For many, Tony Hawk and his brand are equated to his extensive list of successful, self-branded video games or his appearances across film and media, but for me, Tony Hawk’s brand is the 900.
Tony Hawk, “The Birdman,” lays claim to being the first skateboarder to ever complete the 900, two and a half rotations above the halfpipe and somehow managing to ride away. That is all it took for me to be hooked on the brand of Tony Hawk. However, my continual engagement with Tony’s brand is not reliant on him being the first to land the trick, but the twelve attempts it took during the 1999 X Games, and the determination and authenticity he showcased while attempting it. As he has done throughout his career, Tony Hawk showed who he is as a person that day, building upon his brand authenticity. Tony’s focus on the authenticity of his brand throughout his career resulted in him being a household name and business success.
During Tony Hawk’s Keynote he mentioned, “The feeling of creating something new and seeing it to completion, which was my motivation, and still is.” As a pro skater for 30+ years, by focusing on his passion for creating something new and innovating through skating, Tony was able to stay relevant through skating’s ebbs and flows in popularity.
However, Tony’s popularity and passion to innovate has also lead him in to various missteps with his personal brand along the way with various sponsorship deals. At one point, Tony reluctantly found out that his brand was so popular that it could sell anything, even toilet paper. This low point in his personal brand maintenance lead to the realization that he was not staying true to who he is. So he vowed that he would not give control of his name, his brand, away again.
With a better understanding of the importance of his own brand equity, Tony was able to better navigate the business aspect of his career, leading to the creation of the video game, “Tony Hawk: Pro Skater.” Of which, he required approval over all final products. Even with royalty buyout offers of $0.5Million, Tony decided to trust in his innovation and let it ride, resulting in over $1Billion in sales for the series. Not to mention, the series at one point claimed four of the top ten spots for all-time video game sales.
Tony appropriately closed his keynote by saying, “If you give up control of your authenticity and your brand, it’s going to go bad.” With that ethos, I am confident that Tony’s 30+ year career in the spotlight will continue far into the future.