There is no denying the importance of social media and digital marketing for an event like the Ballito Pro presented by Billabong. And 24-year-old Ballito-based bespoke digital agency owner Jessica seems like perfect person to handle the task.
As the daughter of retired five-time South African professional surfing champion, Greg Swart, Jess knows what it means to live and breathe surfing. She spent her youth going to the Gunston 500 and Mr Price Pro, and even travelled with some of today’s top SA female surfers as a member of the Roxy surf team in her teenage years.
She also knows a thing or two about digital marketing and online presence.
Jessica took on the role as the brand and digital manager for the event in 2015 when it changed sponsorship hands from Mr Price to Billabong. But really, she says, she started working at the event when she was a 10-year-old handing out stickers and posters on the beach.
Her passion and enthusiasm for all things digital however was sparked when Jessica spent two years living and studying in California.
“It was during those two years of living in the USA that social media began to boom, along with the rest of the digital industry, and I knew this was something I wanted to be involved with.”
She now owns a bespoke digital agency based in Ballito, called Confab, and specialises in digital marketing, design and web development. Jessica and her team work on various brands and businesses in Ballito, Durban and Johannesburg but one of their favourite projects is The Ballito Pro presented by Billabong. As a five-time SA surfing champion, Jessica’s dad assists with running the event. “My dad and I work really well together and our work ethic is very similar. We are hard workers, dependable and often just ‘get on with it’ in silence, making a lot happen behind the scenes. My dad has always believed in me and made sure I never discredited myself for any position because of my age or gender.”
Jessica says that working on the Ballito Pro is a huge honour that she never takes for granted.
“I get to work alongside people who are twice my age with more experience than I’ve had years on this planet, and I really don’t take that lightly.” Jessica was mentored by ex pro surfer and former digital manager for the event, Pierre Tostee, who was also once the official event photographer for the World Surf League.
“Pierre has really taught me a lot. He believed I could fulfil this role even before I did. Another person I have to mention is event coordinator, Collette Bundy. She is a strong, multi-skilled woman who is an inspiring leader and has encouraged and empowered me over the past few years.”
Jessica’s role is to manage and oversee all the digital components of the event, including the social media presence and the website, as well as co-ordinating her team of digital masterminds involved with the video production and live webcast. When asked what goes into planning the event’s digital presence, Jessica simply says you wouldn’t believe just how much goes into an event of this scale!
“We are a team of three who join forces to work on various aspects of the event leading up to its start. I personally spend many hours each week (and many late nights) organising, responding to emails, assisting with the creation of our event magazine, coordinating our digital channels, creating our event campaigns and managing our collaborations with sponsors and partners.”
As a surfer, Jessica loves watching some of the world’s elite surfers take to the Ballito surf at the event every year while being a part of the vibe surrounding the event and seeing the whole town get behind and enjoy it.
“I can’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t looking forward to the next Ballito Pro, but this year we have some incredible surfers on our entrants list, and I am looking forward to seeing them compete in Ballito waves once again. Here’s hoping that we get some good swell this year!”
Get in touch:
Follow Jessica and her team’s social media activity on the following platforms:
@theballitopro on Instagram
The Ballito Pro sponsored by Billabong takes place from 27 June to 9 July on Ballito’s Willard Beach.
Text: Monique De Villiers-Delport
Get It Magazine (Ballito/Umhlanga) October 2017