After months of intense discussion, Sportsworld Media Group (SMG) and the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) are pleased to announce the signature of an exclusive 5-year media and marketing partnership.
Sportsworld's US$12.75 million investment coincides with an estimated US$40 million event spend over the next five years, and the forecast return of six-time world champion Kelly Slater (USA) to competition – leaving the ASP World Championship Tour (WCT) in the strongest position ever.
The Sportsworld deal guarantees the ASP fully underwritten, high quality TV production for the entire WCT, international programming and news distribution, as well as dedicated marketing and media relations representation in Australia, the US, Europe, Japan, and South America.
The agreement also includes a commitment to a major upgrading of the ASP website, www.aspworldtour.com, in which Sportsworld acquires a 20 percent equity stake. Investment will transform the ASP's website into a major destination for surfers, and extend the ASP's ability to supply partner websites with video content from the Tour.
ASP President/CEO and 1978 world champion & 1999 Masters champion Wayne 'Rabbit' Bartholomew: "This is a very, very happy day for the ASP. Having been there from the start, and to have charted pro surfing from its birth to the present, this is a dream come true. While it represents the culmination of a long journey, the real future of the sport has just begun."
Current world champion and World Professional Surfers (WPS) President on the ASP Board of Directors, Sunny Garcia (Haw), was extremely pleased when informed of the news.
"That's insane!" exclaimed Garcia via phone from Hawaii. "I'm really happy to hear that. A lot of work went into making this deal happen between all the parties involved with events, the ASP, and SMG. For all of them to agree is obviously great for surfing. Not just the surfers, but also the events, the industry, and the association. We're all on the same page now working together, which is the best way to start the New Millennium.
"We fought for the better part of last year for the ideal World Championship Tour," he continued. "A lot of changes took place and things will continue to evolve, but we're definitely headed in the right direction. I'm really proud to say that we're the ones who run our own destiny, and am glad everyone is with us. We're going full steam ahead and things look extremely bright for our tour and surfing in general."
**** THE SPORTSWORLD PERSPECTIVE ****
Sportsworld Media Group plc, the global, content-driven brand communications network, is a world leader in the arena of core or new generation sports through its specialist subsidiary SSM Freesports and its award-winning lifestyle media brand, Chilli.
Footage from Chilli won TV Sports Image of the Year at last year's Sportel TV Awards, created to honor the best in sports television. The 16mm slow motion winning sequence features a 55-second wave ride by 2000 ASP World Masters Champion Gary Elkerton (Aus). SSM's video label, Chilli Video, recently published its first surf video E2K, which has been very well received critically.
Stuart Sawyer, founder of SSM Freesports: "The ASP WCT is the ultimate freesports property – it is totally unique. A central element of our marketing campaign will be to communicate surfing's position as the original freesport. The marketplace for core sports is evolving rapidly and, in a historic context, the timing of this agreement is perfect. There is a lot of good will and positive energy in this deal. We're proud to be a part of a new era for pro surfing."
**** NEW EVENT LICENCES ****
The agreement has been reached in the context of a restructuring of Event Licenses for the WCT. The new Event Licenses clearly define the relationship, roles and responsibilities between the ASP, Event Licensees and Sportsworld. The Event Licenses have a minimum three-year term and not only create a very stable Tour for the ASP, but encourage long-term investment by Event Licensees.
Given the new prizemoney levels established in the Licenses, total investment in the WCT looks set to run to approximately US$7.5 million each year, or close to a staggering US$40 million over five years.
**** THE RETURN OF KELLY SLATER? ****
Six-time world champion Kelly Slater (USA) is even considering a full-time return to competition. After two-years semi-retirement, the 29-year-old appears to have recharged his competitive batteries in time to enjoy the recent tour developments. Currently on Australia's Gold Coast to compete in this week's Quiksilver Pro World Qualifying Series (WQS) event, he stated his thoughts during a pre-event press conference. "I'm definitely thinking out it," began Slater. "It has started to get me excited again, thinking about being back on tour. "I have been competing since I was eight and it's really natural for me to compete. I love competing, I love trying to win world titles and trying to win contests. It's exciting for me. "I'll see how this year goes for me and how I'm feeling. I think it is pretty safe to say I will (make a comeback)."
–ASP Press Release By Jesse Faen