Denver Welcomed Outdoor Retailer 2018 and Amazing Brand Experiences

It’s no surprise that one of the world’s biggest outdoor sports shows would be an experiential marketer’s dream. And Outdoor Retailer delivered this past weekend in Denver.

More than 1,000 brands from across the globe descended on the Mile High City to showcase their latest products at the four-day trade show, which moved to Colorado this year after more than two decades in Utah. Vendors were competing for the attention of 11,000 retail buyers, along with members of the press, industry advocates and politicians—so standing out was critical.

The most effective brand experiences were interactive. Take Kahtoola, which makes crampons for winter hiking and trail running. The Flagstaff-based company invited attendees to try on a pair of their MICROspikes and trot across several blocks of ice on-site at the booth. Not only does such a demonstration provide a great opportunity to highlight the product’s efficacy, but it also creates a memorable experience.

Indeed, ice was a common theme at the Outdoor Retailer show, which featured gear, apparel, footwear and accessories for all kinds of snow sports. At the Black Diamond booth, the Salt Lake City equipment manufacturer literally froze its Recon Stretch Ski Shell in ice. To show that their headlamps were actually water resistant, the company had them on display amid a constant stream of water.

Events were another great way that manufacturers engaged with audiences. Show organizers partnered with Icelantic’s Winter on the Rocks to host a Fridaynight fashion show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre to exhibit the latest in cold-weather style. The theme was “the whole mountain,” marking the first time in three decades that the outdoor and snow industries joined forces for one trade show.

Simple as they might seem, activities or displays that allow potential customers to touch, feel and see a product are an easy way to induce busy attendees to pause in a crowded convention center. And of course, creating buzz and drawing traffic to your booth gives company representatives more opportunities for in-person brand education. This is even more critical for smaller brands that don’t yet have the retail footprint or name recognition of storied companies like the North Face or Patagonia.

Brand engagement in the outdoor space is more necessary than ever. Like other sectors, the industry is feeling pressure across the board given the shifting shopping habits of millennials. Retail sales of outdoor gear amounted to $18.9 billion during the period of December 2016 to November 2017—a 6-percent drop from the previous year, according to market research firm NPD Group. Younger generations are less likely to demand specialized goods, instead favoring versatility, NPD found.

One way to engage with millennials is to appeal to their commitment to sustainability, and politics was a major theme at Outdoor Retailer. That was due in large part to the industry’s decision to leave its home of two decades, Salt Lake City, in protest of the Trump administration’s decision to scale back Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Several brands used the trade show as an opportunity to weave their views on the issue into their experience.

At the massive KEEN Footwear display, an old-school phone booth was emblazoned the message “call to action.” The exhibit encouraged show attendees to call their representatives to protest the monuments decision. Not to be outdone, Patagonia partnered with environmental advocacy groups for a light show that projected directly onto Denver’s McNichols Building in Civic Center Park along with the Bureau of Land Management headquarters in Lakewood. The light show blasted messages like “monuments for all” and “stand with Bears Ears” alongside a countdown clock to Feb. 2, when the Bureau of Land Management is set to open portions of the lands to mining and drilling.

At the Pineapple Agency, we love our outdoor brands and it was great to support our clients at the show: Eartheasy, a sustainable living company; Gogglesoc, maker of stylish and eco-friendly protective coverings for your goggles; Drysure, whose boot and shoe dryers don’t require heat or electricity; and Turbine Outerwear.

Outdoor Retailer is hosting two additional shows in Denver this year in July and November.

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