Monday, October 17, 2016

Warren Miller's Brand Mangement

Last Friday was “Bald and Free” day, and so I surmise this rainy Monday starts “Stubbley and Itchy” week for some people. Having not shaved any part of my anatomy that might interfere with perching on a bicycle saddle I toy with the idea of heading off to southern Utah and a supported 100 mile ride. That is hours of saddle time, and it should be warm enough, highs in the 80s (almost 30C), that sweat irritating abraded skin might be a real concern for those who aggressively celebrated BandF day.

The rain today brings less liquid precipitation to the high slopes of the mountains hereabouts. Soon the talk of exertion and sweating will turn to winter sports. Gear discussions will devolve to poles and waxes and bindings; topics with a whole different meaning than when discussed in the heat of summer.

On the evening of BandF day I found myself at Abravenel hall in Salt Lake city. The venue’s capacity was strained beyond what the Utah Symphony can usually attract, and the crowd was younger, hipper, and louder than those I have seen at the symphony lately.

They all showed up to watch a film bearing the name of a 92-year-old director (he was only 91 on Friday as his birthday was on Saturday) about bumming about and playing in the snow. Hip young skiers waxed ad nauseam about the hardships Warren Miller endured when, in 1946, he and his buddy Ward Baker lived in a tiny teardrop trailer parked outside a Sun Valley Idaho ski resort for a season, and filmed each other on an 8mm camera in between acting as ski instructors.

A quick internet search of photos shows that Warren Miller is quite bald these days.

“WME owns the exclusive right, in perpetuity, in all media, to the name, the personal endorsement, use of voice and the likeness of Warren Miller, only when used with its existing business, and the fruits of its related efforts,” – From arbitration panel ruling 2010

The film did not discuss the branding case Warren was involved in back in 2010. Warren sold his name off to a group that calls itself “Warren Miller Entertainment group” (WME) and was doing some narration for a ski movie by a different group when WME decided that him just going about and using his name might dilute their brand. The ruling was considered “mixed”. Warren has not actually done any directing or narrating or anything really, with the company that bears his name, since 2004.

“I have not been involved with my old company’s films in any capacity for many years now, and I will not work with WME again.” – Warren Miller 2010

At one point in the evening’s debut showing of “Warren Miller's Here There and Everywhere” a happy sounding DJ who was emceeing the event asked the audience to all stand and sing “Happy Birthday” to Warren while he filmed it on a GoPro. I’m not sure if that was ironic or just insensitive.

Although…. When I think of that night’s movie and the idea of sensitivity to branding it is not images of courtrooms and suit-and-tied lawyers that comes to mind. One of the segments of snowy activity in the film was about the newish sport of FatBike snow riding. Here mountain bikes with huuuge tires are ridden about in the snow. It is slow and looks like a lot of fun, and I plan on engaging in some FatBike riding this winter. The film segment spastically followed a Fatbike competition, and ended with the winner being held down in the snow while his pants were pulled down and a red hot branding iron used to sear a logo onto one of the cheeks of his buttocks. It looked quite painful.

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