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Brands find a way to throw holiday parties despite cost cuts

By Shelby Stanger
December 18, 2009 6:45 AM

Tis’ the season for holiday parties and during this recession, I wanted to know if action sports companies were continuing to throw out the tinsel, or scaling back on festivities all together.

According to a story by AOL Business, holiday parties first started at a time when employers were really suffering – the Great Depression. During the1930s, employers created holiday parties as a way to thank workers for their hard work.

In the world of action sports, brands have been known to throw lavish holiday parties with bands, athletes and an abundance of free flowing bubbly. This year, the recession affected most companies’ budgets, diminishing some and severely wounding others. Some companies consolidated parties with brands under one roof, and others became more creative with funds and held parties at their onsite locations or warehouses.

Here is a glimpse at what a few action sports companies are doing this year to celebrate their employees this holiday season.


Hurley’s Communications and Content Director Evan Slater said the company will be having a holiday party today at their headquarters with drinks and food, keeping in tradition with what they did last year. Evan said Hurley also hosted an event called “Customize Christmas” at their new 225 Forest Avenue retail location (shared by Nike 6.0 and Converse) in Laguna Beach that was open to the entire public early in December. There was free food, drinks and an appearance by professional skateboarder Bob Burnquist and professional base jumper/pro skier Erik Roner.

The La Jolla Group (O’Neill, Rusty, Lost, Metal Mulisha)

The La Jolla Group pulled resources together to throw one giant party for all brands at the Long Beach Aquarium. There was music, dancing, food and a warm welcome from CEO Toby Bost who greeted everyone from inside the shark tank.


Volcom had a cocktail, 70’s-themed office party with music and food. Director of Human Resources Tara Bennett said the company had less budget than previous years, but that they still wanted to have a fun party so hosted it at their corporate store. “We think that it is super important to have a holiday party because we can get all of the employees together at the end of the year to thank them for their hard work,” said Tara. Electric also joined Volcom’s party.


Sanuk said they were lucky to keep the same holiday budget as last year, so they will take employees on a dinner cruise around Newport Harbor. “Giving back to the staff is super important to us,” said Sanuk President John Vance. “We work hard and play hard together all year-round, so celebrating the holidays and another successful year for the brand is the least we can do for the super creative and hard working staff we have.”


At Vans, President Kevin Bailey said the company made the decision after Hurricane Katrina in 2006 to reallocate holiday funds on aiding victims in need rather than having a huge party. Vans will still celebrate employees with a luncheon for all employees at their Cypress headquarters, but will donate the rest of their holiday budget to select social and environmental issues. Additionally, VP of Promotions Steve Van Doren and Trade Show Director Bob Provost will be making their annual visits to several Vans Retail stores across the country, handing out tees and thanking workers in person for all of their hard work during this busy season. When Vans first started, founder Paul Van Doren, Steve’s father, visited every Vans retail store during the holidays to hand out gifts to all retail employees.

Spy Optic

Vice President of Marketing Fran Richards said Spy Optic is being low-key about their holiday party, but still celebrating with a taco truck, music, and giveaways for employees in their Carlsbad headquarters.


Like many companies, Reef has faced job cuts this year, but they are still celebrating. According to Reef’s Girls Marketing Director Lindy Williams, new Reef President Jim Gerson graciously invited all employees and their families to his home for a holiday party catered by Reef favorite Sabor de Vida, a Brazilian barbeque catering company.

Sole Technology (etnies, éS, Emerica, Altamont and ThirtyTwo)

Last year, etnies not only held their own party at their headquarters, but because VP of Marketing Don Brown said he felt bad when he heard rival company Adidas cancelled their Christmas party because of tight budgets, they sponsored a holiday soiree for Adidas as well.

For the cost of 1,203, 16-ounce PBR tall boys and over 107 shots, etnies entertained over 250 people from competitor skate companies, including Adidas, in Oregon, and received press from publications ranging from Slap Magazine to NBC stations across the country. Etnies claims the party was not a publicity stunt. “We didn’t want to see anyone in our industry left out in the cold without a holiday party to attend,” said Don.

This year, etnies plans to hold their holiday party at their warehouse. In past years, the brand has hosted more lavish parties at clubs like SUTRA in Costa Mesa, but Don Brown said, “As a skateboarder, I’ll be the first to tell you that you can have a good time without spending much money.”

In addition to their own party, they hosted the etnies Holiday Festival at the etnies Skatepark of Lake Forest on December 12th where Mr. and Mrs. Claus and etnies staff donated shoes to kids in need.

As for throwing a party for another brand, Don Brown said, “Last year we had fun helping our friends at competing companies, and we are just waiting to see if they need more help this year.”




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