SSM Answers Some Questions

Yesterday it was announced that the Association of Surfing Professionals(ASP) and Sportsworld Media Group plc (SMG) had reached an agreement on a five-year, $12.75-million (U.S.) deal that grants Sportsworldexclusive marketing and media rights to the ASP brand.

We tracked down SSM Communications Manager Jonathan O’Neil via e-mail toanswer some questions about SSM and the pending deal. The writtenanswers are painfully short and to the point — but provide a fewinsights into the deal.

Transworld SURF Business: So, congratulations.

Jonathan O’Neil: Okay, but please understand that we have announced “ourplans to enter into this agreement” — we are still finalizing thedetails.

Transworld SURF Business: What would you like the surf world to knowabout SSM Freesport?

Jonathan O’Neil: Credible. Quality. Passionate.

Transworld SURF Business: What exactly will SSM Freesport do for theASP?

Jonathan O’Neil: media and marketing.

Transworld SURF Business: Were you able to sign exclusive worldwidetelevision and internet rights?

Jonathan O’Neil: Yes.

Transworld SURF Business: Will this be the largest project ssm isassociated with, or just another program?

Jonathan O’Neil: Not the largest, but arguably the most important.

Transworld SURF Business: Other media outlets were in negotiations to bethe exclusive television and internet partner with the ASP, and havequietly complained that you’re being guaranteed worldwide exclusiverights and that they were unable to get ASP to even admit that they hadthose rights to give. Who exactly owns the media rights to the ASP WCTevents and did you find the negotiation process difficult in thisregard?

Jonathan O’Neil: We are not in a position to comment about the ASPbusiness, only our own role. Generally speaking most sportingfederations own the ‘world tour’ and associated international mediarights — and organizers own specific events and domestic media rights.Our model allows for significant investment in media. That would benefitboth the ASP and the organizer. It has to be a three-way partnership.

Transworld SURF Business: What role with SSM Freesport and Sportsworldhave with enticing mainstream companies to sponsor the ASP tour?

Jonathan O’Neil: Significant.

Transworld SURF Business: How will SSM freesport recoup its12.75-million dollar investment?

Jonathan O’Neil: Via sponsorship, broadcast sales, and online commercialactivity. The sport warrants the investment and this is what it willtake to ‘do it properly’.

Transworld SURF Business: Last year Sportsworld Media acquired SSMFreesports. What role will that company play in the ASP coverage?

Jonathan O’Neil: SSM is the freesports specialist in the group and willbe the driving force and manage the relationship with the ASP.Sportsworld media group is the parent company that provides globalrepresentation and offers tremendous distribution capabilities andleverage with broadcasters and brands.

Transworld SURF Business: Is it ironic that the WCT’s media partner is acompany based in London?

Jonathan O’Neil: Not at all, this is a media and brand capital. We haveoffices and representation in Biarritz and Hossegor France, L.A. andSan Diego, Melbourne, Sydney, Dubai, and Canada.

Transworld SURF Business: Who put the deal together, when didnegotiations begin, and what’s the first step now that the deal is done?

Jonathan O’Neil: SSM met with Rabbit ASP President and CEO Wayne”Rabbit” Bartholomew eighteen months ago in Coolangata and kept inloose contact. We monitored the various parties in negotiations come andgo. We presented to the ASP board in Huntington Beach, California inJuly. We worked with and listened carefully to the ASP board’s needsand the organizers, surfers and brands associated with the tour. Wedeveloped and presented a business plan and financial model to the ASPthat met the cultural, commercial, and deliverables the ASP was lookingfor. We propose to action the agreement January 1, 2001.

Transworld SURF Business: Generally, why hasn’t surfing been a moresubstantial sport on television? At least here in the states, surfinghas very little television presence.

Jonathan O’Neil: It is a competitive market. You need to deliver whatbroadcasters want — balanced with the sports own needs. High productionquality is critical. Leverage and scale — SMG Sportsworld producesand delivers 1,200 hours of TV per annum. You need specialist knowledgecombined with traditional production and distribution expertise. The ASPis a unique property , and we are a unique company.

Transworld SURF Business: What is SSM’s television distributionstrategy?

Jonathan O’Neil: Quality not quantity. We’ll produce 52 presenter lead’as live’ shows in key markets, and 26 monthly magazine shows for worldrelease. We’ll produce High production documentary specials forselective events, and a strong news focus delivering news feeds andsatellite links from all events.

Transworld SURF Business: How will the ASP web site evolve now that thedeal is done? What’s the first step?

Jonathan O’Neil: Go live. Enhance, not re-invent.

Transworld SURF Business: Anything else?

Jonathan O’Neil: We are surfers at heart with a broad base of expertiseand knowledge. We have Cultural understanding married with traditionalmarketing and media skills. We’re excited.

For more information on SSM click here.

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TransWorld SURF Business will continue to update this story as itevolves.