Fresh on the heels of Nike’s action sports branding change from Nike 6.0 to simply Nike (you may have seen their commercials during the NBA Finals games – I couldn’t take my eyes off of P-Rod and the others, and especially the flaming Nike board among the nighttime surf — but where does this shift leave Nike SB?), Nike announces its title sponsorship of the 2011 US Open of Surfing which will now be the 2011 Nike US Open of Surfing. This year’s event, which is expected to draw 500,000+ will take place July 30 to August 7. The event is free and open to the public and can be viewed from along a 14-acre stretch of sand on the south side of Huntington Beach Pier or at www.usopenofsurfing.com.

With these two moves, there’s no doubt Nike is tightening its focus on the action sports space, and with an insane team consisting of the likes of FMXer James Stewart (of Fuel TV’s “Bubba’s World” fame), skateboard icon Paul Rodriguez, skier and X Games 2011 medalist Sammy Carlson, and snowboard Olympians Greg Bretz, Elena Hight and Louie Vito, it looks like Nike can boast one of the biggest and deepest athlete rosters in the industry. I remember many years ago when rumors of Burton being sold to the footwear giant were being circulated and many were angry (these were only rumors; obviously the sale never happened) arguing that “what does a running company know about snowboarding,” but these days, it seems that with the right resources and marketing, a running company can do just fine in the action sports space. No, Nike hasn’t been there since the beginning, but with such a big focus on young talent, the young shredder-wannabes of today who admire and strive to emulate the Nike team will probably never even know Nike started out solely as a running shoe company. Of course, the purists are still probably angry.

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