DC Shoes Co-founder Ken Block released the much anticipated Gymkhana THREE Part 2 today, and TransWorld Business had a chance to get a look at the raw racing footage a day earlier up at DC’s Melrose retail space in L.A., complete with a personal introduction from Block himself. The series of short video ads, which were first created in November 2008 and feature the DC founder navigating a host of obstacles behind the wheel of a rally car, have spawned a new category for the once skate-specific brand. Gymkhana TWO recently gained DC critical acclaim as one of "The Top 10 Viral Ads of All Time" by Ad Age magazine, an award that Block says he is particularly proud of considering other companies named to the list used contracted ad agencies while DC handled all of Gymkhana’s production in house. We sat down with Block to find out what his plans are for the future of the category and how it continues to strengthen DC as a brand.
How long have you been racing?
I started my first full season in 2005, so this is my sixth year.
You said you just finished filming Part 2 about two weeks ago. How much time and energy goes into the filming and editing process for these videos. Do you play a large role in the editing process?
Most of how it all goes together and what I want is specified before hand. Once the editors get everything back and start putting it in place, that’s when I get involved because I’m real nit picky about how it looks and how it tells the story of each thing I’m trying to do. I work with very good people and they put things together very well for me. There [are] three guys involved in the actual editing process. It’s myself, DC’s Creative Director Nate Morley, and team marketing director Brian Scotto. Editing time on this one has only been about six days. It’s only a seven minute piece but it takes a lot of work before that and organization to get it to that point. There’s still work to be done, what you saw is still rough. The sound and a few of the transitions aren’t finalized yet, but that’s the great thing with viral video, it’s not like you have to be done a month before for DVD you know. We want to have it up on YouTube tomorrow (Tuesday) morning and if it’s not ready then, we will post it when it is.
How is the new DC rally racing apparel line doing at retailers such as PacSun, Zumiez, and now with its own section in the CCS catalog?
It’s done exceptionally well in the more mainstream accounts. Sales have been a very big surprise for us. As a company we didn’t expect this to be such a big part of our business these days. And for us it really shows how much doing the right kind of marketing can actually matter for our business.
Are there plans for any changes or expansions to the product line?
No, it’s a pretty decent range. We are not expanding it too big. It’s about what’s appropriate for the line and what people want to buy as far as team gear goes. It continues to grow and retailers actually want to see it change faster than I can come up with ideas for it, so it’s been a good thing.
What other ways are you advertising the line?
It’s just viral. We have done a little print in the motor sports market, but the kids who are going to the malls and buying this stuff are mainly seeing the stuff we are doing online.
You recently switched sponsors from Subaru to Ford. Rumor has it you are working on getting into the World Rally Championships. How is that going so far?
It’s been very good. My partnership with Ford has been very strong and I do plan to race in the World Rally Championship. This year is just a development year for me—I’m only doing seven out of the fifteen races, but I have plans to race the full championship next year. Ford, Monster and DC have been the biggest supporters of everything I’ve done and it’s gone very well. The results this year have been not as well as I wanted, but the speed and what I’ve been doing with the car is very good.
How did the rally events go at X Games this year, as far as participation, organization and viewership?
I thought that they did a good job with the Rally Cross that they tried to do this year with four cars on the track at once, but they tried to do the same thing they’d done in the past—which is two cars head to head on a side-by-side course—and it just didn’t work very well in the [Memorial] Coliseum. The crowd and the people who came out to watch and get autographs was bigger than ever, but I thought that one just didn’t translate as well at the Coliseum as it did at the Home Depot.
Obviously the time and effort has paid off with Gymkhana TWO being named to the top ten viral videos of all time and receiving more than 70 million views. What was your reaction to the success of the second video and what are your expectations for the third and plans for the future of Gymkhana videos?
I’ve actually been blown away by it. It’s just amazing that something that I love to do with these cars has been so entertaining and of so much interest to people on the internet. And I realized it had gotten a lot of views, but I didn’t realize that it would be top ten in the world as far as viral marketing. So for us as a company it’s something we’re very proud of. As far as the future, I guess we’ll just have to see. It was hard enough to get to this point. I’m very happy and proud that this one is done and I don’t even want to think about the next one.