WSL Update: Post-Snapper
The first CT contest under the WSL banner has been run and won, though it wasn't anywhere near as succint as that sentence would have you believe. An unseasonal flat spell saw the men go on hold for an unprecedented 11 straight lay days. It was an inauspicious beginning for pro surfing's rebadged peak body.
On Day 8 the WSL broke the news they'd secured a two day extension to the waiting period. The extension required approval by the Gold Coast City Council (GCCC) and reportedly cost the WSL $100,000 in extra wages, services, and hire equipment. This figure was trolleyed around by the media, sometimes presented as fact, sometimes given the correct prefix - 'rumoured'. And a rumour is what it remained, the WSL were very coy about the cost.
One six-figure digit that isn't rumour is the $100,000 The Quiksilver and Roxy Pro are likely to receive next year from the Queensland Government.
This year the Quiksilver and Roxy Pros received $45,000 from the Queensland State Government via Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ). Next year they were slated to receive $50,000 however it now appears this amount will be doubled to $100,000. Not a significant amount in the scope of the tour but it's worth pondering the Council's justification for paying.
In a council report, the GCCC Events Advisory Commitee details ongoing negotiations in order to secure the event for the City. "Although a smaller amount is preferred," the report states, "the event is unique in the benefits it provides to the City as a surfing destination and the risk of losing it is significant."
When asked, a spokesperson for the GCCC couldn't identify why it was in risk of losing the Quiksilver Pro.
The report detailed what TEQ had received in exchange for their financial support. Those details were supplied by the WSL who claim the contests generate "approximately $19 million in tangible media value for Tourism and Events Queensland". More than $10 million of the "tangible" amount - $10,131,631 in fact - was attributed to "Social Media Buzz Value."
The balance of the $19 million was comprised of branded content, webcast ads, and website advertising, all of which have rates set by the WSL. It's also worth noting that much of the WSL's data comes from Repucom, the company that provided flawed data to the WSL vastly overstating the amount of surfers worldwide (and hence the WSL's potential audience). Repucom's current Head of US Consulting is Michael Lynch who was formerly the WSL's Chief Marketing Officer.
It was this same data that calculated the 2014 Drug Aware Margaret River Pro reached 1.6 billion people via online media content. For those not keeping count that's more than a fifth of the world's population. Inexplicable then that the Margaret River final topped out at 25,781 concurrent viewers, or to put it another way, just 0.000001 of the 'people reached' watched the final live.
The Gold Coast Event Committee Report concluded with GCCC "prepared to consider an increase of funding to $100,000 if required to retain the event, subject to agreed sponsor benefits." And if you're wondering what the the sponsor benefits are we're one step ahead of you.
"Online and social media branding," said a GCCC spokseperson when Swellnet asked. No doubt Social Media Buzz Value makes up a significant part of that package.
In the reaction to the Gabriel Medina interview, the WSL laid bare their plans for handling controversy. When pirate copies of the interview were removed from the 'net it was thought the WSL would upload a copy to their site, maybe with the offending word removed for the sake of young ears.
However it wasn't the case. Despite being the biggest news to come out of the event - every mainstream Australian news site ran it, the same couldn't be said of the Final - the WSL did their utmost to erase all memory of it. Heat 8, Round 3 - when the interview took place - is still missing from Heat Analyzer.
In their commodification of the sport, the WSL need to control the narrative and unbridled emotion, dissent, or in-your-face competition, all the elements that make for great sport viewing, appear outside of the story they want to tell. At this point their answer to unscripted interludes is to ignore and erase. Expect more of the same come the next bout of blue language.
At the beginning of last year the WSL put the Maui Pro back on Women's tour after a three year hiatus. Scheduled for November it took until August to find a sponsor when US shopping chain Target came aboard as presenting sponsor. It was the first time they'd sponsored a surfing event.
Yet despite Target's number one female athlete Carissa Moore winning the event Target are yet to commit sponsorship second time around.
The Women's tour has nine competitions this year, four of them have no sponsor as yet: Rio, Fiji, Trestles, and Maui. The rejuvenation of the Women's tour is yet to receive commercial blessing.