Shaun White rakes in about $9million a year for this snowboarding lark according to Forbes magazine. A top snowboard pro like White can earn about $100,000 a year in prize money and that makes up just over 1% of the the pot, the other 99% comes from sponsorships. To put things into context, Shaun White earned more money in 2008 from endorsements than every single baseball player and every American football player except for Payton Manning.
Shaun White appeals to a type of audience that is not normally interested in snowboarding and because of that he is attractive to companies from outside snowboarding looking to appeal to that wider audience. You can see that reflected in a list of his major sponsors, it's an eclectic mix that no other snowboarder comes close to matching; Burton, Target, BF Goodrich, Oakley, Ubisoft, Vail Resorts, Red Bull and Hewlett Packard.
In a similar way that Shaun White appeals to people and advertisers outside of the sport, snowboarding itself has that ability. Ever since snowboarding started to push its way into popular culture advertisers with nothing do with the sport have been keen to jump on the bandwagon. Today we take a look at some of the most interesting TV commercials that have come out of this uneasy relationship...
1954-1987 The Birth of Snowboard TV Commercials
Snowboarding had no nicely defined eureka moment when the sport was invented. Instead it evolved gradually through a number of different people and designs until it tuned into the sport we know today. When people look back they acknowledge contributions by the likes of Sherman Poppen, Jake Burton Carpenter & Tom Sims, but what no one mentions is the inconvenient truth that the cereal brand Wheaties beat everyone to the punch by more than a decade.
Just before snowboarding there was snurfing and after an ad agency saw an article about the sport in Playboy magazine they convinced Labatt’s to run the first snurfing commercial
Agencies still use porn as their primary source of inspiration to this day.
Juicy Fruit (1987)
And here it is in all its glory. The first ever snowboard TV commercial was for Juicy Fruit and featured riding from early snowboardists Burt Lamar and Craig Kelly.
Because of the costs of producing TV ads back in the day that Juicy Fruit commercial beat the actual snowboard companies to the punch. Here’s a quick look at their early contributions.
Sims produced this commercial to promote the whole sport and their brand two years later and they continued the emphasis on mullets, neon, headbands and synth music that the Juicy Fruit commercial set the precedent for.
You don’t see “gazelle-like leaps of fancy” in snowboarding all that often any more.
It wasn’t until seven years later that Burton released their first TV commercial and it was the first 30 seconds of this movie. Gnu also released heir first commercial at roughly the same time.
1992-2002 The Difficult Puberty of Snowboard TV Commercials
Fruity Pebbles (1992)
A generation after that Wheaties advert the cereal industry decided it was time to get back on the saddle and they were back with another animated commercial, fronted by the Flintstones.
The 90s was a strange period in the world of snowboard TV commercials, snowboarding was used almost exclusively as a set-up for weak calamity-based scenarios.
Diet Dr Pepper
This prime example of the genre comes from Australia
With added stupid hats for that authentic 90s snowboard stoner vibe.
This was a hard period for snowboarding stunt men and things only got harder with this ad.
We’ve all had those days haven’t we? The days when we snowboard so hard we end up naked. Just me?
And when you think of snowboarding you think of pantie liners. Just me again?
Juicy Fruit (2002)
To wrap up this tough decade of snowboard TV commercials it’s back to the original promoter Juicy Fruit and their take on their original advert.
No wonder skiers didn’t like us back then, for all they knew from ten years of irrefutable video evidence, snowboarder’s were an uncontrolled and drug addicted rabble of violent sociopaths.
2002-2012 Snowboard TV Commercials Grow Up
By this point in snowboard history snowboarding had officially gone mainstream and that change was reflected in the type of companies that were getting involved and the quality of the ads. As a result the seriously wank slapstick stereotype routines of the previous decade have been largely dropped. This is a nice add for a Canadian energy company that I’ve never heard of.
Even the snowboarders sound different these days. Here’s celebrity snowboarder Seal going through his very own double-rainbow moment as he explains how snowboarding allows him to be at one with the natural elements, brings him closer to god and allows him to bask in the wonder of god. And he’s promoting another company I’ve never heard of. I had to look them up on Wikipedia.
Pretty commercial, nice and sensible.
Okay maybe that slapstick stuff hasn't left us quite yet, but at least this one for the Shaun White Snowboarding video game has good production values.
And maybe those snowboarders haven’t really changes their spots quite yet either. Here’s Danny Kass promoting Budweiser in an Italian ad.
OK, bollocks, some things never change. Here’s some guys snowboarding the subway for a Mountain Dew advert.
Reminds me of the scene from the epic Hollywood movie Extreme Ops
Final Thoughts & The Strange Trend
So there’s a whistle stop tour of the history of snowboard TV commercials over the years and we hope you’ve found it educational. The one last strange thing we noticed while preparing this exposé was that there is one more trend in snowboard TV ads that has occurred outside of the above timeline. There is apparently a worldwide custom where companies, with names starting with the letter A, have to produce a snowboarding commercial featuring a small animal. Here’s the proof
From the Americas come an insurance company promoted by a talking duck who can snowboard uphill.
From Europe comes a probiotic yogurt drink promoted by a mute tortoise with a penchant for sex dolls.
Aiful Corporation (Japan)
From Asia comes a banking corporation promoted by an entirely uninterested snowboarding dog.
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