“Part of the appeal when I’m climbing steep faces is being in this cool place where you’re surrounded by all this air and where nobody apart from yourself has ever stood before,” says Alex Honnold in a video on his website, which shows him climbing a 1,000-meter-high face with his bare hands. His voice is relaxed. He cheekily adds: “If I didn’t treasure this place, why would I bother climbing up there?”
Alex turned his passion into a career. The free-solo specialist is living his dream of extreme outdoor sports in the USA and swapped his apartment for a life on a bus, for a life out in nature. The video is also an advertisement clip. Squarespace, a provider of easily-editable website solutions, is mentioned at the end of the clip. “I’m Alex Honnold, and this is my Squarespace.”
And so Alex’s story leads to the brands. Whilst they rack-up views for the video on their own YouTube channel, Alex uses it to finance his outdoor lifestyle. A fair exchange. Himself, his attitude and his life model, paired with the authenticity and directness in which he tells his story, are his product.
Alex is in good company: on social media channels, outdoor-enthusiasts use photo streams or point-of-view videos filmed with helmet and body cameras to show their sporting feats surrounded by the most beautiful, wildest or harshest landscapes.
Not everyone is looking for the extreme. With outdoor enthusiasts, you can laugh and be astonished, sweat and suffer. Their stories are not scripted. There are no actors. Even a failed plan can unexpectedly enrich short stories for the viewer. They treat the camera like a friend, are informal, appear professional but not overproduced like so many productions of outdoor advertisements.
And that is exactly what gives the viewer that feeling of experiencing for themselves the activities shown. Regardless of whether on a smartphone, on the couch using a smart TV, or on a computer during lunch break – the adventurers share their feeling of freedom online, provide an authentic access to outdoor sport and inspire everyone to look for their own adventure in the great outdoors.
For manufacturers and retailers, these windows into the most varied outdoor life plans are a valuable gift. The individual guys are actually completely normal people – not models or stars. And it is not about them as people. They represent something, a vision or an outlook, and they embody it – without betraying it.
That is how they infect the viewer. Perhaps they don’t convince everyone to climb a rock face unprotected, but instead to go out and walk in nature or to go to the closest climbing hall. They run successful target-group communication.
In a time when TV viewing figures are falling and advertising budgets are being cut, the outdoor industry is looking for new channels and access to potential consumers. These are not earned via competitive product communication. Brand experiences make people interested in outdoor sports. And authentic ambassadors transmit this to the consumers’ consciousness.
Authentic adventures are good for the outdoor industry. They make outdoor experiences approachable and contagious. They embody the human side of the industry and show how brands and retailers should communicate in the future. For them, it’s time to take on bigger tasks.
It’s up to the industry to transmit this feeling across the outdoor sector as a whole. The aim must be to create an intensive, communal point of contact for the outdoor attitude to life, which is an exciting one. Not through communicative competition for product innovations, but via exemplary, emotional ambassadors.
Only this way will the relevance that’s needed today to play a role in the leisure market, exist. Then people will have an idea of what it means to be outside.