to divest ourconventional event production businesses, and focus on creating anddeveloping youth lifestyle television and iTV programming.” Cairns, whofounded both the Op Pro and U.S. Open of Surfing, and is consideredthe “architect of pro surfing in America”, added, “This U.S. Open ofSurfing iTV alliance is our first with IMG, but builds on a growing body ofiTV work. When it proves successful, we expect to see our mediapartnership with IMG expand both domestically and internationally.”

Philips Fusion will be broadcast to millions of viewers on Fox SportsNet, as part of Bluetorch TV, Sept. 24-28 and Oct. 15-19. ESPN willprovide four hours of coverage focusing on aggressive inline skating inthe Soul Bowl and Contour Park. Extensive coverage of Philips Fusionis available on and on