Having grown up as a competitive surfer since the age of 11, Blair Marlin (left) has had a longstanding relationship with the surfing industry. After retiring from competitive surfing, Marlin went on to co-found Transworld Surf, where he was the magazine’s Assistant Editor, before moving on to DC Shoes as a Surf, Moto and Music Team Manager. Nearly two years ago, however, Marlin switched jobs again, this time becoming Director of Surf at WMG Management, a division of Wasserman Media Group. What spurred the transition? It wasn’t exactly luck. Rather, WMG went out of its way to reel in Marlin. “When we decided to expand into the surf market and were looking for someone to help lead us, Blair’s name kept topping the list,” commented WMG President, Action Sports, Steve Astephen. “Having had the pleasure of negotiating many contracts with Blair while he was at DC, I knew he was quite capable of switching roles and joining our WMG.” Working out of WMG’s Carlsbad, CA offices, Marlin now manages such renowned names as Bruce and Andy Irons, Dane Reynolds, Dusty Payne, Kalani David, and Luke Davis. The highlight of his work? “Playing a small role in helping the guys accomplish their goals is the best part about my job, and the reason I wanted to start working in this field in the first place,” he says. The worst part? “It’s not all traveling, surfing, high fives and handshakes. It’s 9-5 office time when I am home, and a lot of stress is involved on the business side of things.”
The trick for the surfing industry, Marlin explains, which can be viewed as part of the larger “action” sports industry that includes skateboarding, snowboarding and BMX among myriad other endeavors, and that has increasingly won over advertisers’ attention and marketshare, is for the “big industry companies to get together and decide to allow mainstream sponsors to enter into the sport, and not just as co-sponsors of evens to help fund their costs.” An industry colleague, Susan Izzo, CEO of the Encinitas, CA based Mosaic Sports Management, notes for instance that skateboarding, snowboarding and surfing is now an $11 billion industry in terms of consumer marketing, and that megabrands such as AmericanExpress and Target are finally beginning to embrace “action” sports figures as bona fide product spokesmen (and women).
Marlin is used to catching big waves. Is $11b big enough?