Rabbit Talks About SSM

Rabbit Talks About SSM

Twenty-four hours after it was announced that the Association of SurfingProfessionals (ASP) and Sportsworld Media Group plc (SMG) had reached anagreement on a five-year, 12.75-million-dollar (U.S.) deal that grantsSportsworld exclusive marketing and media rights to the ASP brand, ahost of questions remain.

After talking to representatives from eight of the ten WCT events slatedfor the 2001 season, it appears the announcement of the partnership andits implications to the pro tour have largely blind-sided the surfindustry.

“We don’t have all the details,” says Triple Crown Executive DirectorRandy Rarick. “All of us on the ASP board are waiting for details fromthe ASP, but it appears they’re doing their final due diligence. But wedefinitely need to go over the contract before the December 1 ASPmeeting in Hawai’i. We need to go over it all, so we know what we’resigning.”

The story is similar in Australia. “We haven’t seen the final deal, soit’s hard to comment,” says Steven Kay, Rip Curl’s advertising andpromotions manager. “The negotiation team seems to have taken thestrategy that they wanted the specifics secret.”

So what about the media rights to the Rip Curl Pro at Bell’s Beach andat Hossegor? “I don’t know, but I’m desperately interested to find out,”says Kay. “My understanding from the ASP board meeting in July is theonly financial gain the events will see in first year is that thesanctioning fee will remain at 25,000 dollars.”

In light of the all the questions surrounding the deal, TransWorld SURFBusiness contacted ASP President and CEO Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew forsome answers.

Transworld SURF Business: There’s some concern right now with the brandsabout the media rights and who’s going to control those rights. How isall that going to come together?

Bartholomew: Obviously there’s still some things on the table at theboard meeting in December. The events have put some things back on theASP. SMG will have the global television rights and it will be a sharedrights with the events in regards to the internet. There’s going to bethe ASP live web site and there’s going to be the events, who can havetheir own web cast. That’s how we’re going to run that one.

Transworld SURF Business: Will any of the 12.75 million dollars go tothe events themselves in consideration for them giving up theirtelevision media rights to Sportsworld/SSM?

Bartholomew: This is a service contract. All the money will go intoactually making a product — television production, distribution — andthey’re buying a stake in the ASP internet site. So basically whatthey’re going out and trying to do is make the product of ASP andprofessional surfing world class and then go out and get a globalsponsor. It is from the global sponsor that the events will receive 25percent of their budget for signage at the event. All the money from theSSM thing — it’s a service contract, it’s not a cash contract. No oneis signing over any check to ASP for twelve-million dollars.

Transworld SURF Business: What does Sportsworld and SSM give the ASPthat it didn’t have before?

Bartholomew: We’re issuing three-year licenses to the events. In thepast it was from year-to-year. So there’s security for the events,there’s security for the ASP, there’s security for SMG Sportsworld andour future global sponsor. This year, for example, what we’ve had to dobecause we didn’t have a global sponsor — and without any money in thekiddy at all — we haven’t been able to provide any televisionproduction. We’ve had to do whatever we could as far as stringingtogether global distribution. The onus has been completely on theevents. The events have had to pay the costs of television production.They basically had their own distribution. They’ve had to do whateverweb casting they wanted to do and had to incur the cost. Satellite feedsof their events — they’ve had to incur those costs as well. It reallyadds up. So this is going to be a coordinated media interest.

Transworld SURF Business: What’s your impression of both SSM andSportsworld? Isn’t it a bit ironic that the company promoting the ASP isbased out of London?

Bartholomew: Actually, the guys from SSM are surfers, and they’ve surfedfor most of their lives. So just because they’re based out of Londondoesn’t mean they know nothing about the sport of surfing. We’ve knownSSM for a couple of years now and they’ve got a pretty good act. They’vereally beefed up their marketing and all the people they have on theground — and obviously the merger with Sportsworld is phenomenalbecause now we’re working with a huge group and I’m very confident thatwe can get the job done, and confident that we’ll get the job done in asport-specific way that will best for surfing.

Transworld SURF Business: I know there were other parties innegotiations for this deal. What did Sportsworld and SSM say or do totip the balance in their favor?

Bartholomew: We’ll let’s first of all look at some of the other groupsthat have had deals on the table this year. We had major presentationsand deals on the table from three or four dot coms. None of thosecompanies are in existence anymore. So I think it was fairly prudentthat we didn’t go with them, because they actually don’t exist anymore.They all went down the gurgler. Now that’s a big statement. We getcriticized for not jumping — for not making a commitment, but in theend imagine the disaster if he had. So what these SSM guys have got,they have security, they have the financial backer, they’ve got thevision — they’ve really got all the bases covered. I’m very happy andvery comfortable to go forward with this now.

Transworld SURF Business: So what needs to be done during the Decembermeeting then?

Bartholomew: We’ll obviously the deal is going to come to a vote andwe’ll get board approval. I see it as a formality. I think the numbersare there. I would be very surprised if it wasn’t supported unanimously.

Transworld SURF Business: Is there anything you want to add at thispoint about some of the concerns that the brands have about feeling leftout of the loop?

Bartholomew: They won’t be left out of the loop. There are some issuesthat need to be trashed out at the December meeting. I’ll have to waituntil then to tell you how it all works out.