10 Lessons Brands Can Learn from Tony Hawk

By Posted in - Blog & Featured on July 25th, 2013 1 Comments Tony Hawk Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 2.49.16 PM

On hot summer days, this is how Tony Hawk avoids a mid-life crisis.  In the air.  Surrounded by yet another generation of fans.

Watch this short 76 Brand Films video to see how Tony Hawk can still attract and amaze an audience.  We shot it on the Toronto stop of Sport Chek and Quicksilver’s Tony Hawk Tour.

Not many athletes, nor brands can stay hyper-relevant for more than 25 years.  Not many athletes can brand an entire sport. How has skateboarding legend Tony Hawk managed to defy (stronger than gravity) a fickle public desperate for something new? And what can brands learn from it?

10. Do what feels right, not “cool”

When Tony Hawk turned pro at 14, skateboarding was akin to hula hoop.  A fad.

“I didn’t really care that it wasn’t that popular.  It gave me an identity that stood out apart from everyone else” Tony Hawk, Interview with Entrepreneur Online

9.  Don’t take your success for granted

Tony Hawk became arguably one of the most famous athletes in the world.  Then skateboarding hit what Hawk describes as a lull.  Even the man who helped build an entire sport was powerless to make it hip again.  He started his own skate company, Birdhouse, in the midst of that lull.  He struggled, but looked for a positive. Less competition. It worked.

8. Don’t forget what your brand is good at

Lots of brands are guilty of this.  When they’re riding high, they feel invincible. Like they can make and sell anything. For Hawk, it was a decision to start selling premium denim.  It started dragging down other sectors of his company.

“I quickly realized it’s not that easy to sell a $200 pair of jeans.”

7.  Find relevant brand extensions

 There are plenty of young people who probably know Tony Hawk as a video game character.  From a strategic standpoint, extending the Hawk brand into gaming was spot on.  The same young, action-oriented fans who used to like skating on concrete, were eager to skate with their thumbs.

6.  Can’t beat em…

Hawk was an early adopter of online video with his Shred or Die property.  But he quickly realized that competing with YouTube was pointless.  So he sat down with Google and partnered on the RIDE Channel.  Today, shredordie.com is simply a re-direct to his YouTube Channel.


5. Keep control of your brand

When Hawk’s Birdhouse began to grow and the sport with it, a bigger skate company offered to write a cheque to gain control.  Hawk refused, it paid off, and today he still insists on having final approval on all major decisions.

4.  The face of the brand can’t be everywhere

“Hire people you trust, with those strengths that can balance out your weaknesses.”

3 Give back

Hawk has given more than $4 million to build or renew 525 skateparks across America.

2  Never too late to GO BIG, and revive a brand

At the X Games in 1999, Hawk was preparing to retire from professional skateboarding.  What better time to make history!  Instead of fading away, Hawk landed the first ever 900 degree rotation.  The Hawk brand would feel a positive ripple effect for more than a decade.

Watch Hawk complete the 900 here

1. Build a brand because you love the brand

When Hawk’s son was 5 years old, his class was asked to answer the question, “what does your Dad do for a career?”

His son replied, “I’ve never seen my Dad do work.”

Tony Hawk works hard, but has always been a guy who loves skateboarding from his heart.  The video games, books, clothing, equipment, content and tours…are just tricks.

 76 Brand Films Video Creative Director Mike Edgell makes video content for brands and agencies.  See his team’s work or make contact at www.76brandfilms.com




(1) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Kyle B - Reply

    2014/03/05 at 04:26

    Great article Mike! I really like his son’s reply about Tony never working.

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