Today we are out to meet Simon Li, founder of slackline gear company Pure Slacklines.
Slacklining is an increasingly popular sporting activity that could be loosely defined as a modern, bouncy twist on the ancient art of tightrope walking. The big difference lies in the lines, now made of nylon webbing that you can adjust the height, length and tension of to suit the user, making for a unique dynamic experience in which the line is totally responsive to the body’s balance and coordination.
FanFuel was curious to hear from Simon about the growth of his brand in Australia and his take on brand ambassadors, sponsorship and social media:
Simon, when did you start slacklining and how was Pure Slacklines born?
Well, I started rock climbing six years ago and through that I was introduced to slacklining. About two and a half years ago my housemate got a ‘1 inch’ wide slackline and we started trying to balance on it at the park. I got hooked and was determined to walk the full length, I knew I liked the ‘1 inch’ size but couldn’t find any in Australia, so I started importing them from overseas and selling them on Ebay. I sold out fast but my original supplier never got back to me for re-stocking purposes so I decided to launch my own brand – Pure Slacklines.
What is your take on sponsorship and how is it happening in slacklining today?
Sponsorship is definitely the route that many slackline brands are choosing right now for their marketing efforts, but it feels like a bit of a ‘landgrab’. It feels a little premature for an athlete to stick to one brand completely, especially in a sport that still has so much room to develop.
I think sponsorship works best when an athlete truly loves the product and needs it.
Slacklining is dynamic, the sport is still in it’s infancy and new tricks are invented every day. When you are involved in a fast growing sport, I think you are naturally curious and should push yourself to try different products from different manufactures. Top athletes know that even a slight difference in the gear they use can make or break your performance, so its important to get a sense of what is out there and not stick to one brand without sampling the field.
How do you think social media has changed the way athletes get noticed?
Social media has been a huge avenue of growth for many different sports. As an example, you used to watch the Tour de France on television and the riders at the back would almost never have a camera pointed at them: now each of them all have their own Instagram channel and can share everything they do, gain supporters, and generate exposure to their sponsors. Without social media a sport like slacklining would struggle to be broadcasted to a wide audience and grow as fast as it has been growing. It makes collaborating much easier and gives amateur athletes and emerging sports brands a platform and a voice.
What attributes do you look for in athletes you’d sponsor?
Currently I don’t do any official sponsorship, but I have done collaborative projects in Australia and Hong Kong. For me, the key elements of being an ambassador for a brand is trust and communication. For every top athlete with a major sponsorship deal there are thousands of other great ones that are influencers within their own circles and communities. Slackline is a social affair, people are curious and want to try it out, so a great brand ambassador would be someone who endorses that, someone knowledgeable about the sport and willing to help other people have their first contact with slacklining. Good communication is essential, I’d want someone with whom I can have an open dialogue and get feedback on the gear we produce.
I’m on a mission to connect with people who truly love our products
In what direction do you see the sport going next?
Unfortunately in a few cities there has been an access issue because of supposed damage to trees. Pure Slacklines takes the environment very seriously and that’s why I’ve included built-in tree protection to our kits. Funnily I see the parallels with the recent mainstream explosion of Yoga: both are activities centred on the awareness of your own body, balance and concentration. There is a huge mental aspect to slacklining, not only overcoming fear but also being able to focus, something that present day society has difficulty with. Slacklining has massive potential and is a fun, low-impact activity, everyone should give it a go.
I hope we will be seeing many more slackliners out there!