Look for new logo placement for the 2013 US Open of Surfing. Photo Checkwood

After four years of serving as the main sponsors of The US Open of Surfing, Nike and Hurley will no longer sponsor the Huntington Beach-based event beginning in 2013.

Over the last several years, Hurley had the opportunity to takeover its Huntington Beach backyard and birthplace with an all-out, two-week marketing blitz. During that time, Hurley and parent company Nike, which also owns co-sponsor Converse, have become synonymous with the event, and the team feels it met the goals it began the sponsorship with and that it’s time to refocus its efforts, and a budgetary line item that accounted for nearly half of Hurley’s events spend, in other areas. 

We caught up with Hurley Senior Vice President of Marketing Evan Slater to learn more about the decision and where he and his team will be focusing their marketing efforts going forward.

The US Open has become synonymous with Nike and Hurley over the last several years and is definitely the sport’s largest venue. What lead you to sever ties with the event going forward?

We sponsored the US Open in 2009 with a goal: to work with the city of Huntington Beach, IMG, and the athletes to make the ultimate action sports happening of the summer. We wanted to change the way the world sees action sports events and re-establish Huntington Beach as the center of the surfing universe. In a lot of ways we felt we achieved those goals in four years. Close to a million people attended the event in 2012. Thirty of the top 32 surfers competed and brought surfing to unseen levels at the Pier. We were able to turn the beach into one 14-acre digital connectivity center. So much magic happened during our time at the US Open and we're confident that magic will continue. But we also strive to constantly innovate and evolve. For us, we've decided to export what we created at the US Open and invest it into other aspects of our business, like a renewed athlete focus and new and exciting ways of connecting with millions of kids.

Hurley’s Ryan Hurley and Evan Slater outside the brand’s booth at Surf Expo.

What portion of your marketing budget did the Open account for and how do you plan to reallocate those funds going forward?

The US Open was about half of our overall events spend. Our opportunity is our ability to have a dialogue with millions of kids. Will it be in the form of a US Open somewhere else? Probably not. This isn't about moving our investment in Huntington Beach to a similar event somewhere else. It's about looking at new and innovative ways to connect with the next generation.

The US Open seemed like a huge, annual marketing coup for Hurley. What were some of thehighlights for the brand and why do you feel you won’t get the same return on your investment going forward?

More than anything, we take pride in the athlete response over the past four years. Before committing to sponsorship of the US Open, in 2008, five of the top 44 attended the event. In 2012, 30 of the top 32 competed and enjoyed Huntington Beach. We try to make the experience fun for them and give them the world-class athlete treatment they deserve. In turn, that makes it better for everyone. The athletes are happier. They perform better. They interact with the fans more. More fans attend and participate in all aspects of the event. It's all interconnected.

It's not that we feel we won't get the same return on this experience—this is the beauty of Huntington Beach and the great work done by James Letiz and the IMG team. For us, it's about evolving. How can we connect with an even larger audience through another medium? That's our opportunity and challenge moving forward.

Can you share some of your specific marketing pushes for the near term? Are you going to be focusing less on contests, creating your own, or putting your time and dollars into new strategic pushes?

Top line, it's this: For us, we've decided to export what we created at the US Open and invest it into other aspects of our business, like a renewed athlete focus and new and exciting ways of connecting with millions of kids. 

While the US Open reaches over a million people each summer, it, like all contests, has a short time window compared to ongoing marketing pushes. Do you see that as a limiting side of being so focused on one large event?

In many ways, the US Open lived on year round for us. It's in our backyard. It informed so many things we've done and has been a rallying point for us as a brand each summer. This decision isn't about calling into question the viability of large-scale events. A four-year commitment to an event like the US Open shows how much we believed and still believe in it. It's now someone else's turn to keep the momentum going.

If you guys are going to focus on contests or series going forward, what have you learned from working with the Open that you’ll apply there?

The possibilities are limitless with great partners.

What will you miss the most about working on the Open?

Having sand in my shoes for two straight weeks.