The arctic is the last place you expect to find skateboarders but skate brand Element have changed that with a snow-filled film to promote the brand’s new range of coats.
The unexpected film, which sees Element skater Karsten Kleppan travel to the island of Spitsbergen, in the frozen Arctic Ocean to skate the northernmost skateboard mini ramp in the world.
You read that right, there’s a skateboard ramp on an island in the middle of the Arctic Ocean – it’s at 78 degrees 41’N – 16 degrees 24’E to be exact.
The film ‘Wolfeboro Authentech’, aims to showcase and test Element’s new Wolfeboro Authentech Collection, of breathable, wind-proof, water-proof, insulated range of coats. It's housed on YouTube and Vimeo as well as a dedicated site which features all the usual information and online retail.
According to the marketing blurbs, “Authentech is Element’s authentic technology to protect you from the forces of nature.” Basically the coats keep you dry and warm - even in the arctic!
This piece of branded entertainment follows Kleppan as he not only skates the world’s most northern mini ramp, he also travels across the snow, sighting polar bear families and visiting an abandoned soviet era town – all the while popping tricks and moves on his board.
This is skateboarding at its most surreal. As Kleppan says: “We thought we’d go up there and see if there was anything to actually skate up there. It’s just packed with Polar Bears up there and if you go out of the city limits you need a rifle. It’s kind of scary in one way and exciting in the other.”
And so begins the film.
What stands out to me straight off the bat is that this is not a skate movie. This is an intriguing journey to an extreme location where the viewer gets to view the world through the eyes of a skater. The skaters view of the world in many ways is quite simple: what can I skate on?
Skaters will travel the world based on this single pursuit and make a skate video in the process. The interesting thing is, this is not a skate video. The usual skate video follows a pretty simple formula, shots of skaters travelling somewhere, doing funny/crazy/silly things then lots and lots of footage of skaters skarting, performing the same tricks and generally showing off their skills.
This film is different.
The scenery is stunning, the glimpse of nature and the polar bear cubs are beautiful. The town of Pyramiden, a neglected soviet town with five guys living there is absurb, surreal and utterly fascinating.
So much so, that I was keen for more information and exploration of this fascinating place and less of the skateboarding in strange places. However, clearly I am not the target market for this.
That market has well and truly embraced this film already attracting more than 65,000 views on Vimeo after only being uploaded last week. It's a strong start for a niche film, which is so unique among this genre.
This is a brand that is prolific when it comes to video content. The skate video is nothing new, it was this culture of video, film and events that inspired Red Bull, which took its lead from these cultural sports brands when it began to churn out branded films and entertainment platforms.
Since the 80s skate brands have been prolific in supporting and sponsoring stars and then leveraging their individual success through the brand in teams. Branded stars and the teams would receive their branded equipment and clothing in return for appearances at events and within films.
A well worn formula for skaters, surfers, bmx riders etc the idea of creating inspiring branded content that showcases the talent, the aligns the brand with the best is the bread and butter of this world.
However, when it comes to product launches, this to me appears to be quite new. So it is fitting that Element has created something really unique and different with this film. Also it is fitting that the brand has in some way returned to its roots and launched a product range with the Wolfeboro coats that play so strongly on the brand's name: Element.
Taking this skater into such an extreme environment at the mercy of the elements, is a wonderful tie-in for the brand. The strategy here is to reinforce the idea that Element enables skaters to skate anywhere, in any conditions, regardless of the weather or the elements. It's a film which really celebrates the forces of nature and in a way the brand is showing how it can help you conquer the frontier of snow to get you skating wherever you desire.
This is a niche film for a market of fans who would probably have bought the coats for winter. They could easily have travelled to Canada, Alaska or Japan and shot a skate video in the winter to showcase the coats – that they didn’t is part of what makes this film so worthy of praise.
Element’s resolve to send a skater to an island in the middle of the arctic ocean and see what happens is quite impressive. The strategy is clear, the brand wanted to create something inspirational so that it might plant a seed for skaters to seek our their own snow filled skating adventures. This is also the strategy that sits under the skate videos that Element are so great at creating, ultimatley it is all about inspiring people to recreate these adventures for themselves.
Stirring and visually emotive this film carries an important message for skaters: you can skate anywhere, and in any conditions! You can explore the world and create new adventures to find every more exciting places to skate. And now you can wear a great warm coat made by a skate brand. This film aims to be inspirational and evoking, the snow filled arctic is no longer an avoided frontier, now Element has made it possible for brands to push out into new extremes. It's inspiring and motivating, which to my mind suggests it will be pretty successful with it's audience. I want to travel there and soak it up and hell if I could ride a skateboard why not?
A beautifully shot film of a stunning location bound to inspire and amaze skaters and fans. I think this is an impressive achievement.