America has become a wide world of sports, and Bill Carter's firm leverages the popular fascination with athletics—especially, these days, with extreme sports—to give products the thrill of victory. Clients include Gillette Right Guard Xtreme, Mountain Dew, even Ford and Motorola.
Bill Carter and Brett Smith
President and Vice President, Fuse Integrated Sports Marketing
Additional Team Members:
Issa Sawabinil John Dale, Aimie Cappa, Tara Ganun, Andrew Kneale.
FROM BILL'S ORIGINAL ENTRY:
Tell us what you do (or what your team or organization does) and the specific challenge you faced.
By 1998, Fortune 500 marketers had identified action sports (snowboarding, surfing, skateboarding, etc.) as a key to reach a youth demographic, but lacked the knowledge of how to effectively speak to teens and young adults in a relevant and credible voice. Bill Carter and Brett Smith developed Fuse to do just that—taking the fastest growing and most relevant sports to youth culture and developing strategies for corporations to utilize the sports as an effective marketing platform. Today Fuse has 35 employees in Burlington, VT and San Francisco and represents nearly every key brand in the space—Mountain Dew (Pepsi), Ford, Gillette, Motorola, Burton Snowboards, Quiksilver, and others.
What was your moment of truth?
October 4, 1999 was the moment of truth. The idea of Fuse had been developed—to be an action sports marketing services agency, but what remained to be seen was whether the Fortune 500 community was going to take the leap from traditional sports (football, baseball, basketball, etc.) marketing and advertising to the "new" genre of action sports. Did they believe it was just a fad (as much of the media had hyped) or did they believe, as we proposed, that action sports were the future of sports marketing to youth culture? Prior to October 1999, there had been only one key corporate marketer (Pepsi's Mountain Dew brand) who had made a commitment to action sports. And while they were a great client, they did not make for a marketplace alone. October 1999, Gillette called and asked us to educate them and "sell" them that action sports was here to stay. A few months later they successfully launched a new youth targeted product using an action sports platform. (The exact date? 10/1/1999)
What were the results?
Today, nearly three years later, we continue to develop Gillette's "Right Guard Xtreme Sport" in to one of the company's most successful brands and their means to connect to a youth target that had previously evaded them. We demonstrated to one of America's most traditional companies that action sports marketing works. From that point forward, the floodgates seemingly opened and within months, dozens of new brands entered the marketplace. As important, we helped create a niche for our agency and went from 10 to 35 employees (and counting!). If not for Fuse, corporate participation in action sports might not ever have developed—and without corporate participation, action sports would likely not be at the forefront of youth culture as it is today.
What's your parting tip?
Be humble, but know how good you are! America's biggest companies will hire the smallest agencies because they need your passion and creativity.