O’Neill announced today the signing of a comprehensive agreement with International Management Group (IMG) to sponsor the 2003 U.S. Open of Surfing, July 28 to August 3 in Huntington Beach, Calif. The U.S. Open of Surfing Presented by O’Neill is North America’s highest-rated qualifying event and the world’s largest and most heavily attended professional surfing competition with some 200,000 spectators annually.
The U.S. Open of Surfing Presented by O’Neill draws the sport’s major stars along with nearly 500 contestants from across the globe — America, Australia, Brazil, France, Japan and South Africa — to compete for $175,000 in prizes. The six-star World Qualifying Series (WQS) rated men’s division boasts a $125,000 total prize package and offers competitors the largest points allocation of any Mainland event this year.
The $30,000 women’s division, also a six-star WQS, is the Mainland’s highest rated qualifying event while the O’Neill U.S. Open of Longboarding offers $10,000 in prizes. Featured O’Neill athletes include Cory Lopez (Florida), Rochelle Ballard and Melanie Bartels (Hawai’i), Timmy Reyes and Bret Simpson (Huntington Beach).
“The U.S. Open of Surfing is a great venue for the sport and its spectators,” said Kelly Gibson, president of Irvine, Calif.-based O’Neill Clothing. “It has a rich history and IMG has injected incredible energy into the whole look and feel of the event.”
Gibson added, “By aligning with the U.S. Open, O’Neill is supporting the lifeline of U.S. competitive surfing. By partnering with IMG, O’Neill can elevate the U.S. Open to the next level, bringing more awareness to the O’Neill Brand, clothing and wetsuits, while at the same time giving back to our local retailers and the industry that has supported us over the years.”
O’Neill’s unprecedented U.S. Open sponsorship includes “presenting” billing of the men’s and women’s divisions, and title to the U.S. Open of Longboarding. A major draw for O’Neill is the event’s loyal following nationally and internationally, and the coveted 12-24 demographic targeted through IMG’s extensive promotional package. O’Neill receives national television exposure on Fox Sports Net (FSN), national print advertising in core publications such as TransWorld Media’s teen bundle (TransWorld SURF, Stance, TransWorld Skateboarding and TransWorld BMX), regional print and broadcast advertising, extensive on-site signage and a VIP skybox.
O’Neill will also benefit from a national public relations campaign that historically attracts a broad cross section of media outlets ranging from top national and international endemic magazines to mainstream regional and national coverage from USA Today, Sports Illustrated, the Orange County Register and the Los Angeles Times. Broadcast coverage typically includes MTV, CNN, KTLA Morning News, FSN, Fox’s Good Day LA and extensive airtime from network affiliates.
The U.S. Open, founded in 1994, is the focal point for the sport and industry in America. “With a storied history dating back to 1959 (U.S. Championships) and more recently the Op Pro (1982), Huntington Beach has been the setting for dramatic showdowns from the sport’s greatest names,” said O’Neill Marketing Director Garth Tarlow. “Located in the backyard of the America’s surf industry and adjacent to world-class retailers, the U.S. Open’s one-of-a-kind stadium seating, famed pier and convenient parking allow thousands of fans to literally ‘reach out and touch’ the world’s elite pro surfers and experience the surf lifestyle.”
O’Neill’s authentic American heritage and adventurous image dates to 1952 when Patriarch and namesake Jack O’Neill opened his first Surf Shop (a name he trademarked) and soon thereafter introduced the world’s original surf wetsuit made of neoprene in the chilly waters of Northern California. The company recently celebrated its 50th anniversary by announcing thaat record sales of technical lifestyle-driven clothing and innovative wetsuits had propelled O’Neill to the elite tier (top three) of global surf companies.
O’Neill is the world’s original surf brand and manufacturers the number one branded wetsuit worldwide. The family-owned and operated company distributes its products to 85 countries, including more than 2,000 specialty wetsuit and clothing retailers in the U.S.