Saturday, June 15, 2024

Lexus signs on as title sponsor for US Open of Surfing, WSL Finals

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Car maker Lexus has signed on as title sponsor for the region’s largest surfing contests, the US Open of Surfing held in Huntington Beach in August and the World Surf League Finals to be held just south of San Clemente in September.

Lexus has already tested the waters with several other WSL events, including the Lexus Pipe Pro and the WSL Awards, a partnership that will continue into 2025, according to a WSL announcement.

“​​This expanded partnership with Lexus, which takes us right through from the start of this season and into the next, is built on the support from fans and the surfing community,” Cherie Cohen, WSL chief revenue officer, said in a statement.  “Lexus and the WSL share a passion for innovation and performance at the highest levels and this extended relationship allows us to focus on delivering amazing experiences to our fans.”

Title sponsors set the tone for surf events, bringing products and offerings while using the exposure as a marketing tool to appeal to an action-sports audience.

Vans held the US Open of Surfing sponsorship for nearly a decade, from 2013 through 2022, turning the event from a rowdy party on the beach to a more family friendly affair. The Costa Mesa brand opted to not renew last year, and Wallex, a digital currency comany, stepped in to fill the void. 

Rip Curl had been the big name in front of the WSL Finals held at Lower Trestles, which is just south of San Clemente, since the new, one-day championship format debuted in 2021.

With that three-year partnership expiring, the door was open for the new, non-endemic sponsorship to step in to support the Southern California events, considered among the largest events in surfing.

Rip Curl North America Vice President of Marketing PJ Connell said although the brand had an “epic” three years sponsoring the WSL Finals, the brand is going to focus on “The Search,” a longtime campaign that focuses on surf exploration and travel.

The brand will continue to sponsor the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach and MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal, he noted.

The US Open of Surfing has taken on many forms through the decades in Huntington Beach and sponsorship has changed hands many times. And Lexus is not the first car company to sign on. Honda was a title sponsor for a few years in the early 2000s.

The big event brings in smaller sponsors to set up areas on the sand to showcase products, merchandise and experiences. Last year had everything from Yeti to Cup Noodles set up on the sand offering games, promotions and prizes.

Pacifico is once again a secondary sponsor at the US Open and typically has a bar set up on the sand, as well as games and giveaways.

This year’s competition is scheduled for Aug. 5 to 11.

The US Open of Surfing is the second stop of the WSL Longboard Tour and the fourth stop on the WSL Challenger Series, the main qualification pathway to the elite WSL World Tour.

The Challenger Series event has 80 men and 48 women competing for points to qualify within the top 10 men and top five women by the end of the six-stop season.

Last year, San Clemente’s Cole Houshmand, Sawyer Lindblad, Crosby Colapinto, Kade Matson and Jett Schilling earned their spots on the World Tour stage by qualifying through the Challenger Series events.

The Lexus VIP Area at the Lexus Pipe Pro on Jan. 31, 2024 at Oahu, Hawaii. The car brand has also signed on as title sponsor of the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach and the WSL Finals south of San Clemente. (Photo by Jesse Jennings/World Surf League)

The WSL Finals brings the top five men and top five female surfers to compete for a one-day championship at Lower Trestles, with rankings earned during events held throughout the competitive year.

That contest is held between the competition window of Sept. 6 and Sept. 14, on the day determined to have the best waves and conditions.

Lexus plans on “allowing the surfing community and fans to interact in new ways with the brand and its vehicle lineup,” including the new 2024 Lexus GX 550, the sponsorship announcement said.

“These will include on-site activations, curated VIP experiences, and chauffeur services for both athletes and fans.”

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