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Action Sports Collective On New Marketing Strategies For A Down Economy

Tim Garrett, former President of La Jolla Group, left his position at the end of 2009 to start The Action Sports Collective (TASC), a marketing agency that has worked on projects for PacSun, Quiksilver Performance, and ASR. As the head of strategic development and account management, Garrett says he is part of a team effort dedicated to stimulating new business. “We are evolving the business to be more of a true collective where any company within and outside the industry can find great talent across marketing, sales, product design, production, warehouse/distribution, HR, accounting and legal,” says Garrett.

Together with former CEO/Partner of Killer Dana surf shop Steven “Lounge” Price,  Garrett will will be presenting a discussion titled “The Web 2.0 And Social Marketing” at this year’s Industry Boot Camp, Tuesday, November 9 in Huntington Beach. Price,  TASC’s Director of Digital and Social Commerce, says it’s key for brands to try something new when it comes to marketing, even if there is an initial level of discomfort. Maintaining flexibility and taking risks are key components to developing a good plan, he says.

Steven "Lounge" Price
Steven "Lounge" Price

“I think that brands and retailers should have between 20-30% of their total marketing budget dedicated to digital marketing.  That would include everything from the digital manifestations of their social efforts, search, website development, mobile, and emerging technologies,” says Price. “It also includes a substantial piece of their co-op efforts as many of these are becoming mobile and geo-social today.  It would not include PPC expenditures.”

In the following interview, Garrett discusses the approach The Action Sports Collective is taking to help both small and larger brands with marketing, and how the group is evolving its strategy based on the current economic climate and rapidly evolving technology.

Tim Garrett, The Action Sports Collective
Tim Garrett, The Action Sports Collective

You have an extensive background in marketing within the action sports industry. Can you talk about how you initially got involved in the industry and the experiences you've had with marketing over the course of working for brands such as Globe, …Lost, and O'Neill?
I worked for a big automotive ad agency out of college, but jumped at an opportunity to join Thom McElroy, one of my best friends from San Diego State.  It was about chasing my passion of surfing, skating and snowboarding.  Thom, a talented graphic designer and surfer, designed the Volcom Stone and was doing many of the ads for Quiksilver.

I brought the marketing plan to the program.  Thom focused on creating the message and I focused on getting the message out.  After a great run of developing advertising campaigns and marketing plans for Quik, Vans, and many others in and outside the industry we sold the business to Foote, Cone, and Belding, a large international ad agency.

I moved on to be the Global Vice-President of Marketing for Globe Shoes, which was an incredible experience of traveling the world, which gave me the exposure to different cultures and approaches to business.  The interesting thing was and still is that the action sports enthusiast looks virtually the same all over the worl—it’s a certain mindset and distinct tribe.

From there I moved on to the La Jolla Group where I started as the VP of Marketing for O’Neill Clothing.  O’Neill was on a great run and my main focus was on structure and building a great marketing team.  From there I moved in as the President of …Lost, which was an amazing learning experience of managing every aspect of the business from product development, sales and operations as well as the marketing.  In essence all action sports brands are marketing firms as the actual manufacturing is handled outside and internally is where the brand is created from product design, sales strategy and image that is promoted to the outside world all the way to the receptionist and the music in the hallways of the office.

We either work as individual consultants on one aspect of the business or provide full-service capabilities depending on what the needs are.  We are also supporting start-up brands like MIKOH Swimwear and we are starting new businesses like QR Action that is based on the new technology of Quick Response Codes.

How do you see the barcode technology evolving and changing the retail landscape? What are the pros and cons?
QR codes that work with smart phones will have two major effects if properly used.  First, it can be an amazing education tool for the staff working the floor, and, second, it gives the staff a real engagement opportunity with the customer.  Instead of just asking, “Can I help you with something?” and the customer just saying, “No”, the staff working the floor can now say, “Did you see the QR code? Let me show you how it works.”  From a brand perspective it’s an unfiltered voice and message to both the retailer and the end user.  It’s particular strong for hard goods that have technical features that need detailed explanation.  It’s also strong for the juniors market as a video can really demonstrate the merchandising of outfits and explain color stories and trends.

At the upcoming Industry Boot Camp, you'll be discussing developing an integrated marketing plan and the evolution of new media and technology. Without completely giving away your presentation, what do you think is essential for any brands' marketing plan today?
An overview is that the economy and technology have leveled the playing field where little, start-up brands can compete much more equally with the big brands.  More importantly, we as an entire industry can compete much better with big outside brands if everyone is on their game.  The key to success is still to understand the basics as they do not change and lay down a strong foundation while looking at technology to see how it can help accelerate and maximize your efforts.

How has the economy and technology helped level the playing field for smaller brands, and how do you see that altering the retail/brand landscape in action sports?
Due to economic and retail pressures, the major brands have focused more on the best sellers, which has created an amazing amount of sameness from a product perspective.  I would also say the same thing about the marketing efforts.  The brands that have something to lose have been very conservative, which leaves the door wide open for fresh, creative, and, most importantly, hungry brands to create new product trends and marketing efforts.  On the technology front, getting the brand message out to a much wider audience has never been less expensive.  Word-of-mouth has always been the number one motivating factor to support a brand and now, through social media, you can reach millions.  Small brands that truly understand and embrace this medium will see real brand and sales impact.

How do you think brands within the action sports can improve their marketing, branding, and overall strategy to compete more directly with outside brands?
On the whole, action sports brands are great at communicating their authenticity and true brand essence to the core audience, but the industry struggles on getting outside the industry to connect to the mainstream on their level.  For example, reality shows that capture the lifestyle and drama in situations have been dominating mainstream TV and cable.  The action sports industry has to capture this to be able to talk to a wider audience.  For the average consumer, it’s not about the action, but the human interaction, which is more relevant to them.

Most brands and businesses realize that using social media is one of the key components to any marketing plan today. What do you think are some of the more overlooked opportunities when it comes to marketing? Are there any common mistakes you see in day-to-day campaigns?
We do see some brands being overwhelmed by new technology and they become frozen.  The opposite end is where some brands are jumping on any new technology without truly understanding it and how it translates to brand building and increasing sales.  They waste time and fragment their brand.  One common mistake that we have noticed is that marketing plans are developed to do a little bit of everything and doing nothing great.  The message blends in and never truly stands out.

Why do you think it's important for a service like the Action Sports Collective to exist and how do you see the company growing and becoming more involved in projects both within and outside the industry in the near future?
Because the action sports industry is based in participation, you have to have a true understanding of the nuances of the sports and motivations of participants. Our group gets it.  We have a balance of people who live the lifestyle, understand the brands intimately, but who also have experience with other industries to help expand the thinking and approach.  We have been working with both endemic brands to help them expand their message and reach as well as with the non-endemic marketers to help them be authentic and work with the industry the right way.

What do you hope people will be able to take away from your presentation, and apply at their own companies?
We hope everyone gets more comfortable with technology and understands how to integrate elements within the traditional plan to maximize impact and effectiveness.