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Street Theme Strikes Right Balance for Skateboard Audience

A business-to-business campaign featuring a fictional skateboard shop owner, some four-letter words, lots of humor and little mention of the company's name clicked for Blitz Distribution, helping the distributor achieve record sales this year.

Though Blitz, Huntington Beach, CA, would not provide sales figures and did not track response rates, co-founder Per Welinder said the campaign played a major role in increasing sales revenue 12 percent over last year.

“This campaign definitely added a very positive jolt to the amount of business the company saw this past year,” he said. “The campaign has proven to be very successful, and we have gotten nothing but very positive feedback from people about it.”

Given the effort's success, Welinder said, the shop owner character “very likely” will be used again.

The campaign, Blitz' largest BTB effort of the year, was designed to overcome what Darryl Ohrt, founder of Visual Intelligence Agency, the design firm handling the campaign, calls the skateboard industry's hyper-critical view of advertising and marketing.

“The business-to-business [skateboard] audience is not much different from the consumer audience except that the consumers may be a bit younger,” Ohrt said. “The mindset is the same in that they will tend to look at marketing and advertising as a sign of selling out. The idea was to create a campaign that would help Blitz maintain its street credibility and not appear to be corporate because that tends to go against the skater philosophy.”

Enter Vinny DeGrasso, “the most successful skateboard shop owner in the Bronx,” for a three-piece campaign that went to nearly 8,000 shop owners and franchises last spring and summer.

“We created this character who wouldn't appear cool to anyone else but himself,” Ohrt said. “We made him very comedic and the calls to action very subtle so that when people saw him they wouldn't feel like they were actually being marketed to. We wanted to keep the mentioning of the Blitz name to a minimum.”

The piece isn't even addressed from Blitz, but rather from Vinny's fictional store, called the D Cross Bronx Board Shop.

“The Blitz address could have been included, but we really didn't want this to appear as a straight-up marketing effort coming from them,” Ohrt said. “And since Vinny was discussing things such as best business practices and the secrets of his success, by addressing it from him helped lend the character more credibility.”

The first piece was a 12-page booklet measuring 4 1/2 inches by 6 1/4 inches. Titled “The Vinny DeGrasso Story,” the cover reads: “How Skateboards Made Me Rich.” Inside are photos of Vinny with products distributed by Blitz but no mention of the manufacturers. At the end of the piece he recommends calling Blitz to get “hooked up” and discusses a few products that can be purchased through the company.

The second piece was a little smaller and included photos of Vinny in clothing ensembles, including leisurewear and club wear. He discusses how businesses should deal with stocking their stores and creating special promotional packs. He mentions that the “goods” can be purchased through Blitz and again gives the company's toll-free number.

The cover of the final piece is an image of a New York license plate reading: VINNY. It opens into a poster of Vinny on a skateboard and promoted the Action Sports Retailers Show in September. There's a plug for the Blitz booth at the show.

“We wanted the first two pieces to stand out in the mail and look more like invitations instead of a standard mail piece,” Ohrt said. “The last piece was a self-mailer and was intended to be used as a poster that people would keep around.”

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