Whether you're in your 60s or just turned five, if there's anything any one of the past few generations can appreciate it's skateboarding. Boys, girls, old, young - it's something that everyone grew up with in one way or another. Well, the skateboarding industry is under attack and it's up to us as people to help. When skateboarding was just a meager moneymaker to the few involved, no one really noticed, but now as a industry worth millions - even billions - of dollars, large corporations want their cut. In the process, they will use their money and influence to ruin everything. The mom and pop skate shop on the corner will be gone. A decent seven-ply deck won't exist. And everything you buy for your board will probably be made over seas using cheap labor. And everything will cost you more and them less. If you shop at Wal-Mart, work in a cubicle, and think Paris Hilton rightfully deserves everything she has, then you probably don't care. The rest of us do.
But who has the balls to take on such hard hitters? Birdo does. Not once, but twice he's battled the corporate take over of skateboarding and won. But now the third time around it's getting harder. Owner of Consolidated Skateboards, Birdo is here to save skateboarding - nay, the world. And he's doing it with the power of three small words: Don't Do It.
Big Wheel: What's the history of Don't Do It?
Birdo: The Don't Do It campaign originally started back around '97, when the sporting goods companies tried to enter the skateboarding industry and it just seemed so odd. They weren't skateboarders and they were trying to come in and capitalize. Back then, it seemed to be a pretty easy task, we circulated a lot of literature into the shops to explain the dangers of letting these large sporting goods companies in, that they had different distribution that didn't necessarily include the skateboard shops and if you support them you'd in turn potentially be slitting your throat. So regardless, they tried to enter and pulled out in the 90s, they tried to come back again around 2000. Nike actually tried to get in under the guise "Savier." We did some campaigning with the Don't Do It campaign to spread awareness that Nike was behind Savier and they ended up pulling the plug on that in 2001.
This last round, I think the large sporting goods penetrated a lot deeper this time. They got their ducks in a row, they paid off the right people. They really romanced the magazines. I know one magazine they flew them all to Japan first class, put them up in four-star hotels. They flew key retails out to their facilities, wined and dined them all day, gave them shoes and made them all these promises. I was kinda asleep at the wheel. What I didn't realize is that I'm in my own little bubble here, I've had a skateboard company for 15 years and I forget that everyday somebody quits skateboarding and everyday some new kid that doesn't know anything about the history of skateboarding is just getting into it. So I was thinking, "Who cares? Nobody's going to support these sport goods companies, they didn't come from skateboarding." They already tried several times before, so I wasn't really worried. But I didn't know all that they were doing, I didn't know they were securing all the key points - like the magazines, team riders, they were romancing all the artists. So they made a really strong and smart effort to get in this time. So they got in really deep before I acted. So uprooting them is a lot tougher this time.
But thank god for the internet and Myspace because the mainstream mags, that were - I don't wanna say "bought out," but swayed by the large sporting goods companies, they don't want to touch me with a ten foot pole because they don't wanna lose their ad revenue. Which to an extent is understandable but here comes this big guy that's going to buy up the media and control. So we started running an educational campaign on the internet and on Myspace, which to me is like the underground railroad. It's the greatest thing because it's unstoppable and you can't control it. These kids today, they don't know. For all they know, these large sporting goods companies have been in it since day one. So when they start getting the history of it, they realize that they have been around but they have nothing for skateboarding, they really like to rally behind it. I'm getting a lot of support, nationally even worldwide with the Don't Do It campaign. It continues to grow and grow everyday and I'm excited about it.
BW: Explain what happened with the Drunks and the Nike "Send Help Dunk."
Birdo: Our artist [Todd Bratrud] had been approached. I didn't know, but his hometown shop, Fobia, in Minnesota had approached him saying, "Nike wants to do this shoe with us, will you help us design it." Or so the story goes. Fobia ends up going out of business and I guess they had told him, "We still want you to do this shoe." So he said, "OK." And the truth is I wouldn't have cared. I didn't want any association with Consolidated at all, because we are not into having the sporting goods companies involved and we didn't want any association with Nike, but I had no problem having our artist do some side thing that would be good for him and he could make some money. But what happened is, they've done plenty of shoes with artists and they never mentioned any of the companies that these artist work for, yet with this one when it came out they decided to play it up that it was this Consolidated shoe. We were getting calls from all over the world, our foreign distributors saying they saw the Consolidated shoe, Transworld [magazine] ran a thing saying, "I guess it's officially OK to 'just do it' now." Totally caught us by surprise, and we're like, "What the hell is this?" At one time some of the guys at Nike hit up our artist and said, "Let's call it the 'Consoli-dunk.'"And he straight up told them, "No way. This is just me, as a artist, doing business, and this in no way has anything to do with Consolidated. They're totally not into it, and it can't have anything to do with them." And they they're saying, "Oh, yeah, whatever." When it came out it got played up. It was almost like they were trying to rub our face in it. Anyway, so the shoe comes out, and it gets played up as this Consolidated shoe. Even one of their reps circulated this bulletin, or mass email that said, "I don't know if you remember but ten years ago, Consolidated had the Don't Do It campaign, a couple of their riders get flow from Nike, one of their artists did a shoe, looks like things have changed, educate your customers."
What I did with the Drunks, my thought process was once bitten, twice shy. To me, the American dream is to make a living doing something that you love. We've been in business 15 years, we're by no means any big company, we like to stick with what we feel is right and do what we wanna do. The American dream isn't necessarily the game of monopoly. I can make a living, and I do something I love. So for 15 years, I never said, "Aw, I don't wanna go to work today, work sucks." Because it doesn't suck. I get to come to work, I get to do ads, I get to do board graphic ideas and I get to live my own dream. Just because we chased these sporting goods companies out twice before, saying, "Hey, this isn't what it's about. This is about skateboarders doing what they're into, and it's not straight up business. You're businessmen trying to capitalize on skateboarding, we're skateboarders trying to make a living doing something we love. We said, "Get out of here" twice, so the third time I starting saying "What's it gonna take for these sons of bitches to get the message?" I felt like, well we need to show them, just because we chased you out, doesn't mean we couldn't start a shoe company, doesn't mean we can't make shoes to try and take market share from you. They did a press release saying now that they've penetrated the hard-to-please skateboard industry, they wanna push further into this lifestyle, and take sales away from companies like Volcom and Quiksilver. I had to tell Leticia, who's my partner here, I said, "If we don't do anything, in five years we're just gonna get squeezed out. What have we got to lose? We might as well fight for what we feel is right." Worst-case scenario, I'd have to get a job somewhere. I'm sure I could get a job making more money than I do already, I just don't want to. So I'm willing to fight. The worst that's gonna happen is we're gonna get squished and put out of business. And if we don't do anything that's what's gonna happen anyway.
The shoe came about as a vehicle to say, "Hey, who do you think you are?" I understand that they are the largest shoe manufacturer in the world, and I know that money is power. But the truth of the matter is the people have the money, and the people have the power, and if people stop buying their products for six months, they'd go out of business. And I want to educate people that what they are gonna spend their money on really matters. If you or I are gonna go give away a hundred bucks to a charity, we're gonna look into it, see where your money's going and make sure it's something that you're backing. When you buy something, whether it's a pair of shoes or a pair of jeans, it's the same thing: what am I supporting? Where is my money going? In the skateboard industry, I'm trying to spread the awareness of you should support that ones that are supporting skateboarding, or are into skateboarding, and not just trying to capitalize off it.
BW: And how do the stickers come into the campaign?
Birdo: I loved stickers as a kid, I know stickers are a powerful tool. I back print them so people understand the message and what the sticker stands for. So I send them out and encourage people in my Don't Do It Army to spread the word, to educate people. I know the media that is biased and in a sense paid off isn't going to spread my message. I need the skaters to do it. That's why I said thank god for myspace, because it gives me a vehicle to get in touch with people who sympathize with what I'm trying to do. And they just need to pull the veil off other people's eyes and let them see the light, and they in turn get behind it and start spreading the word. The large sporting goods companies were just a wake up call. The Don't Do It campaign encompasses more than just necessarily kicking out the large sporting goods companies, to me it's a revolution. It's a time when people need to think of what they support and do they like the direction that things are going. One thing I like to say is, people didn't pack up their family and leave their home country to come here and become the manager of Wal-Mart, and yet it seems to be the direction that our country is going. Look at the skate, surf and snowboard industry. It's one of the last strongholds of this freedom, in which the participants have all created this microcosm of shops and companies that are all skater, surfer or snowboarder owned. And I think it's great, I think it should be that. On the back of one of my stickers, it says, "There's a reason there's no football, baseball, basketball, or soccer player owned companies, and there should be." If you think about it there isn't any. Yet in surf, skate and snow there's hundreds of companies, and they're all owned by surfers, skaters and snowboarders. And why isn't that in football, baseball, basketball or soccer? Do we want that to happen to surf, skate and snow? It's going that way.
To join the Don't Do It Army, just add myspace.com/dontdoitarmy as a friend, post Don't Do It banners on your page, tell your friends, print stencils and stickers at Dontdoitarmy.com, or get some stickers from Birdo himself. And go to your local shop and buy a pair of Drunks, or buy anything at all, just to let them know you support them and all they're doing. United we stand, divided we fall.