Hightlights From The 2015 IASC Conference
The International Association Of Skateboard Companies held its annual conference May 13-15 at The Westin South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif. Focusing on the theme of "Engage & Evolve," this year's gathering of skate industry executives and retailers once again coincided with the The Skateboarding Hall of Fame induction ceremony and ended with The Vans Pool Party.
State of Skate
The 2015 IASC Conference kicked off with a statistical overview of where the skate industry is headed, delivered by IASC's recently hired Director of Research, Thomas Barker. Barker's addition to the IASC staff highlights a new approach to research and he will be tasked with driving what Executive Director Emeritus Josh Friedberg calls an effort to "deliver tangible assets" to IASC's members.
[Editor's Note: IASC and Transworld Business have partnered on the extensive State of Skate research project this year. As part of that partnership, Transworld Business contributed some top-line results from its recent specialty retailer and consumer studies. IASC members can get full access to the complete report.]
Digital Expert Roundtables
The audience was broken into smaller groups for a series of more up-close discussions with three different experts from the digital media landscape.
Digital Strategy – Rob Brink, Editor-In-Chief at The Hundreds
Brink shared case studies and valuable lessons from some of the major projects he's worked on during his career in skateboarding media. One key pitfall he pointed out that should resonate to people working in action sports: trying to do too much with not enough resources. Brink suggests focusing on a "simple and realistic strategy based on your organization’s strengths and resources.”
Social Media – Paul Kersh, Marketing & Business Strategy, Vans Warped Tour
Kersh holds the distinction of having been the first "new media" employee at Vans about 15 years ago. Based on his extensive experience communicating to kids on behalf of the Warped Tour, he cautioned that those notoriously short attention spans are even shorter than most people think. Less really is more according to Kersh, who pointed out how successful 15-second Instagram videos have been for engaging his Warped Tour audience.
Content Monetization – Andy Schrock, YouTube Star and owner of ReVive decks, FORCE wheels, and AM Grip.
Andy represents the "new breed" of skateboarding star, whose online content may not follow the model of traditional pros, but has built up a following of over 520,000 YouTube subscribers. After creating his dedicated audience by constantly posting new content and interacting with as many fans as humanly possible (Andy claims to only sleep about 4-5 hours per night), he launched a series of brands, including ReVive, with build-in demand to help monetize his efforts.
Evolution of Skateboarding Business
Greg Weisman, a partner at Ritholz Levy, shared some lessons from his experience as an attorney and business advisor for top brands in the industry. Speaking to companies who are considering taking on additional investors, he cautioned them to always ask, "What's the price of that money?" asserting that anyone who is investing their money, no matter how "cool" they seem, will eventually expect a return on that investment… usually sooner than later. He encouraged entrepreneurs to keep being cool and independent as long as they can and reminded them that sometimes "you can't put a value on being the boss."
Skateboarding In The 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Although the process itself is complicated, and there are still plenty of politics to play out, the main takeaway is that skateboarding appears to be on track to debut at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Gary Ream, President of the International Skateboarding Federation, provided an overview of his efforts over the past decade and provided insights on key milestones during the last 12 months. He also laid out a clear picture of what lies ahead.
Consumer Insights From The Cassandra Report
Taylor Clark, Strategy Manager at Deep Focus, shared consumer behavior trends related to Millennials and Gen Z, highlighting some very significant differences between the two. In the process of sharing specific numbers related to her company's youth studies, she drove home the clear point that "teens are NOT just young Millennials."
A big theme throughout this year's conference was the effort of non-profit organizations that are focused around positive societal changes through skateboarding. Attendees heard brief summaries of what three had accomplished: Adaptive Action Sports, Bridge To Skate, and The Poseiden Foundation.
Innoskate Global Innovators Congress
Innoskate is IASC's ongoing partnership with The Smithsonian's Lemelson Center for the study of Invention and Innovation, focused on looking at the topic through the lens of skateboarding. A large international group of innovators was assembled on stage to share their experiences, including Oliver Percovich from Skateistan, Miles Jackson from Cuba Skate, Israel Dejene from Megabi Skate in Ethiopia, Vinicius Tinoco from Next Up Foundation, and Chico Brenes from Central Skateshop and Central Skate Camp in Nicaragua. Common through all the organizations were some very tangible wins and inspiring progress, but also a continued need for resources.