Jobs In Skateboarding International - EMEA Marketing Manager

Jobs In Skateboarding International - EMEA Marketing Manager

 Jobs In Skateboarding International

After our Jobs In Skateboarding series became a minor-success we've attempted to push who would talk to us from across the world. As that outside perspective of lack of jobs began to open up more and more we almost couldn't figure out where the 'careers' in the industry could end up. 

Learn something new below from our French-Canadian buddy and take a moment to get acquainted with the rest of the 'Jobs In Skateboarding' interviews here

 photo :  Nathan Ethier-Myette

What's your name?

Alex Forbes

What is your current role and who do you work for?

My current role and for the last 4 years is Marketing Manager for Skateboarding in EMEA (Europe, Middle-East and Africa) for Vans.

What is it that you actually do?

I do a lot of things, but to simplify it, I can put it in 4 different buckets. Those buckets are Product, Team, Content and Events.

For product, I’m responsible for regionalising the strategies shared by Vans Global for the European Market. While this might seem just a trickle-down, we do spend a lot of time with each country marketing manager to nuance and adapt each marketed story for each country / region. I’m also responsible for creating the marketing and strategy for European collaboration projects such as Vans x Civilist, Vans x Palace, Vans x Sour, Vans x Rassvet, Vans x Pop Trading, Vans x Danny Wainwright…just to name a few. We try to do 2 to 3 regional collaborations a year so there’s actually much more than that. 

For the skate team, I’m responsible for establishing the vision and support for our team riders with opportunities that will fulfil their needs. We obviously grew the European and Country skate teams a lot in the past 4 years as we believe it’s one of the best ways to support the progression and skateboarding at a local level as well as paving the way to the Global team. For this part of the job, I’m working with Chris Pfanner as he’s our main Skate Team Manager in Europe and overseas the European skate team. Then we pretty much have a TM in each country/market in Europe.

For content, I’m responsible for establishing the projects and working as a producer. With the Vans Europe team we try to make up to 2 videos edits a year. One will be a trip video and the other one will be a full-length video. Then, with each country team I’m creating a brief and a vision that I share with the local TM’s so they can create their own projects. As the projects start, I touch base every now and then with the TM’s and filmers to review their timeline and drafts until we have a final edit. Part of this is making sure everyone has everything they need to make their projects the best they can. If there’s a Vans logo and if it’s coming from Europe, I want to be sure we have the best content out there. Also need to work on music licensing and I’m also working with skate media partners to release articles and the projects on social media.

For events, even if it’s been a while since we’ve done an event because of the Covid situation, this still falls under my responsibility. While the local marketing managers are mostly responsible for organising the local events, I’m responsible for the overall strategy and supporting them. When it comes to bigger events like Vans Shop Riot Finals or when we used to do Vans Park Series, I was responsible for organising and conceptualising those events. 

Did you have any roles in the skate industry before this?

As a lot of people in the skate industry, my first skate industry job was in a shop called Infiny-t Skateshop located in the south shore of Montreal. I worked there for almost 9 years. I started as a retail employee but I really liked it so they started to give me more hours and responsibilities while being flexible to let me travel and go skate.

After 2 or 3 years I became the assistant manager and main buyer, moving up to manager a year later. I really liked working there and was and still am a good friend of the owner at the time. I took that job super seriously and was also taking the opportunity to organise small events in Montreal, at the shop and our local skatepark. This is exactly where I learned how to organise events and marketing. Unfortunately, while I was working there, he sold the shop to start his own distribution company and I stayed working there for a few years but the new owner wasn’t connected to the skateboarding scene so I eventually left and started at the previous owner’s distribution company. 

From there I was helping my friend manage his distribution company and was doing a bunch of graphic design (as throughout my years at the skate shop I finished a DEC in Art and a formation in graphic design). 

After a few months at the distribution company, an opportunity came up to go work at Vans. I basically had to go through the whole hiring process and was super stressed because I didn’t have any diploma in Marketing but Vans gave me their trust and I started at Vans Canada in October 2009. Working there gave me the opportunity to be on another level and I was able to accomplish so many things for skateboarding while I was responsible for all categories at Vans. After my 6 years at Vans Canada, I was looking for my next step and definitely wanted to stay at Vans so I waited until the right opportunity arose. When I saw the position I’m currently at I knew this is what I wanted to do. I did everything I could and went into a very long process of interviews and then get the job and started Jan 2018.

I still can’t believe this journey is now 21 years long and already 4 years at Vans Europe…quite crazy to think about it.

What’s the best thing about your job?

There’s so many good things about my job. I would say first and foremost it’s to work in something that I’m really passionate about.

The next thing is being able to help shape what skateboarding is today and influencing what it will be tomorrow. I’m saying this because I can make decisions such as sponsoring a team rider to pursue their career to the point that person can make a comfortable living out of skateboarding. Or, when I arrived in Europe there was also no women on our European team so Pfanner and I decided to add Helena Long, Shani Bru, Lucy Adams and Amy Ram to the Vans Europe Team. Last year we also added Louisa Menke and we’re looking at growing our women’s presence this year so be on the lookout for some new team riders. I think women should have the same space as men do in skateboarding, so I work to give them the opportunities and support they need, so one day all brands understand it’s an important thing.

One other thing is to be able to work on projects such as Tom’s Tales, Incompiuto, Kingdom For A Cooler, Super Kruto and give local TM’s the space to make their own projects with their teams such as Delay Scene, Iberico, Going Nowhere and so many others…Since being in Europe we’ve released nearly 60 videos and when you look at them all it’s so nice to see everyone’s progression.

Lastly, it’s being able to travel and meet people. Either it’s meeting some skate shop owners, staff, skate photographers and skaters around the world. This job has given me so many opportunities to meet people that I would of never have met before. I’m definitely super grateful for everything this job gave and still gives me.

What’s the worst thing about your job?

Spending 3 days budgeting in a excel spreadsheet…lol. There’s not many bad things to be honest but there’s a couple. The first one would be when you have to let go of a team rider or someone you work with. This is really awful…It’s so hard, even if sometimes it’s for the best of both parties , it’s still super difficult and always breaks my heart. Hopefully that only happens less than handful of times. Another thing – because I’m so passionate about skateboarding and pretty much think about skateboarding all-day every day and this job is not your typical 9 to 5 job, I do get burned out sometimes. It’s like damn, I really want to go skate but have 1000 things to do and after 10-11 hours day, I have zero energy to actually go skate…but throughout the years I found ways around this and learned to balance my time better. That said it’s still a challenge. Other than those two, there’s nothing I don’t like about my job. 

Any advice for skateboarders out there who want to pursue your line of work?

I never feel very comfortable giving advice as everyone’s path is different but I would say it’s always best to start at a skate shop, get involved as much as you can, ask questions, listen and learn from the people you work with and gather experience from. 

There are so many things you can do in skateboarding nowadays, marketing jobs like mine, graphic designer, apparel designer, photographer, filmer, sales…and the list goes on. None of those jobs will get you rich so if that’s your goal I would say don’t even start but if skateboarding is your passion, follow your path and create your opportunities. It will always be a mix of both talent and opportunities but you do have to put yourself out there to meet and create your connections.