Nike and Hurley Pull Sponsorship of US Open

Despite success with event, the brands are moving on

| posted on September 25, 2012

At next year's U.S. Open, who knows whose banners will be waving. Photo: Ellis

After four years of sponsoring the iconic US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, Nike and Hurley have said that it’s time to step away from the event. The decision to pull out of the contest came as a shock to many in the surf industry. When asked why they had opted not to renew their sponsorship of the event, Hurley’s Evan Slater stated that they had achieved what they had originally set out to accomplish and are now interested in growing the brand in other ways.

“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,” said Slater. “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.” Hurley was purchased by Nike in 2002 and remained a co-sponsor with Nike until this year’s event.

In an interview with Shop-Eat-Surf, Bob Hurley, founder of Hurley, said that in the near future, their focus will be on connecting with the youth while strengthening their focus on athletes. “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.” In the same interview, Nike’s Sandy Bodecker was quoted as saying, “Over the last four years we’ve worked with IMG to make the US Open one of the most exciting sporting moments of the summer. But we are always looking for new ways to connect with athletes and consumers. In the spirit of evolving, we are exploring new opportunities to help elevate the sport beyond the sand to new audiences around the world.”

The decision to stop sponsoring the event came as a surprise to the ASP, who only found out about the decision yesterday. It should be noted that IMG World, a company that “helps brands reach the elusive youth market through high-impact action sports properties,” actually holds the license to the event and effectively sublet it out to Nike.

“Nike did not inform the ASP of their decision to withdraw from the US Open before today’s announcement, however, their relationship was with the license holder, IMG.,” said the ASP’s Dave Prodan. “ASP deals with IMG on the license for the US Open and IMG, in turn, work with companies like Nike on sponsorship. We are thankful for Nike and Hurley’s contribution to the US Open over the last several years.”

Prodan also stated that IMG does not yet have a sponsorship secured for the 2013 US Open, but he holds full faith they will secure one soon. “At present, IMG has informed us that they are confident in finding a new partner for the US Open in 2013,” he said. “ASP has had a long relationship with IMG and we have the utmost faith in their ability to continue to deliver the US Open to the surfing public.”

When it was announced that Nike and its affiliates were no longer sponsoring the US Open, many in the industry speculated that the brands could be looking to pick up a new World Tour event. But according to Prodan, who was speaking on behalf of the ASP, there are no cemented plans for Hurley or Nike to have a new WT event in the near future. Hurley’s Evan Slater also confirmed that the brand would not be sponsoring a new WT event.

The loss of Nike’s sponsorship could have a direct consequences for women’s professional surfing. As it currently stands, the Women’s US Open was the last of seven events on the women’s tour. Without a major sponsor, the women’s tour would be cut to six event and would only span five months. The ASP has stated that they, along with IMG, would very much like to keep the US Open a WT event for women, but as of press time, they cannot definitively state that the US Open will be a women’s WT event in 2013.

  • Gage Hartman

    As a new fan and proponent of the surfing world, this saddens me. This event in Huntington Beach, propelled by Nike and Hurley’s sponsorship, drew me to both the brands, the location, but most importantly the sport and the lifestyle. I have grown up in Kansas and to say the least we are under-exposed to the sport and the lifestyle that surfing provides. The connection with the ocean that a surfer achieves is something that I work hard every single day to hopefully experience for myself after I graduate from college. This partnership between the ASP, the city of HB and the two clothing juggernauts was a match made in heaven and I greatly fear for the future of the spectacle that is the US Open. We come to the HB area every year to attend my sister’s softball nationals, but having a mom that grew up in Hermosa, the US Open has been a must every year. We plan to return next year, regardless, but I hope it keeps its reputation that I have grown to love in my short time as a fan. Surf on.

  • Poop Pants

    The quotes from Hurley and Nike should read “Although the event was huge it didn’t boost our sales, so screw this we are giving it up.” The death of the surf industry is just around the corner. Rip Curl went up for sale for $500 million last week. They are only projected to make $50 million this year. Wonder how much of that goes to the salaries of Fanning, Owen, Mendia (my guess is at least $7-8 million or so).

    There was rumors awhile back that Quik was having money issues too and a few other big players. The surf industry tried to grow way to fast over the last 5 years be it in the size and number of contests, the contest award money or rider salaries. Sales arent there to match and these companies are realizing it too late. Hopefully these brands can figure. I would hate to see Nike, Adidas, and all these other non-surf brands be the only thing left.

  • Thomas S.

    “The loss of Nike’s sponsorship could have a direct consequences for women’s professional surfing. As it currently stands, the Women’s US Open was the last of seven events on the women’s tour. Without a major sponsor, the women’s tour would be cut to six event and would only span five months. The ASP has stated that they, along with IMG, would very much like to keep the US Open a WT event for women, but as of press time, they cannot definitively state that the US Open will be a women’s WT event in 2013.”

    Does everyone now see what happens when you allow for Large Sporting Good companies to come into our indsturies and create their monopolies!?

  • Piss Pants

    I agree with Poop Pants.

    How soon before Nike tries to sell off or dump Hurley?

    I wouldn’t mind the US Open being smaller. Too many people come by and gum up HB. It’s not much better than the stupid paintball tournaments they do there that attract all the Riverside knuckledraggers and emo goth kids. Surfing does not need to explode. It’s fine the way it is, if these companies can’t find a good place to latch on, so be it. Fuck ’em.

  • Whamo

    The economic charts predict disaster ahead so these companies are just being prudent with their cash.

  • Kupihea

    I knew I should have chosen the black wetsuit, single-fin, neck beard route!

  • help

    Nike realised despite efforts of running a massive carnivale style contest at HB that they are really losing money.

    HA HA

    the real surfing is just arou nd the corner.

    Surfing still exists without multinational sponsorship.

    financial crashes means less people surfing. YEW

  • http://none steve briggs

    A womens Tour reduced to 5 contests?! That is not a Tour and should not define a World Champion.
    Who is the ASP West Coast representative that should have known Nike/Hurley would pull out of the U.S. Open? Did the ASP not have a backup plan? Who is running that asylum? Without question Nike/Hurley raised the bar significantly for the U.S. Open. But it took a truck load of $$$. Slater, Fanning, Parko, Jordy and more did not need to show up at the U.S. Open. They were PAID APPEARANCE MONEY. Each surfer received gifts as well as cash and free hotel rooms and more to show up at the U.S. Open. That is what you won’t read about the U.S. Open. The format the ASP has come up with to get to the World Elite Tour is broken. The ASP Management is broken. The companies are in charge and the West Coast representative for the ASP should tender his resignation. How do you replace Nike? Keep in mind Bob Hurley also raised the bar with prize money at the U.S. Open. But whose money was it? It was a 4-letter word.

  • G

    I agree with Poop Pants and Piss Pants. I also feel compelled to add that I think Gage Hartman may actually be a female pro (surfer) trying to convince the industry that these large (no admission fee) events are somehow worth the tremendous expenditure. Maybe the US Open will get picked up by one of the local hotels along with a condom company. Just sayin’

  • marko

    I get the real feeling that the surf industry is in a real transition state and it is not immune to the global financial situation.
    The surf industry or surf apparal industry I should say faces the largest challenge on how to achieve growing sales, and I would bet that contest promotions do not do it. The fact is there is so much choice clothing brand wise and from brands that are not even surf related that the market is very crowded.
    For myself I purchase no surf branded clothing although I have surfed most of my life Surf labels are generally overpriced and other stuff is in many instances better looking.
    The current model is probably defunct and it will be interesting to see where the ASP and tour in general goes I believe there will be more casualties in relation to the contest circuit and pro surfing in general for a while.
    The good news is Surfing itself is still the best thing ever and that will never change.

  • WCS

    Hope and change baby! All that’s left is change!

  • tomahawk waveshredder

    WOW, after accomplishing what, where “u” wanted to put these sports how f ckin selfish is dat. nike and hurley just told da extreme sports and surfing what kind of company’s they are selfish bastard’s. if dat’s not a selfish comment, “what we wanted to accomplish”, yeah just ur company’s accomplished making da US OPEN OF SURFING one of da biggest sporting events is too much to hear. those company’s mention nothing about da fans, consumers or one time consumers, i know i won’t buy either onne of these products, nike or hurley, it’s to bad especialy for hurley, because they put out some pretty cool shit. i’ve got shirts and a pair of hurley boardshorts i love, but after this bullshit cope out, no more of ur products, can u say BOYCOTT!!!!come brahs, let’s stick together and BOYCOTT THEY ASSES!!!!usually when “u” geta product to great heights as said did, u stay with it because it seems like it would be making $$$ and dat’s what thes company’s are about. dat’s to bad because da brah who owned or founded hurley seemed like a pretty cool brah and doesn’t seem like da type to be involved with this bullshit. well fuck off nike and hurley ur lose will be somebody elses gain, good riddances. now fuck off and go make another sport “ur” sport becuz ur so big and bad, bad for da sport with this kind of bullshit, again FUCK OFF NIKE AND HURLEY “u” didn’t make shit, da fans, consumers and da athletes did, not “u”. eat shit and live so u can taste it for years. peace out, hawk:-/

  • Ben

    Fine by me. That contest sucks. Maybe some money can get spent on contests in good waves.

  • tomahawk waveshredder

    the brahs dat are bringin up women’s surfin are missin da point i’m pretty sure. da point here isn’t about women’s surfin which i find stiil in need of major improvement as any other women’s sport. women just can’t bring it like men can be it hoops, golf, surfing, they can’t play football or baseball, women’s hoops is struggling to stay afloat. how can u compare women’s hoops to men’s when we’re playin above da hoop just like in surfin we’re surfin above da lip and women are struggling to do blow tails, come on. i’m not a female/woman hater but leave da sports to da men. da excitement level is well no compare. men are just bigger, faster and more excitin to watch, i’ve tried to watch women’s surfin but got bored after a few rides by da best, stephie, coco, enever, etc, but if u can’t blow tail, big airs, bigger deeper tuberides, just all of it, then waz da point. put more into da men’s asp tour fuck da women, sorry ladies and men’s asp tour will have more $$$ for more stops on tour, more sponsors will jump in and maybe finallyasp surfing will get a series of events on a major network for joe public to see what da best surfers in da best condtions can bring and they’ll bring it, big air, blow tails, deep tuberides on breaks like chopes, cloudbreak, for action surfin trestles, HB pier, etc, but we need da $$$ and women’s surfin is basically dead. i watched a minute of da contest in spain i think for women and it was weak. come on ladies quit being selfish and let da men take surfin where it needs to be BIGTIME!!!! if u’ve ever learned how to surf i’ve been surfin like a pro for 35yrs went today and caught real good head high+ on my 9’6 and left with da biggest smile, yeah ur probably sayin kook 9’6 but at 51 i’ve been there and done dat, on certain days when it actually gets shortboardable for a 6′ 205lb in god shape surfer i still get on it when it’s firing, but until u’ve actually caught a wave and ridden it u don’t know waz ur missin, i guess dat’s a good thing only a few of us can do it, it’s already a zoo when it gets good, only 4 brahs out today and a 7-8ft shark i thought i was lunch. anyway, on dat note peace out and keep fightin da good fight brahs, women step aside, hawk 😉

  • Frederick

    This comment is directed at the cretin below me. 51 years old and not a single one spent on education it seems

  • mac

    tomahawk, are you retarded? (not a joke).

  • Frank Castle

    You seem like a nice person Gage, but you should know that most surfers like the fact that the sport is under-exposed. Less people in the water means more waves and less danger of being injured by a novice. So if you’re are met with a less than warm welcome at certain beaches, it’s for that reason. If you’re truly serious about surfing, you should know it takes lots of practice and is no easy path.

  • Rufus

    Surfing was never about multinational corporations, fashion, Wallstreet, massive exposure and commercialization. NO surfer wants it. I miss the time it was more of a counterculture, a rare and special thing for few people. Kind of what Miki Dora felt.

  • tony (ty) carson big island

    Nike is basically a track and field shoe company, hurley is owned by nike, what surfer worth his salt would have anything to do with a track and field shoe company. Can’t think of anything much lamer than track and field Surfers should just boycott these companies. Just do it.

  • rza

    This year’s U.S. Open was a hype machine that just spun round and round in love with itself. During the webcast every 5 or 10 minutes they would cut to a commercial promoting the event itself and then each surfer would spew off about how significant the event was. Some said it was the most important event of the year!! Pat O’Connell for instance. And it’s not even a WCT event. So….to sum it up, according to Nike; ‘The U.S. Open is the best event EVER, but we don’t want to sponsor it anymore’.
    When surfers let huge corporations sponsor the events it should come as no surprise when they pull the plug. It should be expected and understood that these corporations feel no love towards surfing and only care about making money. Hopefully most surfers know enough to read between the lines and make attempts to support companies that have a history with surfing and a real passion for the sport.

  • Dave

    There was a contest at HB?

  • fred

    This is good news. The less support for silly self promotional surfing contests the better. Surfing used to have soul. Now its full of the surfing industrial complex and its focus on kids doing tricks. If we’re lucky sponsors will start to pull out as well and we can get back to what surfing is all about.

  • Paul Litchfielder

    I think this change is good. I won’t be as eloquent with my language as others who have made comments about this, but all I can say, is bigger isn’t necessarily better. I think IMG and ASP need to revisit and determine once again what their objectives are with holding this event as the U.S. Open at this location.
    Be honest, does Huntington Beach really produce the quality waves that this event is deserving of?
    And, when was the last time you rode a Nike surfboard? Or had a set of Hurley traction pads or a Hurley leash on your board? Granted, all these companies accessories are important to the attendants, but beyond that, where’s the connection?
    I used to drive to and surf HB in the sixties, when it was a cool town to visit. With the hoards of people this event attracts, what percentage of the people there actually care about the surfing or the surfers? It’s just a place for cool dudes and foxy chicks to come together and get off on whatever they get off on these days. The surfing and surfers are only secondary.
    Find a quality location that this event deserves, and put on a quality event the term “U.S. Open” describes. And maybe take the Mavericks approach, only hold it when the waves are at their best. Granted, no one has a crystal ball, and in order for the event to be successful, you need time to prepare for it. But going back to the “bigger isn’t always better”, a company or companies that are in closer touch with those “who care”, should be able to pull it off.