Growing appeal of the great outdoors: how will it affect brands & advertisers?
A pandemic-fuelled interest in the great outdoors has only been accelerated by the cost-of-living crisis and summer flight disruption. Leisure time and available funds are being invested in the reliability and relative affordability of outdoor activities. Once equipment has been purchased, which is often sustainable and long-lasting, outdoor activities can be a cheap, or even free, way of spending leisure time. UK residents are spoilt with access to a huge amount of green space, woodlands, hills and coastlines, making outdoor activities easily accessible and investing in gear worthwhile. Many consumers are already equipped with some basic outdoor activity equipment acquired during the pandemic, when people had more disposable income. The rising interest in outdoor exercise has also been boosted by the government which is encouraging people to switch to ‘active travel’ to decarbonise transport and reduce congestion, fuelling uptake of urban walking and cycling. There has also been a growing trend for fitness festivals across the globe.
Consumers are turning to nature and outdoor activities as a way to look after their mental and physical wellbeing, which continues to be impacted by world issues including the ongoing pandemic and rise of other diseases, the war in Ukraine and rising household bills. Nature and outdoor-related leisure time also helps people to live a sustainable lifestyle as outdoor activities often don’t rely on man-made power, light or energy. Activities such as hiking, cycling, camping, climbing, sailing, watersports and birdwatching have grown in popularity while traditional urban dwellers have been introduced to the likes of foraging, forest bathing and open-water swimming. An interest in outdoor sports has also been spurred on by a packed summer schedule of televised sport.
A Deloitte survey undertaken in August/September 2021 found that 81% of respondents had taken part in an outdoor activity in the prior 12 months and 55% had purchased an outdoor item in the same time frame.
This trend has led to brand activity in terms of increased sales, investments, acquisitions, expansion and product development. Brands have in turn looked at their media and marketing strategies, appointed new marketing teams, agencies, or adtech and martech suppliers. A particular focus for the outdoor sector has been sustainability, as well as diversity and inclusion. Sustainability is at the heart of outdoor brands’ positioning. It also helps with supply chain issues which have made manufacturing new products difficult. Many brands are putting into place trade-in and resale schemes, repairs, and are shifting to sustainable fabrics and setting net zero targets.
Brands that will thrive
According to Mintel, one in five British adults have been on a camping or caravan holiday since the pandemic began, with 4.5 million sleeping in a tent or caravan for the first time. Spending on camping or caravanning trips rose to £2.7bn in 2021, 80% more than in 2020. The camping equipment market was valued at £11.6bn in 2020 and is projected to witness a compound annual growth rate of 6.7% between 2021 and 2026. The global bicycle OEM market is also expected to grow by 6% (or £1bn) between 2020 and 2025.
These stats show that this booming industry is set for long-term growth, and that players within the market are presented with the opportunity to educate and onboard new customers.
According to an article by Amazon Ads, ‘Half of outdoor recreation buyers are undecided on which brand to buy at the start of their purchase journey, either because they had multiple brands in mind or none in particular. The early stages of the customer journey can be an opportunity for brands to drive discovery with awareness-focused marketing.’
The article cited a Kantar survey which found that ‘45% of outdoor recreation shoppers bought more than one item when they made their purchase. Of those, 71% bought a related item’ and ‘outdoor recreation purchasers can also become repeat customers. The majority of repurchases – 74% – occur within the first six months.’
Equipment & equipment retailers
JD Outdoors, the name behind brands such as GO Outdoors, Blacks and Millets, is planning to open more than a dozen new stores by the end of the summer amid a growing interest in outdoor activities. GO Outdoors has seen increased website traffic for camping, walking, cycling and fishing.
Under a new global chief executive, Decathlon has teamed up with Hirestreet to offer a rental service for its hiking and skiing clothing. This scheme recently expanded to include pay-per-use equipment including kayaks and e-bikes. The retailer also launched a flagship store in Liverpool in April, which will sell its sustainable repaired gear Second Collection and its EcoDesign products. The retailer also hired an SEO agency in March to support its e-commerce growth.
Equip Outdoor Technologies, which owns climbing and mountaineering brands Rab and Lowe Alpine, is aiming to be Net Zero by 2030. Rab this year launched Rab Rental, lending out backpacks, waterproof jackets and sleeping bags for up to 21 days. The business has recently welcomed a new head of marketing.
Also see: Cotswold Outdoor which hasn’t reviewed its media agency since 2019.
Flask brand YETI’s revenue growth almost tripled between 2018 and 2022. It offers drinkware such as flasks and water bottles, as well as coolers and equipment. The brand has been busy expanding its product range and growing its D2C sales. YETI is popular in its home country, the US, and has begun to expand into international markets including the UK.
Air-up bottles trick users into drinking more water by ‘flavouring’ it through scent. For health-conscious consumers, Air-up allows them to experience sweet taste without adding sugar or any other additives to their diet. The bottle came to market in 2019 (in 2021 to the UK) and has served over 1 million customers across Europe. 2021 revenue doubled compared to the previous year and the business raised £34m of funding in September 2021. The brand has recently unveiled the first stainless version of its innovative bottle, having previously only offered plastic versions.
Ordnance Survey, whose OS Maps app subscribers have grown by 33%, reported that revenues grew by 5.2% to £182m in the last 12 months, thanks notably to a strong performance from its leisure business. OS is expanding OS Maps to new and international territories and is improving its ‘e-commerce capabilities, giving customers the tools they need to quickly and easily find the right kit and equipment to enhance their outdoor activities’.
Victorinox, the famous pocket-knife brand, is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year and has recently teamed up with Adidas on a trainer and knife collaboration for the travel retail market. Victorinox’s marketing chief said that ‘collaborations are a strategic pillar of our marketing efforts’.
Orvis, the fly-fishing specialist, appointed a new chief brand experience officer earlier this year, tasked with leading efforts to ‘channel Orvis' brand values to grow the company's awareness and customer base, build community and future generations of conservationists, and further evolve meaningful storytelling and engagement across omnichannel touchpoints.’
D2C bike retailer Ribble Cycles, which also celebrates its 125th anniversary this year, is looking at a physical-digital retail approach to engage with its audience. The brand’s chief digital officer said in an interview with Digimonica: ‘The bread and butter of digital marketing is becoming more saturated. It's getting very noisy, and, therefore, we need to find different ways to cut through. I want to constantly push for something different and try it.’
Ribble originally sold road bikes but has since moved into the fast-growing areas of e-bikes, and Gravel and Hybrid categories. The business should benefit from a predicted 19% CAGR of D2C bike sales between 2022 and 2025, according to McKinsey.
Giant Bicycles’ 2021 global revenue was over £2.2bn, up 17% year on year. This business is focusing on e-bikes, e-cargo and the ‘science’ behind cycling to help cyclists be comfortable and confident when riding. It has particularly focused on its Liv bicycles, especially designed for women.
A similar focus has been taken by Raleigh Cycles whose parent company Accell Group was taken over by KKR in January. The retailer wants to spread the joy of cycling to people of all ages, genders and abilities. It has partnered with Women in Sport to help tackle the barriers that prevent women and girls from cycling. Raleigh earlier this year partnered with fashion brand FatFace on a clothing collection. It also unveiled its new and improved Centros e-bike range.
Apparel & Shoes
The outdoor apparel market is projected to grow by £3.2bn between 2020 and 2024.
VF Northern Europe has seen its D2C sales increase, in part thanks to its loyalty scheme. VF Corporation’s Q1 revenues increased by 3% to £1.9bn, boosted by its performance in EMEA and the Americas. Revenues at its North Face brand jumped 31% to £0.41bn. North Face’s loyalty scheme, Explore Pass, has over 13 million members globally. It offers exclusive perks and instils a sense of being part of a community.
VF Corp also owns Icebreaker, a merino wool outdoor and natural performance outdoor clothing brand, and Napapijiri which has expanded from bags into jackets and apparel. Icebreaker has sustainability at its heart and has created alternatives to plastic-based apparel for more than 26 years. In 2022 it will use 95% merino and plant-based fibres across its entire range. Meanwhile, Napapijiri recently retained its communications agency tasked with expanding its brand to a younger audience through PR and influencer activity. Napapijiri wants to bolster its brand awareness and identity in the UK market.
Deckers-owned running shoe brand Hoka is now a $1bn dollar brand and is set to further expand as it aims to reach new consumers. According to FootwearNews, Deckers’ CEO ‘sees opportunity to expand into hiking, walking and lifestyle’ lanes. It will also look to wholesale channels, its own physical stores and pop-ups to expand its reach.
Lululemon, the popular yoga wear brand, has just launched its first hiking collection including trousers, fleece jackets, bags, hats and hike-to-swim shorts.
Patagonia is another brand which could be investing in marketing in the coming months. Having brought in a new CEO last year, the brand appointed a new EMEA marketing director in May. The new recruit will not only oversee the marketing strategy and assume responsibility for building communities through outdoor sports and environmental activism, but has also been tasked with amplifying the company's mission to 'save our home planet'. Patagonia currently donates 1% of its sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment, has a ‘Worn Wear’ programme, and provides repair instructions for its products.
Merrell, which sells hiking boots and trail running shoes, recently launched its Moab collection and a campaign called ‘Same is Boring’. Merrell offers a range of Hydro Mocs, fulfilling the trend for Crocs and similar comfort footwear. The Hydro Mocs have been rolled out in a multitude of colourways in collaboration with trendy designers.
In March, the brand launched a US campaign targeting women, encouraging them to ditch wellness trends and get outdoors. Merrell has put a focus on women for 2022, introducing new styles of boots and trainers. In April, Merrell kicked off its ‘This is Home’ sustainability campaign and introduced a product takeback and resale program called Merrell ReTread in the US, which will expand to Europe later this year.
Cycling apparel brand Rapha welcomed a new CEO at the start of this year after its founder & CEO stepped down after 17 years of service. The business is focussing on sustainability and on getting more women into cycling.
Signalling advertising investment across its brands, Pentlands Brands recently appointed a creative director to lead “ambitious plans to transform the Pentland Creative Agency into a digital-first in-house content agency”. They will be responsible for ‘developing “a world-class culture of creativity” that values innovation, bold ideas and brilliant execution to drive how the brands communicate and engage with their consumers. This will include embracing digital-first storytelling that can be used throughout the marketing funnel’.
Pentland Brands-owned brand Speedo’s latest marketing efforts have focused on indoor swimming with its sponsorship of Swim England and on breaking down the barriers to swimming faced by many families in the UK with its ‘Swim United’ campaign. The brand has not yet turned its creative focus to the increased interest in outdoor swimming.
Fellow Pentland Brands label Berghaus has also increased sales in recent years. The brand’s global brand director said in September: ‘Our mission is to make the outdoors accessible to all, in whatever form works for each individual. Brilliant product will be at the heart of that and, led by our great team, our ambassadors, our distribution and our marketing communications, we will enable the public everywhere to find their own way in the outdoors.’ Berghaus appointed a global head of brand in February.
Elsewhere in outdoor apparel, Brooks Running appointed a new media agency in February; and Skechers, which generated record sales of £1.6bn in Q2 2022, was named men’s footwear brand of the year at the Drapers Footwear Awards.
Also see: Helly Hansen, a leader in technical sailing and performance ski apparel, which hired a CRM agency in June; Regatta, which has been focusing on collaborations with celebrities such as Rochelle Humes and Giovanna Fletcher; Haglöfs, which launched Haglöfs Restored, its first second-hand collection; Craghoppers, which has been running its ‘Mindfully Made’ campaign, promoting its sustainability efforts; outdoor clothing supplier Rohan, cycling & tri-sports retailer Wiggle, ski helmet brand Ruroc, skiwear brand Nebulus, and wax jacket brand Barbour.
Attractions, Charities & Membership Organisations
Eden Project, famous for its Cornwall attraction, is aiming to bring its horticultural experience to the North of England and has submitted a bid to the government in the hope to raise £50m to contribute to the new project which is planned for Morecambe in Lancashire. The success of the bid for the ‘Levelling Up’ funding will be known in autumn. The business is also digitising, recently launching a virtual tour, to ‘give audiences worldwide the chance to see the [Cornwall-based] Project in a remote way and to champion its ethos of preservation and conservation further afield.’
The National Trust has been investing in its digital team over the past year. In an interview with Civil Society, The National Trust’s director of communications and marketing said that the organisation ‘wants to better reflect the population it serves and do so by reaching more underrepresented groups. For example, the National Trust is currently working with a group called Muslim Hikers, as minority ethnic groups are underrepresented when it comes to visiting the countryside. The charity is also trying to market its free properties more to reach people from low-income households.’ Competitor English Heritage recently appointed a new marketing director.
The RHS could see a new strategy in place as it recently welcomed a new director general. The charity appointed Essence as its media agency at the end of 2021 to help bring the environmental and social benefits of gardening to new audiences, increase and diversify its membership base, and grow visitors to RHS gardens and shows. In May, the charity launched the ‘We Speak Plant’ campaign by Wunderman Thompson and unveiled a new brand identity by Design Bridge. Trying to expand beyond its traditional audience, it recently appointed gardeners Manoj Malde, who has Indian ancestry, and Sue Kent, who has an upper limb disability, as its inclusivity ambassadors.
Ecologi is an environmental organisation which offsets subscribers carbon footprint. Both individuals and companies can sign up to the service. The business named a new CMO in April and launched a carbon-sucking billboard to raise awareness of its brand.
In 2020, CPRE, the countryside charity rebranded and kicked off a six-year strategy to ‘connect people with countryside', 'promote rural life' and 'empower communities to improve and protect local environment' ahead of its centenary in 2026.
Woodland Trust added JAA as its media agency in July last year and appointed a PR agency in January 2022 as it looks to ‘reach a wider audience’.
World Land Trust, which raises money to buy and then protect environmentally threatened land, appointed a director of brand & communications in January 2022.
The Soil Association, which aims to transform the way we eat, farm and care for our natural world, recently appointed a new CEO.
Also see: The RSPB; international conservation charity Fauna & Flora; wild plant conservation charity PlantLife; and membership organisations The Caravan & Motorhome Club and The Camping & Caravanning Club which made several marketing appointments in July.
A survey by Deloitte found that 78% of respondents use a technical device during outdoor activities, 53% apps and 40% online communities. Here are some tech brands that could take advantage of the growth in outdoor pursuits:
Geocode system software What3words has been ramping up its advertising this year and has been highlighting how its technology can be life-saving to those who get into trouble whilst exploring.
Navigation equipment brand Garmin named a head of brand marketing in March and unveiled its updated flagship running watches in June. Other wearable tech brands such as STATSports vests, Samsung watches, Apple Watches and FitBit activity trackers can also capitalise on the trend for outdoor activities.
The sale of drones to document landscapes covered in outdoor activities may also increase. DJI Drones recently appointed a new marketing director for Europe. Another brand to watch will be action camera brand GoPro, which has been pushing its subscription scheme, and makers of on the go charging bankers such as Anker.
Businesses that may be negatively affected
Following the lifting of lockdown restrictions, consumers are very much ready to be outdoors as much as possible. There is a shift back from at-home to on-the-go, which will have an impact on sectors including Gaming, Streaming Services, at-home fitness and gyms. To meet people’s desire to be outdoors and in touch with nature, these ‘indoor brands’ will need to ensure their content, products and strategies focus on the themes of nature and exploration. Interestingly, at-home fitness brand NordicTrack has made digitised versions of the outdoors central to its work-out videos. We may see the trend for ‘green exercise’ also seep into gyms, with more gym spaces designed with ‘indoor-outdoor’ in mind, as opposed to their traditional industrial feel.
Foreign travel may also take a hit. With the UK plentiful of green space for camping and hiking, and following this summer’s disruptions, the travel market will need to ensure a sense of adventure is evident when attracting customers. In fact, the ‘adventure travel’ market is predicted to grow by 15% between 2022 and 2030, so businesses such as Abercrombie & Kent, G Adventures, National Geographic Expeditions and PGL Travel are bound to benefit.
By Natalie Fedden, Content Manager - ALF
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