So, Roxy finally made a public statement in response to the bad press they received about a promotional clip they made for the Roxy Pro in Biarritz earlier this year.
While I am always hesitant to link to these sites, you can read Roxy's statement over on their blog. But here it is for your reading pleasure;
More than 20 years ago, we set out to create a brand dedicated to supporting women and girls in their love of surfing and beyond. Since that time, we have worked to build on this heritage by developing great products, creating new competitive opportunities for female athletes, and establishing and growing the Roxy surf and snowboarding teams. We continue to work to do more to achieve this mission.
As fans and supporters of female athletes, we are disappointed by recent mischaracterizations of the Roxy brand and wanted to take this opportunity to share with our fans the true vision and voice of Roxy.
First and foremost, Roxy is and always has been about inspiring female athletes of all levels to be themselves and to participate and compete in the sports we all love. As part of this commitment, we have sponsored 42 Women’s ASP championship tour events since 1991 and have continuously worked to build on and enhance those efforts year on year. Roxy’s commitment doesn’t stop there.
We also work tirelessly to advance opportunities for female athletes and are proud to work with some of the world’s best and most inspiring surf and snowboarding athletes in the world. We are even more proud that the forum created by our events and the tremendous athleticism of the Roxy teams – and all professional female surfers and snowboarders – have helped raise the level of visibility for women’s performance sports and encouraged sports enthusiasts around the world to watch and support women’s surfing and snowboarding in increasing numbers.
We recognize that some Roxy fans were concerned about an online video produced earlier this year on behalf of the brand. We respect and value that feedback and remain committed to building the Roxy brand in a manner that is consistent with the expectations of Roxy’s fans and our fun, adventurous brand personality.
Roxy believes in being naturally beautiful, daring and confident. We hope those qualities are conveyed in everything we do and are committed to continuing to work to earn the trust of our fans and to creating products, events and opportunities that deliver on our brand values.
At Roxy, we will never stop celebrating female athletes. That’s our brand promise, and we will continue to strive to live up to that goal.
The Roxy Team
When I first read this a few days ago, I dismissed it because sure, Roxy. Whatever. But the more I read it, the more lame I find it.
I have seen some people describe this as an 'apology' by Roxy, but that's not what I think it is at all. I think it's a piece of PR that suggests that the creation of Roxy was some kind of altruistic gift to women's surfing. Um, no. Roxy is a brand, a business, designed to make money. And that is fine. And they have funded contests and sponsored athletes, which is great and I have no doubt that many of the employees there are really committed to these athletes and women's surfing. But the company itself does not sponsor these events as an act of kindness - they do it to promote their brand. It's to the company's benefit to do all these things. Have you been to these events? They are promotional gold.
This whole statement is weird to me. Roxy has 'fans'? Is that what we are calling 'customers' now? Or maybe they use this term to differentiate between the non-surfers who make up the bulk of their market and the people who are interested in the athletes they sponsor? Maybe? They want to deliver on their 'brand promise'? I thought they wanted to sell wetsuits and swimmers.
Roxy claims their brand has been 'mischaracterised' in the responses to their promotional clip. It's right here, in this contradictory space between selling wetsuits and building a 'brand promise', that the whole thing gets murky and complicated for Roxy. Because it is increasingly apparent that they can't be all of those things all the time. But in claiming a position whereby you promote women's sport and female athletes by focusing on their athletic ability, you can't then go and make a clip where you film a five-time world champion topless, sexualised and not even surfing in order to promote a surfing event you are sponsoring. It's inconsistent with your brand. It's confusing for your 'fans'. It makes you sound hypocritical.
And look, Roxy doesn't have to promote female surfers or sponsor surf events. It's great that they do but they don't have to. Except that, well, it's been a key part of their company image. They keep telling us that promoting women's sporting opportunities and female athletes is core to the values of their brand, so when they slip up, it makes them look shitty. It puts cracks in the PR and reminds us that they are, after all, just a company trying to sell us stuff.
And some of that stuff seems good. But I'm not going to buy it. I'm not going to buy it because I'd rather Roxy were just honest and admit they messed up. 'Fans' didn't mischaracterise the Roxy brand, Roxy mischaracterised the Roxy brand. Roxy mischaracterised their surfers. And Roxy misread what it is that is important to the surfers who buy their products, who give them money, who give their brand authenticity in terms of its connections to surfing.
I don't think Roxy needs to apologise to anyone for that because Roxy is a company who can promote themselves however they want. But if they want to position themselves as promoting women's surfing in a way that is focused on athleticism and performance and freedom and 'daring', if they are going to support the competitions where the best high-performance surfers in the world are competing, then do that. And be prepared to come across as hypocritical when they associate themselves with promotions that are contradictory to what they say they represent.
They should be prepared to walk their talk, or accept being called out on being inconsistent. Which they were.
But at the same time we shouldn't expect Roxy to apologise to us as consumers. I am not a 'fan' of their brand, and my career, image and surfing opportunities are not reliant on the ways they promote women's surfing. If they should apologise to anyone, it's to the women who surfed in the contest they sponsored and promoted as a voyeuristic, teenage boy's wet-dream. It's to Stephanie Gilmore for featuring her as a reclining coat-hanger for a range of products, rather than as the talented, successful surfer she is. But not to the people who buy their products, because those people can make their own decisions. For example, Roxy's wetsuit range looks cool, but I won't be buying it because I don't want to be associated with their brand. Because I don't want to be located as a Roxy 'fan'. Because I don't like the way they promote their sponsored athletes and women's surfing more broadly. I find it inconsistent with what what they say the ethics and values of their company are.
Consumers aren't morons. We know we're being sold to. Sometimes we're willing to pretend that's not the case, but we do know we're just playing along. These days there are enough good swimsuits and wetsuits around now that I can make better choices about who I give my (few) dollars to. And for now at least, PR statement or no, it isn't going to be Roxy.