Jimmy wants to be JP Walker, and Bobby wants to Bjorn Leines. With dope video parts and high-quality images in the mags, the personalities and riding skills of pro riders inspire customers to purchase their products. The hope is that some of that steez is contagious.
As pro models proliferate in 2002, it seems most snowboard brands believe wholeheartedly in the power of the riders to move product off shelves. From new board models at Burton to a new sig boot from Northwave, pro models are springing up all over the place in every product category.
Although Vans has been doing it for years and Forum got in the game last year with JP’s boot, more and more companies are offering signature boots for next season. Most notable is the new Kevin Jones model from Northwave. “Kevin is doing so well, he deserved his own boot,” states Max Perotti, Northwave’s European team manager, as he explains part of the company’s rationale for the new boot. A company that has grabbed considerable market share in the last few years with a strong comfort and fit positioning, Northwave believes having a KJ boot will boost sales, particularly in the U.S.
For bindings, Flux offers a Jamie Lynn model at the top of its line, and Technine lays down three signature models this year: Scotty Whitlake’s, Mark Frank Montoya’s, and Ali Goulet’s. Given the capital requirements for injection molds, a signature product in the binding world usually amounts to a unique colorway, graphics, and perhaps exclusive ankle straps.
Pro models seem to particularly make sense as a tool for increasing sales in different geographical regions of the market. While Michi Albin might not have a considerable following in the U.S., his new pro model from Burton is bound to generate some healthy revenue in Europe. Technine sees sales of its signature models vary within North America: Scotty’s does well in Northern California, whereas Ali’s are better in Colorado. As Ethan Fortier, Technine’s owner and marketing director, points out, “Our pro models are super strong in Japan. Basically, there are people who buy the ‘Be Marc Frank’ package that includes everything he wears and rides.”
At Allian, there’s a firm belief that having pro models allows a new company to penetrate the market more easily. The teamriders add excitement and legitimacy to the brand and give shop owners reason to believe customers will come knocking on the door with credit card in hand.
But it’s not always about the bottom line and leveraging the product selling power of the team. For smaller, rider-focused brands like Technine and Allian, pro models are a way to give back to the riders, to share the wealth with people who are integral members of the companies. “It’s a chance for us to offer royalties,” states Technine’s Fortier. “We’re a rider-driven company and it’s a way to give the riders what they deserve.”
At Allian where the bulk of the line is signature product, it’s also a natural expression of the brand’s essential core: an unadulterated rider-driven entity. As Owner and Marketing Manager Greger Hagelin explains, “It’s more fun to run a company that is with and for the riders.”
While most brands endorse the pro-model theory of snowboard sales and marketing, other companies like Morrow, Palmer, and M3 buck the conventional wisdom. Although M3 has riders fully worthy of signature models, they elect to focus the power of the team on marketing the entire brand. “We want to build a brand,” explains M3’s Director of Sales Mark Miller. “All these guys are backing this one thing.” Miller goes on to state that the choice to stay away from signature products makes sense because it doesn’t force shops to buy board sizes that don’t fit their average consumers. “It lets retailers stock product in a good way. Mikey Leblanc might not ride the 160, but he can still sell it,” he says.