The roll of snowboarding teams has been morphing over the last several years as marketing budgets have been slashed and companies seek to get the most bangers for their bucks. Brands are making sure their investments are returned by focusing on the right riders – people that do more than just ride for the company, but promote it while they post hole the extra mile to get the shot and take initiatives upon themselves. We caught up with Rome Marketing Manager Ryan Runke to get his take on the evolving team landscape and new marketing opportunities including the company’s upcoming film, The Shred Remains, and ongoing Twitterviews.
Has the role of team riders changed for Rome over the years?
Yes and no. I think the days of going out and getting a couple photos, entering a contest and maybe filming some shots and then taking six to seven months off are gone, but the overall idea has not. The level of riding is so high these days that it takes a lot more for riders to get stuff done at a level that the media and consumer expect. Progression has gone crazy in urban settings as well as the backcountry.
How about from a marketing standpoint?
The riders need to spend more time riding, and traveling to get their job done. The level is so high it takes a bit more focus and time to keep the level high. I think the riders are also playing a bigger role in working directly with consumers, shops and various online marketing events.
What has changed about the personality, skill sets, et cetera of new riders that you're looking for today, or when looking at current riders' contracts, versus two to three years ago?
I think the riders are becoming more a part of the companies – working on product, promoting at events and shops where they can directly connect with the kids [and] consumers. The addition of new digital media has become a huge part of our industry. Eiki and his brother have taken it to a new level with their own blog that is dialed with a full time filmer to keep it current. It's pretty rad watching them take it upon themselves to market their lives so much – [www.helgasons.com]. Our whole team has got a lot more involved in our social media sites and on the Rome Blog. Will Lavigne is killing it with blogs every week or so with new videos and random things that happen in his daily life.
There's the old balancing act of quality versus quantity – what's more important in today's media world when we're talking about the size of your team?
This for sure will vary depending on whom you ask, but I would fall on the side of quality. I will take five or six riders that produce at a high level over a team stacked 15 deep of riders that are only getting a few things done each year.
A lot of companies are cutting back at the bottom ends of their teams. What impact do you think cuts on the flow level have for companies at a grassroots standpoint?
Grassroots snowboarding is and always will be key. But I think there are a lot of other grassroots events and methods that have a greater impact than your C-level rider or flow kid. It's a fine line, but to be a "Pro Snowboarder" these days you are going to have to be at the upper tier if you want it to last.
On the Rome front, you guys have got to be stoked to have Lucas Debari on the team.
If you have ever seen him ride in person or video parts, I think his talent goes without saying. We've been looking to grow depth in our team and he brought that to the table. He has so much talent for being so young. He has a busy year lined up working full time with Absinthe, as well as some trips for our new project and a possible adventure with Jeremy Jones's new film Deeper.
What's going on with the rest of the team?
We are stoked to be working with a lot of our main guys still. We just signed Bjorn, LNP, and MFR to another round of multi-year deals. All three of them have brought so much to Rome from coverage and exposure and helping grow and shape our product lines.
Eiki has just come off another year filming two full parts with Factory Films and People. He is back at it this year with the Pirates Crew in Europe, [as well as the] Standard and Rome Crew, so deep in three projects. LNP got hurt early this winter and has been out for six weeks, but is about to be back and we are jumping on a plane to Japan in a few weeks to get back filming with the crew. He will be working with Videograss again this year as well. Will Lavigne is worknig with Standard some this winter and will be traveling with the Rome crew as well.
We have also been building up our young kids and have stepped up three of the guys to the main team. Johnnie Paxson took it upon himself last winter to make a name for himself by getting last part in the Finger on the Trigger movie and countless photos in mags around the world. Stale Sandbech is 16 and currently ranked 4th on the TTR world tour, and then one of the original groms on Rome Johnny Lazz[ereschi] has been stepping up and gone from boy to man and it shows in his riding. I think he got on Rome when he was 12 and now at the ripe old age of 18 is coming into his own.
Tell us about the new film Rome is working on.
We are about to get underway with [our] third full-length release that will be called The Shred Remains. After taking last winter off from a full film schedule and only focusing on Team Shootout and a couple smaller Web based film projects, we decided it was time to get back at it. The project will be kicking off [this] month and is set to release September 2011.
After looking at our last couple projects we decided to give ourselves a little bit more time to shoot this one for a handful of reasons. The main is that I believe we are sitting on the best team Rome has had to date. All our main riders have so much talent and we want them to feel the freedom to push themselves to put out the best riding they can. On the film side we want to do the same. We want to make sure we are showcasing their talent in the best possible way as well. That all takes time and it's worth it in the end. We wanted to be able to take a risk on going new places and seeing what new stuff we could ride. Anytime you do that there is a risk of getting skunked and in the traditional movie timeline you cannot afford to let that happen. We got a good list of places we all want to check out. We are headed to Japan and a couple spots In Europe shortly to see what we can find.