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McKnight on Webcasts, Hollister and more

Bob McKnight in his office at
Bob McKnight in his office at Quiksilver global headquarters in Huntington Beach. Quiksilver recorded $2.5 billion in revenue last year.
By Tiffany Montgomery
October 12, 2007 6:23 AM

I had a wide-ranging interview with the big man himself yesterday. Bob McKnight is CEO and Chairman of action sports leader Quiksilver Inc. in Huntington Beach.


Bob was watching a live Webcast of the Billabong Pro Mundaka in Spain when I arrived. As we talked, his eyes frequently strayed to his computer, especially when Quiksilver sponsored surfer Kelly Slater rode a wave. "Go, Kelly, go! Boom! He's fighting for his life right now. Good, he made that."


Since he was watching the Webcast, we talked about the importance of owning media, the fight to broadcast surf events and staving off Hollister.


Webcasts

"This is live in Spain right now. It's the last heat of the day. Man on man... You have hundreds of thousands of people watching the Webcast. When you have downtime, (the companies sponsoring the event) can run commercials, do ads for local retailers, wetsuit ads. It's a captive audience. Kids get really involved. They can send email to the guys announcing the contest. Traffic spikes way up for two weeks.


"Surfers follow this religiously. Now everyone wants to have an event once a month because the traffic spikes so much.


"Owning media is one of the most important things in our business now, whether photographs or videos or music. Because if you own it, you can send it out to your stores, other retail stores, to cell phone downloads, to website downloads, television, cable."


Fighting ASP for rights

"We've been in a constant battle with ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) because they've wanted to own these rights so they could sell it to Coca-Cola or Foster Beer or whatever. And (the surf companies) are like, we're paying for the events - what do we get out of it? Our banner on the beach where nobody is? Look at this. It's a (bad) day in Spain. There's probably 1,000 on the beach. That's what we are going to get? Then we get an article two months later in Surfer Magazine. We want it now.


"We've negotiated with them successfully because we've all gone together and said, ‘If we can't have that, then get Coca-Cola to run the events.' They don't want to do that. They need us and we need them but we want the rights.


"This is how it works now. Billabong owns this event, so it has the rights to all footage to put in a DVD, a television show, whatever. If we have a camera on the beach we can shoot our (sponsored athletes) and use it, and in our events, the same thing. By the way, if we have a shot of Kelly ripping in this event and we use it in a video it's good for Billabong because he has a Billabong jersey on. We probably wouldn't use it, and likewise them for us. But we all know we can use it if we want to."


Hollister

"We have to really fight for our industry and the authenticity of it. Because guys like Hollister are stealing thunder. Go in their store. You see ‘Hawaii Big Wave Contest' on a T-Shirt and you go, ‘They don't even have a contest.' But people buy the sweat shirt because it looks cool, they executed it well, it's at a cheap price, in a cool yellow. It's like whoa, we are competing with people who aren't playing by the same rules. And they are good at it."


"Another thing that drives us crazy. Walking into their store and seeing a live Webcam from Huntington Beach (showing the surf at the beach). They are trying to make themselves look cool. It's not a stupid thing to do. But..." (he shakes his head and rolls his eyes).


Bob had lots of interesting things to say - too much to cram into one day. I'll write more about the interview on Monday.

One thing to note: He wouldn't talk about a possible sale of the hardgoods piece of its Rossignol brand. Reuters has reported that the company is mulling offers to sell the ski business. Bob did make clear that Rossignol apparel will be part of Quiksilver's future.


Coming Monday: Bob talks about why Quiksilver opens its own retail stores and when they do, how the company eases the angst of nearby retail customers that carry Quiksilver. Also, why he's still working away instead of retiring.


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