The Extreme Sports Company has signed deals spanning drinks, apparel and fashion, and had to turn down a raft of offers at BLE. CEO and founder Al Gosling tells Billy Langsworthy about the importance of remaining true to a brand's core values, regardless of how spiky they might be

Extreme CEO Al Gosling talks BLE, expansion and not selling out

How was 2013 for Extreme?

After we first built the TV business, we then really set about getting the licensing thing going about a year and a half ago. 2013 was all of that coming together and more of that is happening as we speak. Our key thing was hunting out the right partners and making it happen. We’ve signed a lot of deals, launched a lot of products and it’s been really good.

How was BLE 2013 for you?

I thought the show was good, but they need to get everyone on one floor. Upstairs is not as good as downstairs. But if I suggested that one-year you put the brands downstairs and characters upstairs, there would be a revolt because the character part is so much bigger. It is what it is. But we got one or two solid leads out of it, which is what you hope for, and if you get that, you’re away.

We’re pretty happy. As with these things, it was about profiling and seeing a lot of people. But it was really good. From the days of TV, I’ve done 31 trade shows like that so my love of trade shows is waning, but it’s all-good.

What does the next 12 months have in store for The Extreme Sports Company?

We’ve signed and launched a lot of deals with drinks, apparel, fashion, hats and it’s about making sure those launches go successfully brand support wise and marketing wise across all the different platforms. And it’s about hunting down more strategic partners.

Extreme Energy drinks are heading to the Middle East this year. Why is the region important to Extreme?

We’ve done a partnership in the UK with Vimto and that’s going well. The Middle Eastern guys looked at what we were doing and they wanted a piece of the action.

The brand is very well known out there and very well respected so we’ve signed a six-territory deal and it has the potential to go for 20 years. It’s a long term strategically partnership, which we’re all about.

On drinks, we’ve got another three or four deals in that area with different partners in different territories. In one territory, we have one drinks partner on the table that is bigger than Coca Cola. That will hopefully launch this year.

Category wise, we work in drinks, hotels, apparel, footwear and we are expanding these existing categories. There are then the categories we are driving to launch this year like luggage, electronics and men’s grooming.

If you have ‘unapologetic, irreverent and anti-establishment’ values and you’re targeting the 18 to 24 year old segment then you have to stay on point to remain credible to create interest. If you come off point or go soft, you’re fucked.
Al Gosling, The Extreme Sports Company

Does the core values of the brand (‘unapologetic, irreverent and anti-establishment’) exclude Extreme from certain sectors?

Understanding your consumer is key. Our view is that if you have those values and you’re targeting the 18 to 24 year old segment, which we are, then you have to stay on point to remain credible to create interest.

If you come off point or go soft, you’re fucked. Those values keep us on point in that respect. That’s the key. We are very comfortable with that and the problem with many brands is that you start off really edgy and credible and that is slowly diluted down. Even with Quick Silver, they used to be edgy and anti-establishment and slowly but surely it’s now about beautiful girls on beaches in bikinis. It’s still about surfing, but it’s not on point. But if you take the positioning of something like Monster, they have stayed on point as really irreverent, really anti-establishment and that business is in such good shape.

How easy would it be for you guys to sell out?

We turned down a huge amount at BLE. We turned down a lot because they didn’t fit with the brand. It’s about that discipline of sticking to the values and positioning. The opportunity here is huge, it’s enormous.

How can you navigate appealing to a wider demographic while remaining true to your core values?

We target 18 to 24s but we can’t police who buys it.

Our position is about 18 to 24s and keeping it irrelevant. If a 40 or 50 year old doesn’t like it, we’re on point. The market from 12 to 40 is who buys in, but we’re positioning incredibly tight. We’re really on point and you have to keep pumping out those values and positioning, and it’s very attractive. The breadth of market that offers us is huge. I don’t feel the need to soften to widen the game.

Keeping the core values has clearly been vital to Extreme, but has the company changed in other ways since it began?

If I’m honest, when I started out, we were on point, really irreverent and I was 27, so it kind of reflected. We were on point for a good four or five years and then we lost our way a bit. As I grew older, I wasn’t listening to the consumer. I grew up and it got a bit softer. In the last two years, we’ve brought it back to its core and we are bringing it back to its core.

How did it get softer?

The positioning, the look of it, the feel of it; it was lots of stuff. There are lots of experienced people from licensing working off deep consumer insights now, rather than working off what you feel. That’s how that’s panned out.

For anyone interested in working with The Extreme Sports Company, what should they know?

We’re an anti-establishment youth brand focused around youth lifestyle and extreme sports. There are opportunities in multiple categories. There’s lots in kids, there’s lots in adults, but no one in the middle.

Are you looking at expanding into completely new territories?

Predominantly our focus is on EMEA but we are having lots of conversations going on in the rest of the world. Getting deals done in the rest of the world is part of the mix.

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