Quik’s McKnight, Vans’ Wilson Address NSAA Convention

This past weekend, the National Ski Areas Association’s 41st annual National Convention And Trade Show descended upon San Diego, California. Attended by more than 125 resort areas from around the country and the manufacturers that cater to them, this year’s show theme was evolution. Presenting partner TransWorld SNOWboarding lent support, connections, and expertise to the NSAA by helping it focus this years convention on the growth potential for resorts who evolve and cater to action-sports and youth market participants.

Two of the most talked about event’s from the conference were the first two keynote addresses. Quiksilver CEO and Chairman Bob McKnight opened the convention with his speech “Staying True To Core Values” on Friday morning, while Vans VP of Global Marketing Jay Wilson discussed “Inclusionary Thinking” Saturday morning.

Opening at a very early 7:45 A.M. Friday morning, McKnight greeted full crowd of 300 people in his casual-cool denim blazer paired with a button-down shirt, khakis, and retro tennis shoes. Stressing the importance of people, McKnight exuded the significance of authenticity in order to attract the action-sports individual, “People give the company its character and personality… all of the original founders (of Quiksilver) are still here and we all participate in these activities.”

Realizing that not all artists, designers, marketers, and participants-as he terms the “salt” of a company-can be “numbers people” who understand the books, McKnight strongly believes that an authentic company can and should include both types in order to achieve growth objectives ,while maintaining crucial understanding of the sports. “Connecting to the youth market is key to your growth,” McKnight explained, “these consumers are responding to this product at an emotional level. Having the right people in your business is key. Everyone in the company has to believe in, understand, and be passionate about the lifestyle that these sports represent.”

McKnight asked resorts to examine themselves to determine what exactly their product is? Secondly, what kinds of partners, or co-branding could they use to help promote that product? Third, are they marketing to the key people by pushing the lifestyle angle by proactively calling relevant magazines and media for stories, photo shoots, and other editorial? And lastly, if the resorts are surrounding themselves and listening to people from the world they want to attract?

The next morning, Jay Wilson addressed a crowd of nearly the same capacity to discuss “Inclusionary Thinking.” Wilson’s off-the-cuff hour-long speech was well received and met with lots of laughs. As he paced the stage around the podium, Wilson dropped knowledge on using a leadership strategy by including everyone in your marketing. For Vans, this means marketing to all three ‘core board sports surf, snow, and skate, as well as wakeboarding, motocross, and BMX biking.

“If you want to double your business, you have to be inclusionary,” Wilson remarked. He urged resorts to follow the multi-sport model, and realize that catering to many individuals allows resorts and manufacturers to both grow their brands and market. “Pick up your phone. People have great ideas and sometimes all you have to do is pick it up and talk to them,” Wilson remarked. Later, when one attendee asked Wilson for his direct-line phone number, he laughed and then gave it out to the entire audience.

Overall McKnight and Wilson’s speeches seemed to resonate with many of the attendees, however it largely depended on the location of their respective resorts. Many California resorts seemed unfazed, sporting a “duh” attitude. “It’s good for many resorts, but those of us in Cali-its not really anything new,” remarked John Loomis, operations director for Northstar-At-Tahoe.

However, for many other resorts both inside and outside the Golden State, the board sports focus was interesting and reflective of the San Diego cconference location. Dan Bergeron of Okemo Mountain Resort was really impressed with the speeches, remarking that he was definitely taking some new information back East. While representatives from Appalachian Ski Mountain in Blowing Rock, North Carolina remarked that it was great to see the conference bring in many resources that reflect the Southern California lifestyle.

Sally Helm, vp of Dodge Ridge, California felt the keynotes were refreshingly new to the conference. “I really liked the speeches. They seemed more genuine than in years past. These aren’t just motivational speakers-they’re really talking about focusing on the youth. That’s what we try to do, but we get off track sometimes and this will help us get back on track.”

New news or old news, McKnight and Wilson’s speeches evoked a lifestyle and culture not fully embraced by all the conference resort attendees. But, hopefully after an entire conference and association with a focus to “evolve,” more than just a few resorts will go home with new strategies and a renewed focus on the youth market and action-sports individual.