At the recent Canoecopia consumer show in Madison, WI, I witnessed some amazing firsts. First ever backpack mounted advertising (cardboard and sharpie style), mid-city ice fishing, canoeing over ice, and a real throng of people in a buying frenzy over boats and all the accoutrements. Maybe it was the cabin fever, but what I saw really pointed towards a resurgence in outdoor rec business on the water and on the trail.
That sentiment pre-empted the actual show at an open meeting hosted by the Paddle Advisory Council, made up of retailers and brand leaders in the paddlesports business. Folks flew in from around the country to attend Canoecopia and this
important meeting, which established some new benchmark goals and partnerships for the industry looking forward. OIA, OR, TAPS, PIA, ACA and other regional advocates were all at the table.
Two main topics were addressed; the first, moderated by Sutton Bacon of Nantahala Outdoor Center
in North Carolina, was an update on paddlesports at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2010. We at OR had made some bold commitments (thanks to the advice of the Council and the creativity and cooperation of Nielsen management) and progress has been made on many fronts, and time had come to share that progress with thousands of stakeholders in paddle. The second topic was growing participation… arguably the more critical element of long term health in paddlesports. Darren Bush, Rutabaga's owner and self-described 'paddling evangelist', shared the intention to use funding both from OR and from the industry at large to fuel particiption programs (buoyed by a $30k initial contribution and OR's significant $200k+ aggregated boat space discount for this summer show). One key partner is Outdoor Nation
, introduced by Chris Fanning, who runs this youth-focused program under the OIA banner. OIA's mission is consistent with the direction of Paddlesports, Fly Fishing, Climbing, Backpacking and all the human-powered activities on open land and wilderness; to increase participation and thereby the health of the overall industry.
OR's contribution isn't stopping with funds and discounts though. The Paddlers Zone at show, specialized business seminars for Paddle, the Demo activities and location, particular recommendations and services (like boat trailer parking) and more active target messaging to dealers in Paddlesports are part of the overall program to increase exposure and focus on this core activity in the outdoor recreation space. As part of this overhaul in paddle, we'll be communicating updates via email and social media (er, like this) to the industry to spread the word. In the end, the idea is to bolster the value of the show for paddlesports dealers while working to fuel participation increases at the consumer level.
So among the firsts I saw in Madison, the most outstanding was the spirit felt in the room of business leaders in the paddle world – sometimes with very different ideas of how/why/when/where and whom change should happen – that spirit of cooperation, of willingness to be part of something moving forward together.
That is the equation that works to the benefit of every stakeholder in Outdoor. Nuff said, and stay tuned. More to come!