Nike, Hurley & Converse Drop Sponsorship for 2013 US Open of Surfing

By Community | September 26, 2012

Nike, here Hurley and Converse have decided against extending their sponsorship of the US Open of Surfing in 2013, ask creating an uncertain future for what would be one of the world’s largest surf festivals next year.

When Hurley took over title sponsorship of the massive event in 2009, later assumed by parent company Nike, the whole scene on the south side of the pier was reinvented. The top surfers – most of whom had passed on Huntington’s lackluster summer waves for years – once again showed up. More was at stake, with bigger prize money offered. The crowds came down in masses, nearly 1 million in nine days the last week of July and first week of August, with offerings such as free beach concerts from big-name bands like Weezer and MGMT.

Hurley, Senior Vice President of Marketing Evan Slater: said: “But we also strive to constantly innovate and evolve. For us, we’ve decided to export what we created at the U.S. 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.”

Among the successes of the US Open was raising the level of surfing. In 2008, before the brands took over, only five of the 44 world’s top surfers attended the event. In 2012, 30 of the top 32 competed.

“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 massive audience more. People become more excited to attend and participate in all aspects of the event. It’s all interconnected,” Slater wrote.

When asked whether the event’s near-tipping point came into the discussions of discontinuing sponsorship, Slater said that crowd management is something they accepted going into a large-scale event like the US Open, and wasn’t one of the factors considered when pulling out.

The brands will continue with the Australian Open of Surfing, which they sponsored for the first time last year.

“We love the Australian Open and plan on continuing with the event in the future – tons of potential there.”

Owner of IMG James Leitz – the company that owns the US Open – did not return calls for comment.

Slater said he hopes the Hurley brand will continue its relationship with Huntington Beach, and that the U.S. Open will continue to thrive.

“We have been and always will be a Huntington Beach brand. Our relationship with the city goes much deeper than the US Open, and we will continue to support and work with it in many different ways,” he wrote. “We were honored to be a part of such an amazing event for the past four years – in our own back yard, no less – and look forward to seeing another brand pick it up from here and keep it amazing.”