Billabong Girls Goes Hollywood

After millions watched Elliot feed E.T. Reese’s Pieces in the 1982 blockbuster E.T., sales of the candy skyrocketed. In fact, Reuters reports that sales of the candy-coated peanut-butter-flavored discs jumped a whopping 66 percent three months after the movie’s release.

So what’s this have to do with surfing? Last fall Billabong negotiated a deal with Universal Pictures to have its juniors’ line appear exclusively on the main characters in Blue Crush, a film about a group of surfer girls who grew up on the North Shore. The film will hit theaters nationwide on July 12.

[IMAGE 1]

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but deal means the stars of Blue Crush, played by Kate Bosworth (Remember The Titans), Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast And The Furious), Mika Boream (Hearts In Atlantis), and surfer/model/actress Sanoe Lake, will be rocking Billabong gear throughout the full-length feature. The clothes and swimwear are from Billabong’s Spring and Summer ’02 lines, including Perfection, Orange, and Twilight swimsuits; Keala and Sandbar surfshorts; Lingo and Gromster boardshorts; Pixies denim pant; and Far-Out crochet top.

For Billabong Girls, which has been living in Roxy’s shadow, the product-placement arrangement is a major step forward in establishing its presence not only with the ‘core market, but with mainstream girls as well.

“I’m really excited, because Roxy’s the number-one brand and we’re number two,” says Billabong Girls Marketing Manager Jessica Trent Nichols. “It always seems like because Roxy’s been around longer and they’re in so many stores that they win by default because they’re Roxy and people know the name. Not everyone knows that Billabong makes girls’ stuff. I really feel it will help put us on the map in that aspect — something that would have taken us a lot longer to get to.”

In addition to Universal’s own marketing effort, Billabong Girls is beefing up its ad campaign. Beginning in May, Billabong Girls will be running Blue Crush/Billabong co-branded ads in Surfing Girl, CosmoGIRL, Happy, and either Surfer or Surfing — not to mention running its own ads in Seventeen, Teen People, CosmoGIRL, and Paper. Furthermore, in-store P.O.P. programs will roll out in early summer and feature the actresses in Billabong product.

“I think it’s great that Universal wanted ‘core publicity as well as mainstream publicity,” says Trent Nichols. “They saw an important value in all of that.”[IMAGE 2]

As for the movie, Trent Nichols is confident the movie portrays surfers in a realistic manner — not like the chemically-dependent burnouts from Point Break and definitely not like the pensive, artistic saps we had to witness in In God’s Hands. The movie is directed by John Stockwell (crazy/beautiful) and produced by Academy Award-winner Brian Grazer (A Beautiful Mind) — both avid surfers.

“The studio really wants people to be inspired by this,” says Trent Nichols. “They feel this will have the cultural and lifestyle influence that something like Flashdance did in the 80s — that girls are going to want to go out and buy the surfwear and learn to surf.”

Trent Nichols, who has a cameo in the film playing none other than “Jessica from Billabong,” knows a lot is riding on this film. Aside from the money and time she and Billabong have invested, the brand’s image is at stake.

“Aligning your brand with a Hollywood picture — and we all know Hollywood’s version of surfing can be really scary — is definitely a risk,” she says, “but you’re not going to get anywhere without taking a risk. I definitely had times where I was kind of nervous, but going over there on location in Hawai’i and seeing the caliber of the acting and the footage and just all the people working on the film — it’s an amazing package.”

Will customers eat up Billabong Girls’ gear like they did those peanut-butter candies in 1982? We’ll have to wait ’til July 12 to see.