Burton Snowboards scored a public-relations coup on Friday, February 19, when the company took out a parody classified ad in USA Today–prompting an extended article in that day's USA Today Sports section.
The ad, which spoofs the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the scandal surrounding the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, highlights Burton's continuing worries about the Olympic snowboard-team selection process and the inaccurate impression IOC control is giving the public about the sport.
USA Today has a circulation of 2.5-million and a readership of seven-million, and claims it's first in the country in daily readers.
According Dennis Jenson, Burton's director of corporate development, the company also wanted the ad to appear in The New York Times, but that newspaper refused to run the ad.
“We had quite a bit of fun working on it the ad,” laughs Jenson.
What The Ad Says
“Attention–Immediate opportunity available for highly motivated Judges, Delegates, Officials, Organizers, Demigods, Ex-Totalitarian Loyalists, or other willing participants to work in fast-paced, exciting environment.
Responsibilities include staging of international, for-profit events disguised as games for world peace. Must decide where games are conducted, who gets to compete, and who gets to win. Decisions should be made with blatant disregard for honesty, integrity, and the self-determination of athletes. Compensation based on experience finding scapegoats at will and answering to no one. Benefits include free college tuition, real estate “advice,” first-class accommodations, meals, travel, and firearms. Send resume or call toll free: 1-800-881-3138. www.burton.com”
Haakonsen BailsThe ad coincided with Burton team rider Terje Haakonsen's announcement that he would not compete at the Salt Lake Games, citing how the recent scandal has solidified his opinion that the IOC is “corrupt” and that it's members are akin to “the Mafia.”
“IOC President Juan Antonio Samarach is just going to fire a bunch of people, and make himself look good in the process,” says Haakonsen, “when we know he's part of the corruption.”
Haakonsen also boycotted the Nagano games as a protest against the IOC and FIS.
SNOWboarding Business contacted the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland, but representatives there declined to comment on the ad or the boycott.
Rekindling The IssueA 23-line ad in the Marketplace Today section of the weekend edition of USA Today costs 1,610 dollars (70 dollars per line). But the price appears to be cheap compared to the benefits.
First and most importantly, the ad gave national attention to the concerns many in our industry have about Olympic snowboarding.
According to Jenson, these concerns are varied and deep, and include many of the issues raised during the SIA lawsuit against the USSA, the U.S. national governing body for Olympic snowboarding.
However, it also strengthens the public's perception that Burton is snowboarding's defender of the flame: irreverant, fun, and ready to give a sharp poke in the eye to the powers-that-be.
Not too bad for 1,610 dollars, eh?–Sean O'Brien