Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Cool Runnings 2 - The greatest Olympics movie that will never be made and a study in creative sponsorship

In the lead up to the impending Vancouver Winter Olympics it looked like one of the big snowboarding stories was going to be the first appearance by a Bahamian snowboarder - Korath Wright.
Korath was born in the Bahamas, but at the age of one he moved to Calgary, home of the 1988 Olympics that built the legend of Eddie the Eagle and coincidentally the Jamaican Bobsled team. Here is an oddly moustachioed Korath with Devon Harris, the captain of the Jamaican Bobsled team. 
Guy doesn’t look anything like he did when he starred in the movie.
Back in 2006 Korath generated some media coverage after coming in 3rd place in a World Cup event in Canada and the Bahamas High Commission, spotting an interesting opportunity, contacted him and asked him to represent the country of his birth. From that point on Korath Wright has been trying to make it to the 2010 Olympics to become the Bahamas first Winter Olympian. The whole country was behind him and he appeared in numerous articles in the Bahamian press. Here is a video of some of that time - you’ve got to love the epic music.
That whole stirring production and the parallels between Korath’s story and the Jamaican Bobsled team story really brings to mind the movie Cool Runnings
Of course we’re not the only one who put 2 and 2 together here. In an interview with Transworld Business he was asked…
“How often do you hear Cool Runnings jokes?”
“I am a Cool Runnings joke.”

So here I am, along with a hell of a lot of other folks, thinking this is going to be fucking awesome...
Unfortunately there is just one problem with the long-awaited sequel to the second best Winter Olympics movie of all time (assuming the small issue of a dead John Candy can be resolved) because with only a few days to the Olympics to go Korath missed the cut. Which is why he is now our Accidental Hero #9.
It’s actually pretty lump-in-the-throat stuff looking at his twitter account with his last post just saying, “Not going to the 2010 Olympics, sorry all (from Korath). Didn't make the cut.”

To get the full lowdown on how the wheels came off this dream you have to look beyond the limited characters of Twitter and go to the old school media outlets:
Wright has been training hard and over the past few years and was confident that he would make the final cut to qualify for the half pipe to compete in Vancouver, Canada next month.  However, the once solid snow packed beneath his snowboard decorated with the colours of The Bahamian flag quickly became slush when he realized he would not make the cut, and his heart melted.   
Wright needed to make the top 40 on January 7, 2010 at the recent LG Snowboard FIS World Cup held in Austria, but he fell short of that mark, and he will now have to wait at least another five years before he can fulfil his dream of competing at the Winter Olympics.   
Last year Wright returned to The Bahamas to visit friends and family and to seek financial assistance to make the dream possible.  
He had teamed up with the Ministry of Tourism and other local businesses on a number of initiatives, but for the most part did without a major sponsor that was needed top help with training commitments and requirements.  
Undoubtedly The Bahamas lost out on a great opportunity to gain maximum exposure if Wright could have qualified. 

And that last section highlights and interesting point that The Bahamas Weekly also picked up on.
Korath got as far as he did without any financial assistance from the Bahamas government. He actually did not even have the means to pay a coach as most other Olympic athletes do. Who knows where he could have ended up IF he had the financial support he truly deserved. One can only now imagine the highlight The Bahamas could have featured in a historic first winter Olympics for the country, with all the world watching. 

That’s the crux folks. It’s all about the money and Korath unfortunately didn’t get enough to allow him to pursue the dream. And this brings us onto our next section and a problem that faces most snowboarders trying to make an impact in the sport. What more could Korath do to get the sponsorship he needs for 2014?

A Study in Creative Sponsorship

Korath certainly did a lot of things right and here’s a look at a few of them

Here’s a nicely produced video of him trying to drum up sponsorship. 
Not sure if people are going to splash the sponsorship cash if you rock up in a limo. 
That's the only reason I can think why Greenpeace don't have one of these.

He did really well to get coverage on the Transworld Business site.
Few snowboarders get that opportunity to put themselves right on the reading list of all the industry types.  

He’s had a lot of mainstream press coverage in Canada and the Bahamas
Best quote from this Calgary Herald article is - “He’ll be guaranteed to be the flag-bearer at the opening ceremonies,” added another COC official. An official what?

He has a number of Internet publicity outlets.
www.korathwright.com hits you with the tag line ‘As unique as the 700 Islands of the Bahamas’. So I guess that’s not all that unique then. He also has another site www.korathsnowboarding.com but it would probably best to concentrate on just one. Then there's www.bahamasnowkids.com, a kids snowboard camp he is very involved in.
And finally there's his Twitter page and a Facebook group
Even if he does say so himself

And he has a few sponsors.
Including, Hoven Goggles, Protest Outerwear, The Bahamas Tourism Board and he’s bagged his own watch from Carbon 14, which looks pretty good to boot. 

What other opportunities are out there?

Snowboarders are essentially freelance professionals and that adds a different set of skills your average aspiring pro needs to learn – marketing. There’s a good article on SCUK by an ex-pro snowboarder, Stu Bass who runs the SoulSports sports agency in the UK, and it’s worth a read. In this article though we’re going to look at some of the opportunities that might exist beyond the standard sponsor path. 

A friend of mine that frequents porn industry marketing conferences made a good point about that industry and, stick with me here, it has parallels to snowboarding.
Making money in porn is all about the niche. If people want to look at naked girls then the Internet is awash with free content and there it is difficult to make money unless you are a very large and established porn brand (e.g. Playboy). However there are a few folks out there that are deeply into Amish Bondage, and because that’s a pretty rare thing to find, these guys are willing to pay for it. So unless you are one of the big brands (e.g. Shaun White) you have to go niche.

So look at want you have that others don’t and figure out ways to make money from it.

A few of Korath’s unique things.

He is getting mainstream press coverage from Canada and the Bahamas
Korath Wright gets exposure in the type of press most other snowboarders don’t (newspapers instead of snowboard mags). There is a whole potential market of people that aren’t into the snowboarding scene but they do identify with Korath, that some companies will want to appeal to. There’s no point using Shaun White to market stuff to my mum but there are things this guy could market to her.

For example… Air Canada has regular flights to Barbados. Later this year, when the Olympics are over and people are figuring out what else to do with their lives in Canada, they will probably decide to get out of there and go tropical. Korath Wright could be a whole marketing campaign for Air Canada.
This sort of things isn’t going to happen without some work and luck, but if you throw enough ideas like this out and get in front of enough people these things can and do happen.

He has a lot of supporters.
In his interview with Transworld Business this question stands out.
“What kind of response/support are you receiving from the Bahamian community? Are many people interested in snowboarding there?”
The Bahamian community is pumped that I’m pumping the Bahamas to the world. People have called me everything from a bob sleigher to a show boater. The amount of support has been huge. Getting the support commitment is the easy part, getting the follow through is somewhat trickier.”
But there are ways to capitalise on having a lot of supporters. If you can get a small amount of money from a lot of people you can earn a lot.
For example…One of the things that Korath is using is the Internet and that’s an ideal place to interact with all these supporters. This guy made a million dollars by selling pixels on a website. Now you aren’t going to get a million, but I bet you could earn a tidy sum if you found an interesting way to sell space on a snowboard to small companies and the public. 
Who's the cat in the hat?

He is from the Bahamas.
And the Bahamas is an awesome tropical paridise. There’s got to be an interesting angle here for someone in the snowboarding industry and it would be worth a pitch. There’s an the opportunity for any of the surf/snowboard companies looking to link their products with and interesting twist (Billabong, Quiksilver, Rip Curl etc). Just looking at some of the snowboarding brand names there’s pun potential waiting for a cheap marketing campaign. West Beach, Never Summer, and someone really should make this
Lib Tech Skate Bahamas. Launch date 2011. 

These are the things that make Korath unique (along with the other 699 Bahamian snowboarders) and give him value but pick any snowboarder and you can make a similar list. I’m currently sitting in Hong Kong and I’m going to back to thinking how I can go about representing Hong Kong and get sponsored by a noodle company.

Related Article…
Why not have a look at some of our other Accidental Heroes 

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