Can you give us the quick history of the Shakedown?
When we started the Shakedown, we felt there was a lack of a quality rider-driven events. The last one was the Westbeach Classic which was no longer around. With our rider connections and industry connections for sponsorship and stuff, we decided to put the event together and create a jam format that was very rider friendly. Right out of the gate we had fairly good success. Year after year the marketing stepped up, the infrastructure stepped up, the cash prize stepped up and it came to a point where we had 15- 20 thousand people at the event. A lot of the big name riders showed up and it became the biggest contest in Canada, Top 5 in the world. I guess the reason why we had so much success was the format and the party vibe that was on site; just a very festive way to wrap up the winter.
A lot of riders kicked off their career with Shakedown. Do you think contests are important for snowboarding and professional snowboarding?
I think they’re very important. You know there are two kinds of riders, there’s the competitive guys that are doing the few major events and when those events are done they’re concentrating on filming. It’s important for them to get visibility for their sponsors and cash in at the bank if they’re on the podium and get that mass media coverage and recognition. And I think for an event like the Shakedown, it’s been a huge window of visibility for upcoming riders like Seb [Toutant] Maxence [Parrot] , Dustin Craven... you know, a lot of the big guys you see today came through the Shakedown in the last 14 years.
Can you give me a list of all the guys you’d say got their start from Shakedown?
Well Seb and Maxence that’s where it kicked off that’s for sure. Dustin won it in ’07 and that helped him a lot, but he wasn’t much of a contest kid, so it helped him for a year or two and then he went in the backcountry filming. We had Mark McMorris come through, MFM has been by, Travis Rice was there in the early days, Etienne Gilbert, Guillaume Brochu. So a lot of those guys came through Shakedown and it offered an amazing platform for them. I wouldn’t say it put them all on the map but it definitely helped. I would say Seb and Maxence are the two success stories of the Shakedown. They started from nothing and Shakedown was their kick off, their window of opportunity.
Who were the biggest supporters of Shakedown since day one, what’s the sponsor history?
Some of the major sponsors that have been there since Day 1 are Empire, Moslon, Coors Light, SBC, Oakley was a big partner starting in ’06 and then in ’09 we had Ride come in as the title sponsor and they helped us export the event to the U.S. and to Germany. Unfortunately, Ride was no longer able to commit financially and they pulled out in 2013 so that was a big hit for us. We luckily still had Videotron that became our title sponsor. As the event got bigger and bigger and we wanted to create more buzz and have bigger rail setups and just make it bigger every year, well bigger means bigger budgets. Unfortunately, over the last three years, we saw sponsorship levels reducing or completely not being able to commit at all. On the corporate level they’ll direct their marketing focus to a specific segment for say two to three years and once they’ve felt like they’ve gained enough traction within that market, then poof… they’ll move on to another market. The industry sponsors are supporting retail much more than events and sponsorship within riders and different activations.
More brands are doing team videos rather than sponsoring riders to be in independent videos because it gives them more control over the content and how it’s presented, it makes their brand message stronger. Do you see brands doing more events directly or do you just see less events?
There’s a mix of both. There are definitely less events, some bigger events have fallen off. There was a trend for a while where every shop wanted to have their own event. But I think they came to realize that it’s costly and that it’s not their business model; they need to be concentrating on selling product instead of organizing large-scale events, unless they have a team in-house or an agency they can out source too. Event production is time consuming and you need a lot of manpower to make it happen. So a lot of the shop events stayed small or simply stopped existing because they realized it was hard to fund these initiatives. And for the brands, a lot of them, like you said, want to do their own videos and control their own content by running their own events or producing their own team movie. Red Bull, Vans and Burton are a few examples of that. They prefer owning and operating their events as opposed to sponsoring other independent events unless it’s retail related. If it’s retail related they will help by supporting some of the shop events. It’s easier for them to control the brand message.
Do you think the reach of contests like the X Games has an effect on the value of other contests? Do you think that because they have their guy in X Games the reach is so far that they don’t need to do these other events?
Well, I think X Games is on their own train. They exist for TV. It was created for TV where an event like Shakedown or the shit show that Monster does at the Whistler Ski & Snowboard Festival or the Westbeach Classic back in the day, those events were created for riders and spectators and as time went on the TV component came in. For Shakedown, it was about organizing a rider-driven event and having a crowd there that was living an experience. I think what made Shakedown so popular was the energy and just the vibe on site was just something that didn’t exist anywhere else.
I haven’t seen a vibe like that at any contest I’ve ever been to, though I wasn’t at the Classic in its hay day.
I think that says a lot, and I think that says a lot for the market here in Quebec, they’re eager, they like snowboarding, they like partying and I think that’s one of the main reasons we had so much success.
So Dizzle is the company behind Shakedown, are you going to do anything else?
Yeah, so it’s Pat Bernier and myself. Shakedown was one of our events that we created from scratch. We’re proud to have been able to create that monster for 14 years, we would love to have been able to land the 15th anniversary, it’s just a number we would have liked to accomplish but not at any price obviously.
Is this something that could make a comeback like take some time off and come back or are you going in another direction?
We’re definitely keeping the door open but the stars would have to align in the sense that we would need the right lineup of sponsors to make it happen. We don’t want to be going door to door knocking for sponsorship like we have been in the last 14 years. That’s been the biggest struggle is for us to fund the event, we have no support other than sponsorship. Like [we have] no government grants or sport grants, or tourism grants or even municipal financial contributions. We’ve had none of that since Day 1. It’s been a free event for 13 years and then last year we tried charging since it was a ticketed event. If we do come back, it’ll be a ticketed event but we’d like to add a music component, possibly add skiing. Create a festival and within that festival have Shakedown as a snowboard event and have skiing integrated into that festival. We need to sit down and redesign the event if we want to get it going again. If we have the right partners and sponsors we’d consider it.
Is there anything else you think should be touched on or be said?
We’d just like to thank all the riders, past and present sponsors, spectators, employees, and Mont Saint-Sauveur and everyone who made Shakedown what it was.