Everyone in the surfing world may have already heard news of Billabong purchasing Ripcurl pretty soon. The major surf brand is currently under management of Oak Tree Capital and the same company is positioning to purchase Ripcurl.
Although there were no clear details about the acquisition, this move clearly means that Oak Tree Capital will be the sole owner of the three biggest brands in surfing, Quiksilver and Billabong, which they have bailed out from troubled waters in the recent years, and now Ripcurl.
So how does this move change things? What could be the impact of this deal to the customers? How does this affect the team riders currently sponsored by these brands and how does it change the World Surf League, which has major event sponsorship deals with these brands?
Here are my thoughts on the matter:
The products will most likely stay the same and the quality will remain. But the manufacturing and logistics may change to what is more efficient and cost effective. For example, the three brands might share a single factory for manufacturing board shorts and a single factory for making wetsuits as a way of consolidating and reducing costs. But that’s just a thought, as there are many ways by which things can be done. But one thing is for sure, these products would not lose the quality touch anytime soon.
There can be two scenarios; one would be merging all three companies to form one new brand and two would be to keep the status quo for a while. A merger and rebranding though can work as a double-edged sword. It can either make the company succeed or fail. And we also have to consider that there are other stakeholders in the three different companies aside from Oak Tree Capital, so this can’t be that simple to iron out.
But I think regardless of being all under the same umbrella, the brands would look to keep the same distinct identity they all individually had in the past. When Oak Tree Capital had a grip on Quiksilver and Billabong, both brands didn’t really merge into one so the chances of merging all three into one are not so high, at least for the time being.
Billabong, Quiksilver, and Ripcurl all have their individually sponsored team riders, from groms to amateurs, QS surfers, CT surfers and even world champions. These sponsorships cost a great deal and eat up a huge chunk of profit. Assuming that the companies maintain status quo, the team riders get to keep their sponsorships for at least a couple of years before any major changes will be made. Remember, it took WSL about two years before Kelly’s Surf Ranch became officially a part of the 2018 Championship Tour.
These companies all have their individual marketing campaigns. RipCurl has The Search, Quiksilver has Young Guns, Billabong has big wave awards, camps, Boardtales and the Occ-cast with former World Champ Mark Occhilupo. You find these brands almost everywhere in the surfing community. It could be a big and complicated merger if it happens at all but not impossible.
Here is where the fun part is: A single company (Oak Tree Capital) is coming in as three different brands and as different major sponsors of WSL events. It is important to note that out of 11 WSL Championship Tour events in the 2017 season, Quiksilver, Billabong and Ripcurl all took two events each as major sponsors showing on the event names. That’s huge domination! If these brands all take on one name, it will be that single name all over the place in the WSL CT event schedule.
So in summary, there really isn’t much to worry about if you are a team rider or a fan of one of these brands because at this time, there shouldn’t be any immediate and sudden major moves especially that talks about the acquisition have never been finalized yet.
But this is something to ponder on. One big surfing brand could emerge out of all these and spark up the interest of people for the surfing culture by which these brands have established their names on. On the other hand, none of the things I said might even happen.
I am no business analyst and so I will not be able to give data to provide a more logical answer to these questions. I am just speaking based on my comprehension as a surfer who has tried all three of those brands and likes them all.
The question I am leaving you with right now is, if these three surfing brands were to merge together, what would you name it? And why?
Be sure to post your comments below.
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