This Is Off the Wall Marketing: 5 Questions With Vans’ April Vitkus

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Vans - This Is Off the Wall - Vision Walk Photography Series Vans - Vision Walk photo workshop series

Vans is teaching girls worldwide to skate with free clinics and inspiring mentors in a campaign that was highlighted last month during International Women’s Day. Now it’s launching the next chapter of its global brand campaign for 2018, This Is Off The Wall, with a “Vision Walk” series including photographers Olivia Bee in Los Angeles and Jonathan Mehring, who’s leading a photo walk through New York’s Chinatown. Each weekend tour/ workshop is free on a first-come, first-served basis—just bring a camera and be ready to look at the world through fresh eyes.

As with the “Girls Skate” clinics, Vision Walk events will be hosted by Vans around the world. So how do these free classes connect to the iconic streetwear and skate culture brand, which turned 50 in 2016 and is now turning into a teacher and creative inspiration?

The local experiential marketing campaign aims to inspire others to think “Off the Wall” too and discover the world around them while embarking on their own creative self-discovery, learning new skills, trying something outside their comfort zone and finding fresh ways of seeing and connecting.

The events will be taking individuals on a journey within their own city and helping them find their own perspective. Vans welcomes everyone from novice photo-takers to industry experts to these experiential workshops and encourages all to share their point of view with one another to showcase the unique perspectives that come from the energy of collaboration.

@vans @vansskate @houseofvans #visionwalk tomorrow! #offthewall

A post shared by Jonathan Mehring (@mehringsbearings) on

The events are part of the 2018 global brand campaign for Vans which explores what “Off The Wall” means through a series of digital narratives and global events that bolster the various art forms Vans has supported since its inception.

Bully and kicks during the vision walk for my buddies at @vans ! #offthewall

A post shared by OLIVIA BEE (@oliviabee) on

With continued historic business growth bucking retail trends around the world, the VF-owned Vans sees live events that enable creative expression, such as this, as a major contributor to the brand’s continued growth and success. Since 1995, for instance, Vans has been the title sponsor of the Vans Warped Tour, the largest traveling music festival in the United States and the longest-running touring music festival in North America.

April Vitkus - Senior Director, Global Brand Marketing at VansAt the same time, it’s expanding its House of Vans experience and more committed than ever to supporting youth culture and creativity, as April Vitkus, Vans Senior Director of Global Brand Marketing and Strategy (right), explains in our Q&A. While its live event strategy is evolving, with its long-running sponsorship of the Vans Warped Tour ending this year, more personal events like this series are being added to its roster of brand activations.

April, how does the “Vision Walk” series expand what you’re doing with This Is Off The Wall? Are self-expression and creativity part of each experience?

This Is Off The Wall was developed as a way to showcase a variety of stories that shine a light on the passions and various forms of creativity that Vans has always championed. Art is a founding pillar of our brand and working with photographers such as Olivia Bee gives us the opportunity to talk about art and the unique perspective an individual can have within photography, even among a group. All the stories within the series will include a call to action for anyone, anywhere to participate so that we can enable creative experiences and experimentation worldwide.

We’ll see more stories coming throughout the year because the campaign speaks so much to the commitment we have as a brand to enable the creative communities that support us around the world. The learnings have been a validation to our belief in the power of collaboration and creative thinking that comes from action sports, art, music and street culture.

How do you choose the creators and ambassadors for your local experiences?

Vans has the benefit of working with so many inspiring individuals around the world and we find that many of them are lifelong Vans fans. For any partnership or experience, we always vet the opportunity to ensure that we are staying true to our brand values. Our close relationship with our ambassadors already comes from an organic place.

How do you include and activate your different communities—athletes, artists, musicians, fashionistas, brand loyalists, newcomers—in your experiential marketing programs?

It all depends on the experience or platform. For the Vans Park Series, we look to uplift not only our professional athletes but athletes everywhere to ensure there is a path to pro. Within House of Vans, we host programming that gives local up-and-coming talent a stage for their music, provides space for new art, and a free space to skate. The program and the people are aligned with our brand values so the experiences are always authentic.

Your flagship House of Vans space in Brooklyn is closing in September; are they all closing?  

This specific manifestation is closing but the overall House of Vans concept and strategy is active and moving forward. Vans was the first brand to create a permanent, interactive space like House of Vans. Eight years in, we have learned what the city needs and what we’d like to evolve toward. With permanent locations now in London and Chicago and pop-ups in cities all over the world, we have decided to close our Brooklyn space so that we can continue to grow House of Vans experiences with broader communities in New York and across the U.S.

This year also brings the final Vans Warped Tour, another marquee marketing platform for Vans. What are you shifting your marketing dollars towards instead?

We’ve been lucky that the Vans Warped Tour has provided us the opportunity to reach thousands of consumers that share the same passions as the brand over the last two decades. Since its inception, the industry has evolved so much and we have been able to learn a ton by meeting with Vans and music fans across the globe. We are excited to continue supporting youth culture and enabling creativity as we expand House of Vans and our music program worldwide. The tour will never be replaced, but for Vans, we are going to continue to enable creative expression and support up-and-coming artists by expanding House of Vans pop-up locations around the world.


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