Corporate and start-up companies alike can learn a lot from Burton's Demo Tour model. As the largest board demo tour in North America, the tour boasts four months of demos with over 200 stops, including 10 weekend-long "Super stops."
One of these super stops went down at Bear Mountain on Martin Luther King weekend and crowds of mountain visitors and a handful of US Open hopefuls were on hand for the Burton Demo Tour and AM Series Halfpipe competition. Masses of snowboard enthusiasts rapidly filled out paperwork in the demo tent while Demo employees selected boards, set stance widths and mounted bindings on select 2009/10 board models.
According to Matt Malinski, Demo Tent Manager for Burton, the structure of the wide-scale demo is helping Burton reach a much larger group than the snowboard community. He says that capitalizing on busy weekends is one of many factors that have allowed the Super Demo to be such a huge success. "The holiday [Martin Luther King Jr. Day] brings in tons of people," he said. "And the size of our demo seems to keep going up and up each time during busy weekends."
The large scale of the Demo Tour, along with a diverse group of sponsors, is helping expose more than just snowboard enthusiasts to the Burton brand. Involving companies that are peripheral to the industry and have widespread brand recognition such as: AMP Energy, Nature Valley and Paul Mitchell, helps the company encourage diverse participants at demo events.
Malinski says that snagging sponsors from different retail segments allows Burton to reach a more diverse group of perspective buyers, attracting "a big draw of people who wouldn't normally get involved in snowboarding." He adds that, "Local snowboard demos are great, but if you don't snowboard, you probably aren't going to get involved in them." According to Malinski, collaboration with big-name sponsors is key in creating a successful event. "The only way to really pull off [an event like the Super Demo tour] is to get corporate sponsors on-board. I know the only way we've been able do something this big is by getting other companies involved."
Malinski says that the demo tour is also helping push board sales. Each day the demos go out, a handful of riders ask where they can purchase Burton boards, especially boards with rocker technology, he said. "The demo tour is doing a ton for the rocker," adds Malinski. " People are coming in looking [to demo] it specifically."
Even after riders have left the slopes, Burton ensures that demo participants won't forget their on-hill experiences. When riders return their demo boards, they are given the option to receive a follow-up e-mail that contains information about the set-up they rode, including the size and model of their board, boots or bindings. This strategic move allows Burton to keep in contact with potential customers and target specific products tailored to that individual.
Malinski, who has been involved with the Demo Tour since its first season, was promoted to tent manager during the 2005-2006 season. In his years managing the tent, he said he has noticed the Super Demo's exponential growth. Currently Malinski and his staff are sending out about 200 demos on busy days and rarely send out less than 100 boards.
"[The demo has] got a lot more involved than it was in the beginning," he said. "The AM Series is a huge addition; it brings a group of higher-level snowboarders who are here for the competition who also want to test boards." The regional contest series was open to all male and female amateur snowboarders. Winners of the contest receive and automatic place at the US Open qualifiers.