For a while I’ve wanted to do an interview with Academy as they’re a brand that’s managed to survive the changing snowboard climate. It says something when a brand of their caliber survives and still manages to give back to snowboarding as a whole. Here’s what former rider and current Internet marketing mastermind Erich Dummer had to say when I tossed a couple questions his way.
Angry Snowboarder: You’ve been with Academy on and off since it’s inception in 03 which says a lot about having loyalty to a brand. What can you say about where Academy has been, where it is now, and where you guys are taking it into the future?
Erich Dummer: Academy Snowboards has been around since 2003 and experienced a lot in the last 8 years. The man that started it in 2003, Jeff Baughn, still owns the company and is running the show. We’ve found our roots over the years, surrounded ourselves with good people that love snowboarding and giving back, and have embraced the journey of a independent brand while keeping the company core. We continue to offer programs like the Foundation Scholarship, Camp Academy, and Cash for Kids contests to spread the love for snowboarding to all shapes, sizes, and IQ’s of snowboarders. We don’t believe there’s a right or wrong way to shred, as long as people are having fun and riding sideways they’re on the right path.
Moving production to Austria in 2007 allowed us to develop the best snowboards in the industry and move forward with designing reverse camber shapes and unique cores. The goal for the future is to continue to make the best snowboards on the market and promote our company through our loyal customers and ambassadors of the brand worldwide. We’re not trying to blow up and blow out overnight and you won’t be seeing Academy Snowboards in The Sports Authority any time soon. Our focus is slow and steady growth to a core audience of snowboarders that knows what they want and what to expect in a quality product.
Academy Snowboards’ mantra has become “Good People, Great Snowboards” because we believe our brand has become a composite of snowboarders across the globe focused on the mission of keeping snowboarding fun, run by people that truly care about the future of snowboarding, and the importance of giving back to the shred community.
AS: I was playing around on your site and came across this quote on your buy now page, “Shopatron is a retailer supported online tool utilized by Academy snowboards to keep your dollars within the snowboard community”. How beneficial has this been for your shops in being able to move product and know they have a brand supporting them while embracing web sales?
ED: We don’t have a presence in every snowboard shop across the country, and most shops we do have boards in only carry a limited amount and they sell out, so we needed a tool to supply boards to kids that wanted Academy but couldn’t find them at their local shop. Shopatron works by allowing riders to place orders that go into a pool that will be fulfilled by the nearest retailer that has the product in stock. Shops are stoked because they’re filling orders to customers that have never entered their store or been on their website!
AS: You are one of those brands that’s fully embraced the giving back aspect of snowboarding with social outreaches like the scholarship program and Camp Academy. Where did the Ideas behind these programs come from and how many lives do you think have benefited from these programs?
ED: I think there’s been a global impact, friends helping friends helping friends… It’s really exponential. We’ve always been a brand that respected the snowboard community and wanted to find ways to give a little back to spread the passion that’s deeply affected our lives. The camps, scholarships, contests, and FUNdraisers are a way of saying ‘thank you’ to snowboarding.
A lot of the people we talk to at our camps had given up on snowboarding, especially riding park because they’re intimidated and sick of feeling vibed-out when they get in there. We teach them the fundamentals of sliding a box or popping off a jump on a closed course with their peers and hands-on coaching. We can see how stoked campers get and the confidence grow over the course of the weekend and they tell us they’ve learned more from two days than they did all year. It’s really an awesome experience for our coaches and campers to really connect and our team is stoked because they’re able to give back through the mutual passion of snowboarding.
The Foundation Scholarship was developed to help out the kids that are sacrificing and going to college while most of their friends are getting drunk, partying, and riding everyday in a resort town. We’ve been there, so we know how tough it is to struggle through class while your friends are having fun all day. Not everyone is going to be a pro shred, and even if some are, few will retire off it, so it’s super important to get a good education that will open doors and lead to a good life. We like to focus on those kids, and reward that path. For the winners, it’s made a significant difference to be recognized for their hard work and dedication of balancing school and snowboarding. The kids we choose to win say they will continue to snowboard and stay involved in the industry for the rest of their lives, so hopefully that means they’ll help other shredders along the way.
AS: This year you guys turned the team board into the Bro Model which acts more as a dual purpose pro model. Are we at a point where we’ll see more boards from companies like yourself hyping their riders in a team inspired board verse independent pro models?
ED: In a snowboarding age where it’s mostly about local heroes and companies firing pro riders after they hit 24, the pro model and rider-company branding has really struggled. We developed the Bro Model to be an anti pro model. The Bro Model was designed and inspired by the Michilot brothers, but it focuses more on the friendship that goes along with being a snowboarder and traveling with your friends to fun and exotic places. The board is less about the individual and more a reflection on the companionship that makes snowboarding so fun. Snowboarding is about friends enjoying the park, powder, or a lift line with others. Most kids ride because their friends ride, it’s what they love to do, and they don’t know how they would make it through the winter without snowboarding, and I think the Bro Model really captures that feeling.
AS: Going along with that slow and steady growth that you’ve had since day one what challenges can are you currently facing going forward into 2012?
ED: We’re positioned as one of the few very core, very reliable snowboard brands in the market. We’ve had some retailers skeptical about picking us up because they’d been burned by a different small ‘cool’ company in the past, so sometimes we need to convince them we’ve got our business together, our boards are done in June, and we’ll be among the first few snowboard companies to ship to them. As soon as we get our foot in door and show them our professionalism and how hard we work for them, the relationship really blossoms. Good People, Great Snowboards is the new mantra at Academy, and we hope that our core retailers will choose to support a brand that cares about snowboarding and not just the quarterly earnings statement.