In early January Orage made an announcement that they would be signing multi year contacts with high profile big mountain skiers Callum Pettit, Rory Bushfield, and Elyse Saugstad. Being able afford these three high profile skiers Orage dropped the majority of their park and street team. And by majority I mean the entire park and street team, dropping Andy Parry, Chris Logan, Will Wesson, and Magnus Graner from their roster. The reason behind the purge of the park and street segment of their team was due to their rebrand which is expected to be in full effect for the 2016 – 2017 season. Orage wanted to move away from park/street image to the more profitable big mountain image.
Orage had planned to keep long time athlete Phil Casabon (B-Dog) on the roster, since he was the face of the park/street team having a pro model jacket with them since 2010. On one condition, if he changed up his style of skiing and dress. Orage wanted Phil to start skiing more big mountain and wearing slimmer fitting clothes. However, Phil did not agree with Orage’s decision on their new brand direction he also left Orage. Many believe Phil was dropped by Orage because he was not a profitable entity to the company. This the exact opposite, as we see in the screen show below of Phil speaking about his decision to leave Orage. Phil’s pro model jacket was most sold out jacket every year he had one.
Instead of just dropping everyone on the park/street team and telling Phil “we won’t pay you anymore but we want you to change the way you dress and your image, to have the privilege to keep wearing our gear”. Orage easily could have easily kept all of their park/street skiers on the team with out pay, by simply flowing them gear for free letting them keep skiing how they want to ski. And if they did not want to have any support from Orage they could be free to leave. It is not like Andy, Will, Chris, Magnus and Phil were not adding any value to Orage. They were putting in work producing more content than anyone else on Orage’s team: Andy and Will have Line Traveling Circus web series, Andy has his solo project Tell A Friend Tour, Chris is a part of backcountry web series Big Picture Mountain, Magnus is featured in many edits with The Bunch and films at least one movie segment a year, and Phil has his hands in everything filming web series, movie segments, as well as putting on his own event The B&E Invitational.
Since dropping Andy, Will, Chris, Magnus and Phil leaving Orage has sucessufuly lost the support of the core freeskiing market which they used build their brand over the past decade. And it shows, below are a few of many comments showing resentment towards Orage’s discussions on their new brand direction from forums Newschoolers.
Yes, a part of being a brand is constantly changing trying to access new markets and being most profitable. However, when you are selling with markets that have many influencers and passionate supporters such as ski industry. You can not just desert the “core” area that got your brand off the ground. This rebrand Orage has pulled has greatly reduced if not ruined their brand affinity in the freeski market.
Orage easily could have used some creative thinking on a way to continue working with Andy Parry, Chris Logan, Will Wesson, Magnus Graner, and Phil Casabon. Something as simple as a 5-10 minute park/street edit, with all of the riders “b-footy” that did not make into their edits or segments from that season. The video could have been simply uploaded to Vimeo or Youtube and shared by the riders. The only costs Orage would have incurred would be sending outerwear to the five riders and paying someone to edit the video, in reality probably less than $2,000. Even just showing this genuine effort and giving back to their core market would have saved their brand affinity. Pulling a move like this especially in a highly judgmental and passionate market is not a wise idea. Especially if you have given to much to the community as Orage has for the past decade.
For the past decade Orage has positioned itself as an innovator that gives back to freeskiing community. Having arguably the most diverse park/street team ever, they brought street fashion to skiing outwear with unique fabric choice and hosted the legendary “anti-competition” the Orage Masters RIP. Their genuine passion for freeskiing secured Orage their spot the highly judgmental freeski niche. However, with the purge of their entire park/street team all of the work Orage put in the past decade to increase their brand affinity has gone down the drain and it shows. Here is a link to a growing thread on Newschoolers about what the community thinks of Orage’s rebrand.