My Favorite Marketing From PIA 2019

Monday, February 11, 2019

Photo by Elliot Byrd | Byrd’s Eye Studio

The PIA Symposium is my favorite skydiving week of the year because it puts the industry all in one place which results in a reunion of old friends, the meeting of new friends, learning great info and seeing the latest and greatest products. What I especially love is I get to see everyone’s marketing on full display. There are some incredibly talented and creative marketing minds out there – here are my thoughts on who grabbed my attention in 2019!

Performance Designs

Anyone that follows my blog knows that I’ve been high on the marketing efforts of PD this past year as their output hasn’t just been good for the skydiving industry, but any industry. Albert Berchtold has assembled an amazing marketing team that’s putting out excellent content. With this much brain power, it was unsurprising to see PD’s booth be so creative – they brought the Florida beach theme to Dallas and everyone loved it. PD always goes big with their booth as they set their sites to win the Best Booth Award (which they claimed again this year), but there was a detail that I especially loved – having everyone own the part by dressing up in beach-themed apparel which changed each day.  

What PD does so well is to hold true to their brand voice –  they have fun, and that’s an incredibly likable trait especially as it’s why we all skydive.

Additionally, PD was everywhere at PIA – their team provided valuable presentations throughout the week which generated further conversation at their booth.

Marketing Takeaway: Have fun in your marketing – let’s not take ourselves too seriously!

Bonus Mention: PD’s President, Bill Coe was awarded the organization’s highest honor – the Don Beck Award.


Photo by Elliot Byrd of Byrd's Eye Studio
Photo by Elliot Byrd of Byrd’s Eye Studio

If anyone was unclear about the value Sigma provides to the industry, it was made clear during PIA. Sigma is turning up the volume on their brand by attaching themselves to areas in the industry that provide value to others. Here are a couple of things I loved that they did during PIA:

Sponsored the STAR Awards (Skydiving Technology Advancement Roundup)

If you’re unfamiliar with the STAR awards, it’s a new program the USPA has developed to spotlight tech companies in the sport within three categories: DropZone Tools, Jumper Experience and Safety and Training. It was a natural fit that Sigma would sponsor this program being a tech company themselves who provide value to DZO’s, particularly with credential verification. Supporting others is an excellent way to market as it updates the brand profile.

Casey Mongoven of Free Fall Data Systems wins $1500 from Sigma for the category of 'Jumper Experience' for the Color Alti.
Casey Mongoven of Free Fall Data Systems wins $1500 from Sigma for the category of ‘Jumper Experience’ for the Color Alti.


Build Key Partnerships

Sigma and Burble have come together with a strategic partnership that’s quite frankly… brilliant. The partnership adds value to both platforms as Burble now has a great new feature with credential verification and Sigma is weaved into the Burble infrastructure that thousands of skydivers use every week. A great win for both brands.

Levity Nylon

If you want to see great marketing – pay attention to Leah Levy of Levity Nylon. While not a major manufacturer, her marketing really impressed me because of her attention to detail. Levity has great branding, a great message with a social purpose and best of all, the personalization of her products. If you’re not familiar with Levity, they recycle retired canopies and repurpose them into hanging swings, hammocks and many other cool-use products.

Photo by Elliot Byrd by Byrd's Eye Studio
Photo by Elliot Byrd by Byrd’s Eye Studio

I supported Levity’s Kickstarter program last year and went to pick up my hanging chair from her booth during the Symposium. I already loved her brand, but that “little something extra” made me become a loyalist to such a degree, I had to write about it.

Firstly, Leah’s attention to detail. The chair she created for us is, in fact, our company colors – blue and grey… very thoughtful! This is particularly impressive when considering how many products she had to produce following the end of the Kickstarter. Most anyone else would have grabbed a canopy, cut the pieces, built it and produced it to the client. I would have been happy as she met my expectations. The fact that she went through her vast inventory of used canopies to select one that was synonymous with our brand colors… she exceeded my expectations with this small detail.

Then she took it to another level entirely. She gave the product meaning.

Within the pouch is a handwritten explanation of where this canopy came from. The label pictured on the right (below) reads:

This swing is constructed from:

  • Grey and white F-111 from UV testing rolls donated by Performance Designs in DeLand, Fl.
  • Blue ZP from a Sabre 2 by Performance Designs donated by Maxine Tate of Flight-1.

That last detail made me smile. I know Maxine! I know the canopy she flies as I’ve seen it many times. Suddenly, this swinging chair has more meaning and it generated word of mouth by me. Do you know who I immediately told about this?  Maxine, my friend network and now several of you reading this.

To many, this may seem like a small detail and it is, but it’s an important one that can’t be missed. This isn’t just a swinging chair made from a parachute. It’s a chair from Maxine’s parachute – a person I know and respect. For as long as I own this hanging chair, it will always be connected to a story and a person, which has more meaning. I own an ENO hammock which I enjoy, but Levity has differentiated her company from my ENO because the brand is now personal to me.

Last note: I can’t imagine how much time it must take Leah to write all those details on all those tags! While terribly time-consuming… absolutely worth it!

Are you a DZ using Burble? Register your DZ with Sigma to allow Burble integration at your dropzone.
Are you a DZ using Burble? Register your DZ with Sigma to allow Burble integration at your dropzone.

Marketing Takeaway: Great marketing is in the details and if your product or service can differentiate itself by making the product or experience more personal… that is special!

Burble Software

How do you get people to pay attention to a four and a half minute commercial? Make it humorous. Last week during the USPA DZO Conference, Franz Gerschwhiler of Burble played a video to a room of DZOs and something astonishing happened… people laughed and clapped at the end of it. We think Franz has a new career ahead of him in voiceover work!


Marketing Takeaway: If you can get people to laugh, you can get them to listen.

Skydive Chicago

Skydive Chicago brought their ‘A’ game as a first-time exhibitor to the PIA Symposium. If there was a booth that had continuous “buzz” and activity about it, it was SDC. Countless attendees went for the hanging bar challenge – a competition where participants were challenged to hang from a bar for at least one hundred seconds. The catch… the bar spins!  The few who were able to stay on won a Skydive Chicago jersey. Add some popcorn and Skydive Chicago easily had the most entertaining and fun booth of the symposium. Hats off to Rook, AJ, and team for creating fun and engaging their audience. I’m not aware that Skydive Chicago was offering a product, but they certainly showcased why they are one of the best DZs in the world as they think differently about everything.

Photo by Elliot Byrd of Byrd’s Eye Studio
Photo by Elliot Byrd of Byrd’s Eye Studio


Marketing Takeaway: Don’t sell, but provide value. The likability of the SDC brand certainly went up as they gave everyone something to do besides wandering up and down the expo hall.

DJ & Associates

The DropZone Marketing booth was positioned next to DJ & Associates and we watched them construct an amazing Western-themed booth! Having exhibited next to DJ & Associates in 2017, we were blown away by how they presented themselves this year versus the last PIA two years ago. The brand perception for this company has gone up with this incredible effort that had them as a runner-up in the Best Booth competition.

Photo by Elliot Byrd of Byrd’s Eye Studio
Photo by Elliot Byrd of Byrd’s Eye Studio

Marketing Takeaway: You can improve the value of your brand by making the extra effort in your presentation. These details matter! 

Larsen & Brusgaard

L & B made a big splash at PIA with a familiar marketing theme – showcasing some of the most recognized athletes in our sport! The L&B booth was a whos-who of skydivers that command a big draw on social media and YouTube. Throw in lots of raffle items and a beautiful Apple-like display of their products and it was a good show for L & B once again. Athletes seen at L&B included Kenneth Gajda, Jeffro Provenzano, Miles Daisher, Roberta Mancino, Claire Marie, DJ Marvin, and Laura Wagner.

Photo by Elliot Byrd of Byrd’s Eye Studio

Sun Path Products

Sun Path does something that few in the industry are able to replicate – support others and show gratitude like few can. On the Monday evening of PIA, Sun Path literally invited 500 of their friends and supporters to an incredible steak dinner (and open bar). It wasn’t cheap and they didn’t have to do it, but they did it as a thank you to all who support them.

Owner, Pat Thomas is revered in the industry because she supports so many small companies (ours included) and makes everyone feel important. It’s hard to know where PIA would be without the support of Pat and Sun Path. Sun Path have supported so many for so long and make an incredible product that they have tremendous brand loyalty that is lasting. Pat Thomas was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award – a deserved honor which had people jumping to their feet to honor her with a standing ovation.

Marketing Takeaway: Treat people well and exceed their expectations beyond the product or service that you sell. The loyalty and word of mouth generated comes back in spades.

Photo by Elliot Byrd of Byrd’s Eye Studio
Photo by Elliot Byrd of Byrd’s Eye Studio

Congratulations to everyone who exhibited at this year’s PIA Symposium! There were many other brands who did a great job, but these were the eight that jumped out at me! Well done everyone!


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