Jobs in windsurfing can be hard to come by, so how about making your own. There is something very inspiring about Daniel Macaulay. Be sure that you read on to find out more, and check out the well cut video at the bottom of the feature…
He’s been described as the world’s most enthusiastic man with energy levels that would make a Duracell blush. He’s a fanatical windsurfer and the driving force behind Brandwave Marketing, a unique action sports marketing agency that quietly handles the marketing for some of the industry’s most successful brands including Neil Pryde, Severne, O’Neill, The North Face, Henri Lloyd and Animal. We managed to track him down to get the low down on what working in marketing is like in the windsurfing industry…
Boards: Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into windsurfing.
DM: I grew up in Oysterhaven bay in South West Ireland. My family lived right next to a big windsurfing school called The Oysterhaven Centre. There was always loads of competitions on and loads of guys out on the water. I got into windsurfing when I was in my early teens. I taught at the centre in my summer holidays and I used to watch all the classic old windsurfing movies over and over again… When I was around 18, I finally made to Maui. There’s so many great places to windsurf around the world but Maui is still the capital of windsurfing!
Boards: What’s your favourite place to windsurf?
DM: I think that Ireland is still my favourite place to windsurf. There’s a really vibrant windsurfing scene over there and there’s just so many different options. I’ve just come back from a trip to Pacasmayo in Peru, which is allegedly the longest left in the World (2.2km). We scored some pretty sick conditions there. The wave is so long, that they have little taxis to take you back to the beginning of the wave again after you finish your ride!
Boards: When did you decide that you wanted to work in the industry?
DM: I think that a lot of people feel that the only way to combine their passion for windsurfing with a fulfilling career is to become a professional athlete but that’s not for everyone and it’s not really the case. There are a wide variety of professional roles that require a broad range of skills and qualifications in the industry from engineers and designers to photographers and journalists. I was interested in advertising and creative design before I even knew what ‘marketing’ meant.
Boards: Did you do any formal training?
DM: I did a degree in marketing and an MBA afterwards but I don’t think that that’s necessarily the best route to go for everyone. Some of the most successful guys that I know in the industry started out as sales reps or marketing assistants and just worked their way upward. I think that a friendly positive attitude and an ability to learn new skills are far more useful and important than a piece of paper and some letters after your name.
Boards: What was your first job in the industry?
DM: My first proper job in the industry was as European Marketing Manager for O’Neill Wetsuits. That was pretty much my dream job at the time and looking back, I was extremely lucky to get it. O’Neill was a great place to work. Quite a few of the key O’Neill guys such as the Caldwell brothers came from professional windsurfing backgrounds. They really looked out for me and taught me a lot about the surf industry.
Boards: How did Brandwave come about?
DM: I had worked with a lot of marketing agencies in the past and most of them didn’t really get the action sports industry. Everyone at Brandwave comes from an action sports background and that gives us a big advantage when it comes to understanding the mindset of the customers because essentially, we are the customers. We’re just beginning our sixth year, we’ve just moved into our pimp new offices, and we’re fortunate enough to be working with some of the worlds leading action sports brands such as Lucozade and Adidas. We also work with a lot of sports associations and professional athletes, which I really enjoy. Its really exciting work and there’s always something new to learn.
Boards: Are there any disadvantages to making your passion into your profession?
DM: For me, no! I owe my health, my travel, my work, and most of my friends to windsurfing and surfing. There are some really clever and inspirational people working in the windsurfing industry and I love being around them. Francisco Goya is a great example of someone who has converted his passion for competing into the way that he approaches business. It’s great to see guys like him doing so well and inspiring other younger athletes to do the same. With Brandwave, the fact that our passion is our work really helps with the creative process, as we constantly strive to produce pioneering and exciting marketing campaigns. We tend to work best on highly technical, innovation led campaigns, because of our understanding of the industry that we’re working in.
Boards: How does marketing in the windsurfing industry compare with other action sports markets?
DM: The overall size of the windsurfing market has definitely declined since its heyday in the late eighties and early nineties and it doesn’t attract the same mainstream sponsorship than it used to, but all action sports have a natural life cycle and windsurfing is no different. Surfing and skateboarding both suffered a decline in popularity in the early nineties and they have both made a huge comeback with mass participation and mainstream commercial support. Relatively new sports such as kitesurfing and SUP have stolen some of the limelight from windsurfing in recent years, but windsurfing is still one of the most dynamic and visually appealing sports that there is and it will always attract new participants, commercial support, and media interest.
Boards: Do you think the current windsurfing ‘personalities’ are less marketable compared with those of the past?
DM: I hear some people say that there are fewer characters in professional windsurfing now. I don’t think this is necessarily true, as many of the perceived personalities and rivalries were made a lot larger than life by the windsurfing brands at the time. Social networking and the Internet have also broken down many of the barriers between windsurfing icons and their fans. This has removed much of the hype and mystery but it has also made the top windsurfing professionals much more accessible to the general public in a way that was never possible before. Professional windsurfers may not earn the same kind of money that they did back in the eighties and early nineties nowadays but I think that they are definitely a lot more professional and approachable than they used to be and this is a good thing.
Boards: How important is marketing in the windsurfing industry?
DM: Marketing encompasses everything from sponsorship, events, photo-shoots, brochures, and multimedia to websites, packaging, social networking, advertising, and PR. Marketing can make or break a windsurfing brand no matter how good their product is and most of the top brands are well aware of that. The most successful windsurfing brands know exactly who their target market is and carefully develop their marketing strategies accordingly. Some brands focus on competition results and chasing the next champion, some focus on product innovation and being first to market, and some focus on build quality and value for money. It’s very difficult to be all things to everyone so we spend a lot of time helping our clients to closely define their message and identify their target markets. I think windsurfers are particularly technically orientated consumers but there is still a large fashion element to our purchasing decisions no matter how little we like to admit it.
Boards: What do you see as the main marketing trends in the windsurfing industry moving forward?
DM: I think a lot of windsurfing brands are moving towards more environmentally friendly business practices although the windsurfing industry still has a long way to go as a whole. The Global recession has also caused a lot of brands to move away from the traditional launch dates and reassess the logic of creating unnecessary seasonal graphical updates on boards and sails designs that are fundamentally unchanged.
Boards: Do you have any advice for those looking to work in marketing in the windsurfing industry?
DM: Be tenacious and don’t give up! If it’s really what you want to do, be prepared to start low and work your way up. The windsurfing industry is great fun to work in and there’s always plenty of opportunities to turn your passion into your profession if you want it bad enough!