Why Brands See The Value Behind Snowboarding Contests: Burton US Open In Vail
Last year marked the first time Burton’s US Open of Snowboarding event changed venues over its 31-year history. Now in its 32nd year, the coveted contest’s move from Vermont to Vail, Colorado, proved to be a positive one, drawing a crowd of more than 50,000 people over the course of the 5-day event, compared to 30,000 in years past at Stratton.
While the event was welcomed with open arms by the Vail community and all those in attendance last year, Burton has continued to up the ante, driving a new partnership with Fox to broadcast the event live this year. One of the major areas of continued support and growth for the contest has remained with the sponsorship presence from both endemic and non-endemic companies. As the contest gets officially underway today for its second year in Vail, we spoke with a handful of this year’s diverse range of sponsors to get a feel for why they see value in supporting one of snowboarding’s largest and oldest contests in existence.
Take a look back at the 31st Burton US Open:
How have the conversations with partners and event sponsors been different this year now that everyone has seen the Burton US Open in Vail?
Nick Sargent, Burton Snowboards Director of Partner Marketing: After a successful 31st US Open in Vail, partners are really stoked to return to a world-class event, resort, and town. Vail has everything to offer to snowboards and winter sport enthusiast alike, but also the entertainment, family friendly events and overall Colorado hospitality lends itself perfectly to our partners. We're looking forward to another successful US Open in Vail as well as the excitement all our partners bring to the event.
Do you feel like it increased the exposure and overall impact of the event?
Sargent, Burton: Last year the US Open had a total of 1,400 hours of live broadcast and 56,000 hours of webcast internationally. Burton recently partnered with Fox Sports to leverage and grow viewership for the US Open as well as all Burton Global Snowboarding events. The success of the US Open and all Burton Global events has contributed to increased exposure for the brand, the US Open and snowboarding. We're working to grow our exposure (domestic & International) as well as progress our sport.
What value does Vail see in hosting the Burton US Open?
Davy Ratchford, Vail Mountain Marketing Director: The Burton US Open is one of the most prestigious snowboarding events in the world with a long-established history. Vail and Burton are both iconic brands in their own right and it’s a natural fit to partner on this high-caliber event.
Are you making any significant changes to your on-site activation based on your experience last year?
Patrick McKenna, Manager, MINI Motoring Events: Yes, we are adding the MINI Mountain Rally, a test drive program we are thrilled about. Test drives are a challenge at other mountains but Vail provides the optimal layout on weekdays and even the weekend. Now we have thrilling rides on and off mountain.
Jamal Henderson, Senior Manager, Mountain Dew: In addition to last year's activation where our snowboarders were onsite to sign autographs, the DEW experience includes a green screen that will allow fans to step into Danny Davis' "Living Portrait" ad, creating their own portrait to share on social media. Additionally, attendees can participate in a Green Label Social Store Instagram scavenger hunt and win premium prizes. DEW will also sample its two new Mountain Dew Kickstart flavors – Black Cherry and Limeade – which fuse the great taste of Mountain Dew with five percent real fruit juice, plus electrolytes for taste.
Maddie Estrada, Garmin Media Relations Associate: At the US Open, Garmin will have a video team, sales managers, product trainers, as well as marketing managers and sponsorship/PR associates. We want to do everything we can to make this event a success, and the best way to do that is to have a full team on-site to make sure everything goes smoothly. Garmin puts a lot into its sponsorships, and even though this is our first time at the US open, we want it to be a success and continue to build a strong relationship with Burton and the snowboarding community.
What process do you use in creating a consumer-facing presence that is relevant to the Burton and US Open audience?
McKenna, MINI: Our first priority is to make sure the MINI on mountain experience is FUN. Our display space is made up of repurposed shipping containers, which demonstrates MINI's "creative use of space." Inside the container, we allow visitors to dress up in glasses, wigs and hats for the camera so that they can share their new look with friends. As you can see, we don't take ourselves too seriously. And, we have "spin to win" opportunities to get some MINI swag, goggles and, yes, even a few MINI x Burton custom snowboards per day.
Estrada, Garmin: The Garmin sponsorship team worked closely with the marketing, creative, social media and PR teams to come up with a plan that would fit into the events already taking place at the US Open, but also promote our products and encourage people to stop by our booth. Some of our European offices have done "Try Before You Buy" programs at other events, so we thought that bringing that to the US Open would be a great opportunity to let people try out the camera for free and be able to take the footage home with them. We also knew that social media had to play a part, so we're incorporating that as well, and encouraging people to visit our vanity site by hosting daily giveaways that include two VIRB cameras, mounts, and a custom Burton snowboard.
What kind of staff will you have on-site to execute your US Open activation? How significant of an investment is this to you?
Vail Mayor Andy Daly: The entire Town of Vail staff is working "all hands on deck" to make this year's Burton US Open even better than last year! We are looking forward to welcoming all of the guests, spectators, participants and sponsors back for the second year of this great event in Vail. The town invested $400,00 in the event and from studies conducted when the event was here a year ago, we expect to surpass the estimated $1.6 million in direct visitor spending from the 2013 event. Additionally, we hope to create more loyal Vail ambassadors from this event who turn into guests of ours for a very long time. Local businesses who lean into an event and actively participate with offers for guests should definitely see a benefit in additional sales.
McKenna, MINI: We are experts at building customized MINIs and not necessarily snowboarding masters so we use Burton's event agency, MSI, to help us navigate. We supplement their staff with our own product experts to make a diversified team. The Burton Global Series is a significant investment for MINI and especially here in the US since the pinnacle event is the US Open. We work closely with Burton to fully integrate MINI into the jumps and rails on the mountain. Prior to the US Open, we also sponsor The Burton Mountain Festival, which travels across the US to mountains with entertainment, product demos and thrilling rides.
What kind of resource commitment does Vail make for this event?
Ratchford, Vail: Vail's mountain and base operations are heavily involved with Burton in executing this event. The Vail marketing team also promotes the event in conjunction with the Burton team through all of their existing channels.
How do you measure the overall success and ROI of an event sponsorship like the Burton US Open?
Henderson, Mountain Dew: For Mountain Dew, success is not necessarily about the number of samples given out at the US Open or number of consumers the brand engages onsite, but more about reinforcing our authentic connection to the sport of snowboarding and snow culture, and being able to stand next to Burton as a partner.
Estrada, Garmin: Several ways. Not only through booth traffic, but the number of people who take advantage of the "Try Before You Buy" program, but also engagement on social media, traffic to garmin.com/snowboarding and the number of contest entries. With this event sponsorship, we also want to build brand awareness in the snow-space.
Daly, Vail Mayor: We've enlisted an independent research firm to calculate all facets of the event's impact. This includes visitor spending, enhanced guest satisfaction, ability to reinforce and shape the Vail brand, international media exposure, keeping Vail at the forefront of the snow sports industry, and the variety of intangible community benefits the event brings. As a result, we're confident the town's investment is grounded and has far-reaching impacts.
McKenna, MINI: We see Burton and snowboarding as a great fit for MINI since we both appeal to young, creative people who have fun taking awesome turns. Many visitors to our MINI display tell us how excited they are to see us support the US Open. From an ROI standpoint, we have thousands of people seek out more information on MINI each year from this partnership sell quite a few "first time owners."
From Vail’s perspective, how do you measure the success and ROI of hosting the event?
Ratchford, Vail: The Burton US Open has tremendous international exposure and we look at that to help evaluate the success. We also look at overall visits to the mountain before, during, and after the event itself.
Why do you feel that it’s important for your brand to be at The Burton US Open and have a significant footprint in snowboarding?
Estrada, Garmin: When most people see Garmin, the first thing they think of are PNDs. With events like the US Open, we can build the Garmin brand as more than a PND company in an areas that we previously haven't been in as much—like snowboarding and snowsports, which is extremely important now that Garmin is a player in the action camera market.
Mayor Daly: The Town of Vail is the premier international year-round mountain resort community and the USO introduces Vail and the brand to a different crowd. The younger generation tends to lean toward snowboarding so having North America's premier snowboarding event in Vail is a great way to introduce them to the brand. This is one of the biggest events we have in Vail during the year. Vail is the best brand in mountain resorts and Burton is the best snowboard brand so we couldn't be happier about the partnership and hope it lasts for many years.
McKenna, MINI: We find the optimism and positive vibes in snowboarding to be right in line with MINI brand values and the US Open is a world-class snowboarding competition. The camaraderie we see amongst competitors is inspiring and reminds us of our MINI owner/racing community.
Henderson, Mountain Dew: Mountain Dew is committed to adding value to snowboarding by progressing the sport and supporting our snowboard athletes. Some of the top snowboarders in the world come to the US Open, an event run by snowboarders, so it's an important and authentic place for Mountain Dew to be.
How does a major event like this fit into your overall marketing strategy?
Ratchford, Vail: Vail's event strategy is predicated on bringing in events that encourage guests to come in off-peak periods. Vail is a huge mountain with unparalleled terrain and state -of-the-art infrastructure. Couple that with fantastic off-peak period events and you have a win-win scenario. Guests will come to Vail to be part of the Burton US Open and find an amazing mountain to ride in addition to world-class lodging, dining and more in town.
Where do you rank the importance of opportunities for live consumer interaction (like the US Open) in your overall marketing and promotional program?
McKenna, MINI: We are an underdog in the automotive space in the US and we don't have a massive advertising budget so live consumer interactions are key to our success. Like Burton, MINI has a massive fan base of enthusiastic owners. This summer, we will be driving with over 5,000 MINI owners from San Francisco to Boston. No other car company can claim that kind of owner involvement and as we like to say, "no other car comes standard with friends."
Estrada, Garmin: Live consumer interaction is extremely important for Garmin, especially for a product like VIRB and VIRB Elite, where we encourage consumers to record and share their experience with the product. We have traditional mediums like TV spots and print ads running to promote VIRB and VIRB Elite, but with the audience that we're trying to reach, having a presence at the events that they attend is just as important.