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01 March 2009

Surfing into Niche Markets

By D

How a brand defines itself in the broader mainstream market can differ slightly from how it presents itself in a more Niche (ie. not mainstream) or smaller target markets. AirAsia X has demonstrated this through its alignment with a number of niche markets. From outdoor music festivals to the surfing culture, the brand can be seen as granting access to the Asian (and beyond) community to some of the best of what Australia has to offer. And offering the target market the opportunity to experience the brand to their favourite (or dream holiday) destinations.

The Gold Coast can be described as “Surf, Sand and FUN’, well nothing is more ‘funner’ than surfing in the pristine waves off the coast with the backdrop of the Surfers Paradise skyline, immersed in the pristine blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.
As an avid surfer and local on the Gold Coast the opportunity to bring the AirAsia X brand to the surfing community was an easy one and with a CEO who has a passion for extreme sports, the ‘sell’ to align the brand with a fast growing and exciting global sport was an easy one.
But first one has to ask the question why? What’s the value in targeting a smaller Niche market? How does it align with an airline brand? And why choose the Niche over others?
In terms of value and alignment the fit is easy for AirAsia X. It’s a young and hip brand, it is fun and funky and at the forefront of its category. It has a heritage from its parent AirAsia that is focussed on Value, Quality and a Challenger mentality. All these attributes add up to a fast moving and functional brand equity which, if you attribute to any sport, fits well with a surfing culture and the people who live in that culture.

How do you align with that culture? It’s easy. Fish where the fish are. Niche markets are sometimes hard to target but the surfer like to read surfing magazines. (see below some advertising examples appearing in Australian surfing magazines).

The magazine is the highest circulating in the country and the ads play on the surfing culture and what they like. They are also informative outlining the network that AirAsia offers to selected surfing destinations (did you know you can surf in China?) as well as value based messaged around excess baggage charges.

It also helps to network… here is a picture of our AirAsia X CEO with 2 times World Surfing Champion Stephanie Gilmore. (oh and the bloke on the right is Richard Branson) Azran has been surfing now for 12 months and from all accounts can hold his own in the waves. He is also very keen on Jetski’s and had the opportunity to join myself and a mutual friend on a day out on the ski’s where we saw a pod of 40 Dolphins, a shark, some turtles and a few large stingrays. As well as playing in the waves, jumping and surfing on very powerful Yamaha Waverunners designed to have fun and enjoy the ocean.

Azran, Stephanie and Richard Branson

Getting the message out there is not just about running ads in magazines, or hanging with the pro’s. A small sponsorship deal with a well know surfing event on the Gold Coast offered the brand the opportunity to really get to the grass roots of the surfing culture. The MP Classic run by Rip Curl (a global surf brand and friends of AirAsia X) is an annual surf event that draws the best of the junior surfers who are knocking on the door of the pro circuit. They are young and keen to do well and the media loves this kind of enthusiasm.

As part of the surfing event over the weekend AirAsia X took over the beach with banners and buntings in front of a huge crowd and with great waves on offer the surfers put on a solid show for all to enjoy. All of the contest surfers wore the AirAsia X brand on their fronts and backs of their contest tops, and as well as surfing for prize money also had the chance to win a couple of tickets up to KL on AirAsia X.

We also managed to affix some banners on the back of our jetski’s and tow them into the line up which drew a lot of comments about how cool it looked from people both on the beach and surfers in the water alike.

Azran, Darren (me) and John Nielson

To experience this kind of fun and really get to know what the locals like to do on the gold coast, jump a flight on AirAsia X and come on down to the Gold Coast where you can take surfing (and jetski ) lessons or simply sit on the beach and watch the action.

Who know you may even see Azran ripping along on a wave with a huge smile on his face…