So word came down yesterday morning that Burton is pulling the plug on The Program (Forum, Special Blend, Four Square). It was interesting to see the different reactions from the industry and the community, those who are on the periphery. I won’t go as far as to say the community was outraged, but there was some indignation. Most notably has been the rise of #GiveForumToPeter. We’ll get to that in a minute.
First let’s go over some of the finer points. Forum was a company on the edge of collapse eight years ago. It had been horribly mismanaged, and had Burton not taken over, it would have most likely disappeared long ago. At the time there was heavy speculation that Big B was just going to turn it into a price point brand—Forum would be available at Costco, Sports Authority and Dick’s and any other masterjock big box. And in time they were, but so were Burton boards, and Gnu and Rome and Endeavor and heaps of Ski-board brands.
When Burton did take over The Program, they cited their desire to keep a pure snowboarding company in the hands of snowboarders. And they did that. They tried for eight years, which was how long the company existed independently, and it failed to be a strong element for their business.
Just like Analog Surf/Skate and a global Gravis brand, the Program was not driving enough sales. I don’t really find this surprising. When was the last time you saw a Forum board in the wild? When was the last time you saw someone wearing Four Square or Special Blend gear? I mean apart from the lanky, mock-nerd on the Big Bang Theory (Who watches that show?).
As for the riders, Peter Line will always have a place in history. Pat Moore, will always have New England gnarliness behind him and the Slayer promodel to his name. But the rest of the team, regardless of how talented they were, seemed to have a hard time building a buzz about themselves. Yeah, you might know their names, you might get stoked when you see them ride, but that has never really moved boards.
Graphics sell most boards. Guttershits ride Capita decks. Quarry pit partiers probably have a 4-year old Rome deck in their garage. Jibbers for jesus are most likely on Stepchild boards. And people who are kinda into snowboarding have Burtons. Forum never really found its niche (Hippies ride Niche). And its graphics were all over the place. Cartoony to fuckall and then Helvetica-ed DRUGS. It was the constant plight of “where does the brand fit in?”
Back when there was the Forum 8, they had staked their claim. But that team dissolved, and word got out about some really low-quality decks. It was a particular time and place in snowboarding. It’s happened to other brands as well—Ride, Shorty’s, O-matic. But trends come and go and those times are fleeting. The Big B overlords were never able to recreate it, but you can’t blame them for not trying.
So The Program’s time had come, twice now. It was an iconic brand and this is a good way to keep some value in the name. Ask yourself if you would rather see the brand go the way of Sims, Lamar or Morrow? To be truly sold out? At least Burton is giving it a proper burial this time.
But apparently the community of riders thinks Burton should give the brand to Peter Line. #GiveForumToPeter is ridiculous. First off, is Peter walking around thinking “I need to have Forum right now”? Maybe. Then of course there is the fact Burton paid for the name. Perhaps SellForumToPeter would be a better hashtag. That way he could sink a bunch of money into it, it would quite possibly fail again, and he would end up broke down in the end. I don’t know Peter’s financial situation, but I hope he’s not going to end up driving a snowplow or hustling tees at SIA. He came up in a time when snowboarders could actually make a few dollars. And if he played it right, I suspect he’s going to be alright. The same goes for Pat Moore.
Relax guys, you’ve earned it. Yes it sucks that your job is gone, but it had to be a pretty good ride, Right?
As for the rest of the team, I can only assume they are being supported throughout the season as well. If this is true, they are in a solid place. They have a season to start the sponsor hunt. It sucks. Job hunting always sucks. But really good riders are always going to end up somewhere. Maybe a couple of them can jump on the Yes or Slash teams.