Skating, Social Media, Sponsorship and Bullies

March 26th, 2012 by Dylan Leave a reply »

This astonishing video surfaced today

[vimeo w=500&h=283]

It shows a grown man shoulder charging a yound kid on a skateboard. It then shows the same man striking at the throat of another guy (Leighton Dyer) who challenges him about his actions. 

The backstory is even more interesting – one of the things that Leighton can be heard mentioning in the video is kids being given spray cans. The whole event was recounted by Leighton in a post to the Muckmouth forums.

The youth skate competition at the heart of this was held at the Victoria Park Skate Park on Sunday. The event was apparently sponsored by Skinny (Telecom’s non-Telecom prepay mobile network) and Serenity (a drug rehab programme). It was organised by former drug dealer William ‘Doc’ Murdoch and claimed support from many sponsors including high profile brands like Dick Smith and Wild Poppies. 

To promote his sponsors the organiser apparently decided it would be a good idea to provide paint for the participating kids and encourage them to tag the whole park with sponsors’ names and other associated stuff. The park, which had been largely free of tagging suddenly looked like this


This may have gone largely unnoticed by most people but event judge Craig Platt, a talented artist in clamer moments, decided to forcefully stop the kid in the video and lash out when challenged. That changed things – that incident, and the event as a whole then got a LOT of attention. Links to the video were very widely spread on Facebook and Twitter – it has received 200,000 views as I write this, less than 24 hours after being posted.


So, what about the sponsorship thing? Well, once the details of the event started to become known people started publicly calling on sponsors to put things right. Skinny, apparently a naming rights sponsor, were the most obvious target and also the most responsive immediately.

Unfortunately their inital responses were not ideal – they tried to distance themselves from the event and organisers


It was frustrating to see because it was their brand painted around the park. If I were running their PR or social media I would have immediately said it was terrible and that we’d do whatever we could to make it right. 

And that’s what they did, which is fantastic, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem like it was their first instinct and it took them a couple of hours to get to that point.

In social media and PR in general I think often it’s not about being right, but doing the right thing. This is true of most customer-facing relationships too and is the core of the saying that the customer is always right – sometimes they aren’t of course, and you have to know how to deal with that but this time they were linked with this event and the right thing to do was repair the damage, even if the organiser was entirely at fault.

Unfortunately Dick Smith, another obvious brand to call upon, is not nearly as active on social media and just went for distance when they did respond

I can’t imagine trying to manage PR for a large brand now without being well on top of social media. We’ve long heard that word of mouth was the most important form of marketing and social media is exactly that, only it’s easy to see, but if you’re not watching you just miss out.