In 1989, Cara-Beth Burnside was the first woman skateboarder featured on the cover of Thrasher Magazine. While dedicating her life to the rebel sport, she found limited opportunities for girls and women. So, Burnside participated in amateur events alongside men who had access to the professional contests that she longed for. By 1999, her perseverance paid off as she was the first woman to have a signature skate shoe with Vans, the iconic action sports footwear, apparel, and accessories brand.
“Girls need to see more girls skating, it makes a huge difference,” said Burnside in 2018 while reflecting on the need for inclusivity in the sport.
Being seen is central to Vans’ 2019 Vanguards campaign, which features global brand ambassadors Lizzie Armanto, Brighton Zeuner, Yndiara Asp, and Mami Tezuka. Continuing with its initiative to teach women of all ages how to skateboard through a series of skate clinics, Vanguards is part of the This Is Off The Wall campaign, which is a global multi-year campaign that stretches beyond traditional advertising.
“It is critical that people can identify and see themselves in our storytelling. The biggest step for us is providing access and opportunity to participate in what we talk about in our stories,” said April Vitkus, Global Brand Marketing at Vans.
“Last year through our learn to skate clinics we introduced 7,000 new people to skateboarding. Our job is to grow participation in skateboarding worldwide and support the creative culture that goes with it.”
Telling stories around creative self-expression through the voices of its brand ambassadors around the world is central to Vans’ brand promise and purpose.
“When we think of our global brand ambassadors, they are the people that add dimension, diversity, and humanity to the brand,” said Vitkus.
“Their stories and experience are what we hope will create a spark and possibly inspire someone to pick up a skateboard, express their creativity and push things forward for women. Their role is to drive the culture and create the next generation.”
In the recent Piper Jaffray Taking Stock With Teens survey, Vans saw the fastest growth in popularity of footwear brand since the survey started in 2000. And, the increase was most significant among female consumers. This growth signals a trend that Vans’ women’s business is growing at a faster rate than its men’s business.
And, the progression in the retail industry is taking shape in the professional ranks. In 2016, Vans created the Vans Park Series, which is a “direct path to pro” competition featuring open registration that encourages local participation. Last year, Vans made an industry-changing commitment to prize parity for all men’s and women’s tour stops. First place prize for each stop is $20,000, which was first granted to open-field competitor Sakura Yosozumi from Japan in June 2018.
“Skateboarding has always been a part of our history, and it will continue to be a part of our future. We are so invested in this form of creative expression,” Vitkus said.