It wasn't that long ago that mountaineering was a purely male domain. Many brands were aimed primarily at men because they were the strongest target group. This was evident in the products, in marketing and in the shops. And of course, this was also reflected in the number of athletes who were sponsored. "Many women just don't think they're brave enough, even though we know this isn't the case," said Amanda Calder-McLaren, Brand Comms Director, EMEA, The North Face.
The fact that more female role models are helpful in passing on the passion for sport to the younger generation was the basic idea for The North Face's "She Moves Mountains" campaign. "There is simply not enough attention yet for courageous female explorers, who in turn can inspire young girls," says Calder-McLaren.
The company has been supporting female athletes since the 1970s. "She Moves Mountains" was, however, The North Face's first global campaign aimed exclusively at women. The basis are stories of women who shift boundaries through their daily lives. Among them, of course, are The North Face athletes such as the alpinist Hilaree Nelson, the two exceptional climbing talents Ashima Shiraishi and Margo Hayes or the ultra-runner Fernanda Maciel.
But it is also about women who are role models beyond sporting activities, such as women's rights lawyer America Ferrera, NASA scientist Tierra Guinn Fletcher and musician and activist Madame Gandhi. All women were presented in a series of short films – from the perspective of those who admire them for their deeds and actions.
Kick-off events in several countries, to which media, opinion leaders and the local The North Face community were invited, heralded the campaign, which lasted several months. It took place not only through advertising, media partnerships, influencers and the social media, but also in direct cooperation with the target group, for example with Girl Scouts in the USA or The Outward Bound Trust in Great Britain.
The latter is an educational organisation that helps young people to become more self-confident through learning and adventure in the wild. Together with The North Face, around 1600 young women from the city were able to take part in outdoor activities and adventures in nature. They were supported by members of the NeverStop community from The North Face in London.
Although the campaign was limited in time, there is still no end to it: with the Hashtag #SheMovesMountains, The North Face has created an opportunity in the social media to share more stories of impressive women. The campaign's website can also be used to book courses in a wide range of outdoor activities.
The campaign is also supported by the product itself. With the "Active Trail" collection, the brand has worked intensively on the collection for the female target group. For this purpose, a purely female designer team was set up with the aim of developing a collection that appeals to all women, not just those who are already active outdoor sportswomen.
"We have chosen a more emotional approach, both in communication and in design, where style plays a greater role," explains Calder-MacLaren. In addition, the first two women-specific stores were opened in USA in 2018: The first one in Edina, Minnesota, focuses on running and training apparel. The second store in San Francisco carries all product lines for women.
In the London flagship store, a pure women's area has been created, with its own outdoor styling area, specialised staff for women, individualizable bags and tailor-made product lines.
Since then, hundreds of young women have taken part in outdoor activities, "many of them from the city, who only know outdoor activities from the media," says Calder-McLaren. The social media storytelling had a global reach of over 275 million users – but it was equally important that the activities had an impact on the business. Sales of the women's collection increased by a total of 25 percent during the campaign.
A balance that is quite respectable. When was the success determined? Calder-McLaren: "For me personally, it was determined when a 12-year-old girl told me how she had to fight at home for permission to participate. She had never seen a mountain before. And now that she had seen him, she was convinced that not only she could climb him, but she was stronger than she thought."