Mark McMorris Inc: Inside the Business Empire of an Olympic Snowboarder

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The 28-year-old is an entrepreneur of action sports athletes, with a sponsorship stronghold that has grown from purely sports

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Mark McMorris is everywhere these days. The prairie snowboarding prodigy competes in Beijing, boasts 800,000 Instagram followers and stars in commercial campaigns for Toyota, Royal Bank of Canada, SkipTheDishes, Bridgestone, General Mills and more.

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The 28-year-old is an entrepreneur of action sports athletes, with a sponsorship stronghold that has grown from purely sports (Nike, Burton, Oakley) to the daily act of pouring a bowl of cereal – throw a peek at your kids’ Cheerios box. Watch for it in the ads for Subway sandwiches, because they’re coming soon too.

McMorris has already won a bronze medal in China, his third career Olympic bronze medal, and he has a shot at winning gold in the Big Air competition early next week. But collecting more Olympic gear is almost irrelevant at this point to Mark McMorris Inc., at least in terms of being able to pay the bills.

Is he rich? “He’s doing well financially,” said Russell Reimer, his sales agent and president of Manifesto Sport Management. “But when it comes to major professional sports, let’s be honest, he’s not a salaried professional athlete, so what’s so amazing about Mark’s success is that he’s built it all on his own. .”

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Well, not entirely. McMorris may be the guy who does crazy stunts on a snowboard and wins more X Games gold medals in slopestyle than anyone else in history, including American legend Shaun (The Flying Tomato) White, but beavers in the background is a team that includes a filmmaker who spends two months a year documenting his every move, a manager, two agents and a content team, and a group of agencies advertising on the other side of the table managing the McMorris account.

McMorris after the men's snowboard slopestyle final.
McMorris after the men’s snowboard slopestyle final. Photo by Ben STANSALL/AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images Files

That’s not to say he’s competing in a bubble, blissfully unaware of the dollars and cents involved. On the contrary, he knows full well who the CEO of Brand McMorris is, and he spends hours minding his own business. financial, including during the Olympic Games.

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“I would say I’m more committed to partnerships than most athletes, simply because snowboarding is strictly about partnerships, and that’s our livelihood,” he said via email Friday night. Beijing time. “Working with these brands is, for one, a blessing and, for two, a big problem.”

Brands love a good story and a big part of the appeal of McMorris is that he has a great one to tell.

Before the 2014 Sochi Olympics, it was a humble child of one of the flattest places on earth, namely Regina, which dominated extreme sports competition. To further sweeten his first pre-Olympic story, McMorris fell less than two weeks before the Games and broke a rib. He competed anyway — it’s the Canadian way, isn’t it? – winning a bronze medal, then calling it as good as “gold” during a lengthy TV interview with CBC personality George Stromboulopoulos.

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McMorris came across as funny, self-effacing and humble, another holy trinity of admirable and consumer-friendly traits for Canadian consumers.

Yiming Su of Team China wins the silver medal, Max Parrot of Team Canada wins the gold medal, Mark Mcmorris of Team Canada wins the bronze medal.
Yiming Su of Team China won the silver medal, Max Parrot of Team Canada won the gold medal and McMorris won the bronze medal.

Three years later, he crashed into a tree in Whistler, British Columbia, and nearly died on the mountain while the cameras were rolling. It was a near-tragedy that led to an exponentially more remarkable comeback story, which was featured in a CBC documentary just days before he won another bronze medal at the 2018 Olympics.

At that point, McMorris went from being a Canadian snowboarder to something more profound.

“He’s incredibly marketable, because of the Canadiana — he’s from Saskatchewan, his near-death experience, his miraculous recovery — and people are just amazed by it, and it generates an emotional response,” said Charlene Weaving, a Olympics expert at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S.

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And emotional responses generate buy-in from advertisers.

“Mark is an incredible athlete,” Jeevan Grewal, brand experience manager, Cereal & Snacks, General Mills Canada, said in a statement. “But our admiration for him goes far beyond his success on the slopes. He had a remarkable journey and, like all Canadians, we were inspired by his resilience, his passion and his positivity.

Mark McMorris of Team Canada wins the silver medal during the 2022 Olympic Games, Men's Snowboard Slopestyle, on February 7, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.
McMorris has a shot at winning gold in the Big Air competition early next week. Photo by Christophe Pallot/Zoom Agency/Getty Images files

Those words could be a nice pat on the back for an athlete-entrepreneur who has been hustling since he was 15, when McMorris met his agent, or one of them. Jasen Isaacs then introduced him to the good folks at Burton, Red Bull and Oakley. They have been with him ever since.

McMorris can’t say what the best financial advice he’s ever received is, but his business philosophy basically boils down to, “Don’t cut ties. Take care of people. And take risks.

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Once upon a time in an earlier Olympic age, the riskiest thing a sponsor had to decide was which gold medalist to put on, say, a Wheaties box. Social media has changed arithmetic.

“Social media is key,” Weaving said. “Sponsors will get the older crew through standard TV commercials, but the younger crew probably doesn’t have cable.”

Cue the McMorris brand advantage.

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The snowboarder and his team can tell a potential partner that his average branded Instagram post is around 75% effective at engaging his more than 800,000 followers, according to data from Upfluence, an influencer analytics and software company. .

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His average post on TikTok to his 295,000 followers receives 116,000 likes. His 180,000 Twitter followers are mostly male, between the ages of 24 and 35. He can also tell them he looks good on a Cheerios box.

People who know McMorris personally often describe him as “lovable.” One of his nicknames is McLovin’, the nickname of a character from the movie Superbad. Another nickname is The Closer, derived from the early years of his career when he was universally regarded among snowboarding aficionados as virtually unbeatable.

Now, even when he gets beat, the sponsors understand that the Prairie kid just can’t lose.

• Email: [email protected] | Twitter: oconnorecrit

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