Cluster theory and competitive advantage: the Torquay surfing experience

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Stewart, Bob, Skinner, James Lee and Edwards, Allan (2008) Cluster theory and competitive advantage: the Torquay surfing experience. International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing (IJSMM), 3 (3). pp. 201-220. ISSN 1475-8962


This paper aims to explain the global expansion of the Rip Curl and Quiksilver surfing brands through the lens of Michael Porter’s cluster theory of comparative advantage (Porter, 1998). According to Porter, a cluster of linked businesses can generate commercial synergies and strengths that enable it to achieve a global presence even when it is geographically distant from the major world markets. Porter’s cluster theory was used to identify the special features of the Torquay region in Australia, and explain how these features provided the conditions for the explosive international growth of these businesses. Particular attention was given to the region’s surrounding geography, its imbedded surfing culture, its industry context, the global vision of the founding owners, the organisational processes of Rip Curl and Quiksilver, the competitive climate, and finally, their capacity to secure marketing opportunities. Data was collected though interviews, document analysis, and field trips to the Torquay region. The data was interpreted through the prism of Porter’s cluster theory of competitive advantage (Porter, 1998). It was found that the historical origins of the Rip Curl and Quiksilver centred on the unique surf culture of the surrounding region. The Torquay district not only had some of Australian best surf beaches, but had also attracted a passionate surfing community that constituted the foundation market for Rip Curl and Quiksilver products. The early successes of Rip Curl and Quiksilver were not only the result of this strong surf culture but also the result of their ability to innovate and design superior products, strong inter-organisational synergies, and the international exposure from their association with the annual Bells Beach surfing contest. The subsequent global success came from product diversification, and the development of strong brand images through the endorsements of the world’s top surfers. The specific factors behind their global dominance included first, the role that elite-surfer product endorsement and major surf-event sponsorship played in building the brand image of Rip Curl and Quiksilver, and second, the use of their brand images to construct a high degree of credibility within both the serious surfer and young fashion consumer markets.

Item type Article
Subjects Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > Centre for Ageing, Rehabilitation, Exercise & Sport Science (CARES)
Historical > FOR Classification > 1106 Human Movement and Sports Science
Historical > SEO Classification > 9399 Other Education and Training
Keywords ResPubID16056, clusters, surfing brands, competitive advantage, cluster theory, Porter, Australia, surf culture, product innovation, product design, inter-organisational relationships, surfing contests
Citations in Scopus 15 - View on Scopus
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