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USSA uncorks new freeski branding

The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association unveiled its new Freeskiing logo and branding in New York this week. SNEWS sat down with USSA Chief Marketing Officer Andrew Judelson to discuss how this sets the stage for where skiing goes next.

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The symbol of American skiing’s generation next got its official unveiling from the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) on May 2 in New York. Featuring a halfpipe-shaped “U,” and a specially created free-flowing font, the new U.S. Freeskiing logo effectively brands the latest competitive arm of the USSA, which features the disciplines of ski halfpipe, ski slopestyle and ski cross.

“The design represents how we feel about ourselves in our sport. There’s a feeling of independence–there are no rules, you can see that in the letters,” X Games champion and 2014 American medal hopeful Jen Hudak said of the new logo. Created by global advertising agency DraftFCB, the USSA wanted to emphasize that the new program’s athletes–especially Hudak–were also heavily involved in the branding process.

“We are an athletic organization and it was important that the athletes in this sport be integrally involved in the development of the new brand identity,” USSA President and CEO Bill Marolt said in a statement. “Freeskiing athletes have taken great pride in advancing their sport to the Olympics and showcasing it through the millions of youth who ski in halfpipes and terrain parks at resorts across America.”

The USSA announced the new U.S. Freeskiing program in January. Ski cross was already an Olympic event at the time, but it wasn’t until April that the International Olympic Committee added halfpipe skiing to the 2014 Olympic program in Sochi, Russia. A decision on slopestyle’s Olympic status is expected in June of 2011.

In a conversation with SNEWS®, Andrew Judelson, USSA’s chief revenue and marketing officer, said the new branding allows the association to work with brands on a more “scaleable” level in the wintersports market. “This allows us to go to the market and offer a different platform for companies to work with us,” Judelson said. “For instance, in the U.S. you don’t sell a lot of alpine race skis, but companies do sell a lot of free skis, and Freeskiing can be used as a vehicle to drive more sales in that market.”

Judelson said the same collaborative effort that created the new logo will set the foundation for how the team grows the new brand, with the USSA acting as a resource for Freeskiing’s organic growth.

“The growth of freeskiing has really been a grassroots process, and we want to continue to support that,” said Judelson. “We can’t be seen by athletes as setting rules and establishing jurisdiction and guidelines. Our goal is to provide incremental value to them–including resources like the Center of Excellence for training and R&D, and help when they are on the road–without taking away from that sense of freedom that is so important to the sport.”

Judelson is quick to declare, “Alpine racing is still a huge driver of our business,” and “it will never stop being our lead horse.” But he said Freeskiing appeals to a quickly expanding youth movement. “Clearly the IOC sees an opportunity here to broaden their appeal,” Judelson said. “They want to get younger, and they want to add more entertainment value, and freeskiing is an important part of that.”

–Peter Kray

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