Extending an Invitation to New Audiences
Best Practices by Lou Dzierzak, Lkdcom@visi.com
Snow sports enthusiasts are passionate about their alpine, snowboard and cross country skiing pursuits. Long before the first snow falls, these consumers are spending time learning about the latest skis, boots and bindings. Their drive to improve their skiing experience often leads to annual purchases of new gear and equipment.
This audience is vital to the health of the ski industry, but brand managers understand that long-term success includes inviting new consumers to snow sports activities. “We really try to focus the majority of our marketing energy on the specialty retailer and the ‘core’ snowboarder. Our goal is and always has been to deliver snowboarding-specific, rider driven products,” said Scott Mavis, VP of global marketing, Ride Snowboards. “That being said, it’s also important that we continue to foster the youth market and drive brand awareness to broader markets and demographics.”
Expanding the ski market requires introducing brands to new markets with differing levels of ski experience and product knowledge. Young adults, women, families and even skiers who may have left the sport offer potential for future sales.
“The biggest opportunity is resonating with as many different consumers as possible, but the key is to speak to each in a legitimate way within a specified space,” said Mike Gutt, global marketing manager,K2 Skis.
Chris Parkhurst, director of MSR Alpine and Snow Tools, looks to adjacent categories for ways to build skiing and riding. “In snowshoes, where participation is almost 50 percent women, we have the opportunity to reach a group of users we haven’t connected with as well as our male audience,” Parkhurst said.
Consumers with past ski experience that are no longer active also represent an opportunity for growth.
“We can communicate with lapsed skiers who may have given up on the sport saying ‘I’m getting too old or it’s too fatiguing,’” said Nick Castagnoli, spokesperson, Rossignol North America. “We have to get out there and bang the drum that skiing and snowboarding is easier than it has ever been. As an industry I don’t know if we’ve communicated that message.”
Brand executives report that recruiting new skiers requires a long-term effort.
“Today’s youth is a priority. But it’s not just about speaking to them today. It’s really about engaging them on a long-term basis to ensure, as best as possible, that they transition into lifelong snowboarders,” said Mavis.
Graham Gephart, senior marketing manager, North America, Helly Hansen added, “In the ski industry there’s a big push for backcountry and the super expert domain. But that’s not necessarily an image that’s bringing a newcomer into snow sports. At the root of it, if you want to bring new audiences into the sport education is the key.”
Demonstration events and programs can be effective methods to reduce a newcomer’s anxiety about snow sports. “We rely heavily on … demo events…to reach new users. Our best and most vocal sales people are those who use our products,” said Parkhurst. “When an individual has an opportunity to try our snowshoes or poles, we usually gain a new MSR follower.”
When in-person demo events aren’t available, video presentations are a valuable marketing tool. Salomon’s Freeski TV tries gets new and current skiers stoked packed with different ski segments including park and pipe, backcountry and big mountain.
Since resorts are generally the gateway for a ski experience, brands are creating partnerships to enhance the experience for beginners. Helly Hansen is partnering with 50 resorts across North America with the Ski Free program offering consumers who buy certain Helly Hansen products a free lift ticket at select resorts. “It’s really easy for brands to pitch someone to get into the activity, but what isn’t done as frequently is making sure they have a great experience,” said Gephart.
Products must also be compatible with newcomers’ skill level and interests to draw them in. Rossignol Experience Series Skis, for example, are versatile and appropriate for skiers of all levels. K2 Snowboarding also creates specific models that speak to a specific type of new participants.
“The main way we are speaking to new audiences is with our products themselves. We are making more niche oriented boards that really go after some fringe snowboarding communities and styles,” said Hunter Waldron, global marketing manager, K2 Snowboarding.
Ultimately, the thrill of gliding across fresh snow can inspire new snow sports enthusiasts. Product information is certainly helpful, but promoting winter fun is also an effective message.
“We are selling fun and it’s all about building the brand image of fun and enjoyment,” said Gutt. “We need the passion for the sport to be passed from one generation to the next.”
Managing a successful snow sports specialty retail store requires expertise in an ever-changing array of business operations. Human resources, event planning, marketing, product selection, social media and e-commerce are just a few examples. Lou Dzierzak has written about these topics for over a decade. Best Practices will shorten the learning curve by offering case studies, resources and how-to tips from experts in specific fields. If you have suggestions for future topics, please feel free to contact Lou at Lkdcom@visi.com.