The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) Board approved an expanded agreement with Outdoor Retailer/VNU Wednesday that ensures a continued and strengthened relationship between the two organizations.
As a result of the agreement OR will double its existing commitment to provide approximately $6 million in funding over the next five years for ongoing OIA projects, industry programs, and the new OIA consumer initiative. Specifically addressing the new outreach venture, OIA announced that OR will contribute $300,000 a year for the new consumer initiative program, now in its pilot phase, and OR has launched an industry matching fund component to encourage other industry companies to contribute to the collective future. OR will match funds contributed to OIA's outreach program beginning in 2003.
In addition, this strengthened agreement will benefit OIA members who will see discounts in booth pricing and other show benefits with partner companies such as GES. OIA also scored co-branding at OR's Winter and Summer Markets, furthering the OIA reach.
SNEWS® View: OR has stepped up to the plate in a big way, as well it should, to show tangible and financial support for the industry that essentially bolsters VNU's bottom line through trade show participation. This should prove to be the final nail in the coffin holding the remains of SIA's hopes for renewed outdoor industry support too. For as much as OR is giving, make no mistake -- it is getting far more in return. OR is paying for OIA and ensuring that the trade show will have OIA's support in a big way. It will be much harder now for any industry initiative to launch a competing trade show since to do so would risk killing massive funding to OIA. In addition, the OIA support really encourages the industry to fully participate in OR tradeshows to support OIA.
While it is true that a few nay-sayers have told SNEWS® this further underscores the belief that OIA is in bed with OR and VNU, we would point out that OIA must have this funding to do the things it needs to do for this industry and the only other way to achieve the funding level is to increase membership and charge higher fees -- make a choice gang! While no one would confirm or deny anything, SNEWS® is fairly certain that OIA has a solid exit clause in place in the current contract too -- something it did not have under the previous arrangement negotiated when OIA (then known as ORCA) was formed. Back then, according to folks involved in the original negotiation, the contract called for a three-year trigger, meaning OIA was basically bound hand and foot. Our bet is that the current board, under Steve Barker's leadership and OIA president Frank Hugelmeyer's guidance, managed to trim an exit clause to a year or less if the trade show and VNU/OR performance does not continue to serve the industry.
Our ONLY serious concern with this new agreement is that we have learned VNU has mandated a clause which prohibits OIA, including its board members, from being critical of VNU and/or the Outdoor Retailer trade shows. This is a clause that could mean OIA will be unable to properly represent the interests of its membership should VNU and Outdoor Retailer begin to make trade show decisions that have an adverse affect on the industy. So far, Outdoor Retailer has been, for the most part, an exemplary partner with the industry. Only time will tell if this clause though, comes back to haunt OIA and the industry. Our view is there was no need for this clause, unless VNU has something to fear because of future plans.