The model for marketing success in the outdoor industry has long been one of hero worship, centered on peak activities performed by elite athletes. The athletes and the activities themselves are elevated to mythical status, and the featured product is valued in part because it is perceived to be built to withstand the rigors of these extreme situations, but mostly because the purchaser feels that by wearing the same product as the rock star, surf god, or paddling diva who wore that product in the magazine, they would, by association, be perceived as being capable of the same feats.
There’s a new paradigm forming. One in which the aspirational model becomes more about the experience and less about the personality. In place of these sport specific uberathletes, the new role models are those individuals who understand their athleticism as just one part of what makes them who they are, who don’t simply recreate, but are acutely aware of the environment that sustains this recreation. They are multi-sport, multi-season athletes who understand the value in matching their activities to the conditions that exist and the opportunities that are available.
Our participation in the outdoors extends beyond the sports we do. Simply being out there invites an awareness of the fragile ecosystems that exist, and our responsibility to protect them for future generations. The new paradigm is one of a larger, more conscious view of the outdoor experience and how it fits into all aspects of one’s life. A view that includes the peak moments as well as the mundane, one that moves between trail and town, between hard core and hanging out.
It’s time to align ourselves with the values that draw us to the outdoors rather than with the high profile personalities that excel in only one small aspect of the larger outdoor experience.