There was a time when you could associate most top riders with a particular brand. Think of Ruben and Slingshot, Jaime and North, Gisela and Airush and many more. But little by little, riders started swapping their brands not so much based on the kite preferences but on the associated pay check. And while this from the riders perspective is understandable, it does not really pan out as a plus for the brands. When Best kiteboarding started buying up all the top riders did that mean their kites were the number one choice for these riders? Were they riding all these years with kites from other brands but not “fully” reaching their potential and goals? Probably not. After all, they got their top spots with their previous gear so it could not have been that bad, right?!
So how important is then brand loyalty for a team rider and his sponsor? One thing to consider is that a lot of the kites are nowadays very similar and quite exchangeable for the majority of average kite buyers. Riding an Evo or a Bandit? Is there that much difference for the average kiter who is happy to mow the lawn and occasionally pop a backroll off a small wave? Probably not and then he also is probably not going to be swayed in his choice of equipment by seeing some teamrider win the world cup with his brand of kite.
Which leaves us with really only the advanced riders who do not buy a kite based on the ever present marketing hype of “best kite in all conditions for every rider blah blah blah” but on what really works for them and their bag of tricks. Does then this type of rider get influenced by seeing their kite on a podium? I am not sure and by swapping the kite brands around on nearly a yearly basis, I doubt it helps at all.
So then what is truly left is the brand awareness and here is where I believe brand loyalty of a team rider to a particular brand is essential. What does it say about a brand that picks up nearly all top riders one year and then drops them just as quickly the next? Will you now associate Lewis Crathern with Best Kiteboarding or Slingshot or from now on, North? What is a team rider to say on the beach when asked by fellow kiters what he thinks of a Best GP vs a Slingshot Fuel and what made him change?
Of course it all comes down to the amount of “green” a rider can get and let’s face it – a pro kiteboarder is not going to become rich from riding and competing. However, from a brand perspective, I believe it is not helping them to promote themselves by not sticking to their guns.
That being said, it is nice to see some brands trying to buck this trend and pick up the riders that not only are innovative and unique in kiteboarding but also stick with them. So welcome Lewis Crathern to North Kiteboarding where I am sure you and Aaron will be sticking around for some time yet because you know there truly is only one kite out there that can get you higher…