Outdoor Industry Planning Outreach to Attract Participants

In an effort to attract more outdoor participants at all levels, the Outdoor Industry Association is planning a pilot outreach program for 2003 that will target about seven different markets, likely with an "outdoor week" in conjunction with retailers.

In an effort to attract more outdoor participants at all levels, the Outdoor Industry Association is planning a pilot outreach program for 2003 that will target about seven different markets, likely with an "outdoor week" in conjunction with retailers.

John Viehman, former chair of the association's one-and-a-half-year-old Task Force on Outreach, has resigned to head up the strategy and planning stage under contract with the association (OIA). Jay Steere of Timberland has taken over as chairman of the task force, which will work with Viehman as he tries to plan everything from a name and logo for the marketing campaign, and which markets to use and how to link with which retailers, to how promotion to the community might work best.

Viehman will complete an initial proposal to present at the OIA board meeting in August, at which time the board will decide what will work best and how to proceed. Viehman's initial contract is through the end of August.

Already, Viehman and Steere use four phrases, linked together, as the program mission: "Get 'em aware, get 'em info, get 'em gear, get 'em out."

One goal is to reach out to an audience interested in the fitness and health of outdoor activities, for example those who may be intimidated or otherwise confused about where to go and what they need to equip themselves properly for a new activity. In addition, one goal would be to soften the public image of outdoor pursuits as only hard-core and to send the message that activities are available for all ability levels and interests.

"The nice thing about this is putting the 'health theme' on it," Viehman told SNEWS®. "We've got a timely message. We have a message that's important, and we have a message that's broader than the outdoor market."

New task force chairman Steere says the initiative is one of passion because it is the industry's future: "It's one of the single most important initiatives the outdoor industry can take on in the next few years," he said.

A group representing the task force and the association will attend a workshop offered pro bono by Doug Hall (click here for our story about how he teaches small business to better succeed ) called "Eureka! Blitz," which is a one-and-a-half-day fast-tracked brainstorming session at Hall's Eureka! Ranch.

Initially, the program won't cost much money, although if the pilot is successful, the association's goal is to roll it out national on a large scale. Although OIA President Frank Hugelmeyer says they will be asking the industry for support, they will also look outside for "significant funding" for the scale of project as of 2004 that is envisioned.

SNEWS® View: We see a catchy phrase or even a mascot for outdoor akin to "got milk" or the infamous dancing raisins. Why not? This is what the industry needs to grow and SNEWS® is a supporter of these broadly described plans. We do hope, however, that the program will not just once again be preaching to the choir, focusing only on outdoor retailers and their current customers, but will also reach out to community on a broader scale, including those already doing some sort of fitness activity and those who perhaps haven't gone into a specialty retailer. One key element with a retailer-focused program is of course educating the staff at retailers about how to approach newbies, how to describe benefits (not just features), how to help customers compare items for their needs, and how to make the store less intimidating.


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