The Hills Are Alive with Opportunity

Insights Into Mountain Enthusiasts: Tapping Into Uncharted Waters to Reach A Highly Desirable Consumer Profile

The outdoors is where I am really at peace. It is continually surprising to me, when I hear fellow Canadians say they dislike winter. I just don’t get it. I enjoy all of our seasons in Canada but am especially fond of winter’s crisp cool air, cozy nights and snow-capped mountains.

Nothing makes me happier than when I am embracing all that winter has to offer, particularly those first few magical hours after a big snow storm. The world just seems more peaceful and pristine. However, when the city is bare of snow, I dream of escaping to the mountains, and make a point to frequent local ski hills and destination ski locales as often as I can.

Skiing is part of my family’s roots – I cannot think of another sport or activity that accommodates all ages and abilities while captivating everyone for an entire day. Many of my life’s milestones relate back to skiing – in fact, I proposed to my wife 17 years ago on the top of Whistler Mountain. Last year we took a family trip to Whistler where I watched my youngest daughter, who was eight at the time, ski with her Grandfather who was 82. A memory etched in my family’s foundation forever.

At the TwentyTen Group, we have the great fortune to work with some of the world’s most aspirational mountain resorts and snow sports athletes. Demystifying the unique features of a platform like a mountain resort is part of the work we do in support of their mission to build families of corporate partners. Throughout our process, we commissioned an independent research firm to help us further define the Mountain Enthusiast, building out our understanding of the demographic, consumer profile, and intent to purchase insights within marquee sponsorship categories.

We believe mountain resorts are truly “Blue Water” opportunities, offering brands the chance to tap into uncluttered landscapes, highly engaged guests (prolonged durations in a euphoric state of mind) and a highly desirable consumer profile. When a brand leverages a Blue Water opportunity they can foster a more valuable connection with a consumer and tap into their rituals to influence buying behaviour. It can be daunting to take the leap into the Blue Water but it has the power to elevate and unlock the potential of your brand and partnership portfolio.

Mountain enthusiasts have a few defining features that lend to a very favourable marketing demographic. One in four Canadians can be considered Mountain Enthusiasts – approximately 7 million people, and represent nearly 38 million people in the United States. This audience is significantly more affluent, younger, and possess a higher level of education versus non-mountain enthusiasts. Compared to non-mountain enthusiasts, they are more likely to recommend products to others, consider themselves brand loyal, and are early adopters eager to try new products and services.

Recognizing the opportunity Mountain Enthusiasts represent, sponsors are focusing investment into mountain resort properties, typically considered non-traditional sponsorship properties for their comparative lack of traditional media and brand exposure.

TELUS, for example, has been a proud partner with premier mountain destination Whistler Blackcomb for over 25 years and recently renewed their marketing partnership with Mont Tremblant. TELUS’ mandate and market position challenges the company to constantly seek out meaningful ways to engage their consumer in an authentic manner. According to our research, Mountain Enthusiasts are likely to spend more on telecommunications services and select joint or family plans than non-Mountain Enthusiasts. Mountain Enthusiasts are also more likely to use smart phones and data services, including text and picture messaging, mobile internet and email.

As part of their partnership with Whistler Blackcomb, TELUS recognized an opportunity to enhance the guest experience by offering free Wi-Fi in resort – a recurring request noted in yearly guest surveys. TELUS took this insight and went beyond simply offering Wi-Fi in mountain lodges and at guest services – extending it to iconic mountain top locales along the resort’s “Wonder Routes” map. This free connectivity, along with the Whistler Blackcomb Live App powered by TELUS, offers guests every opportunity to capture their experience and share it with the world. These activations along with in-market consumer acquisition and loyalty programs leveraging Whistler Blackcomb lift passes as incentives, have resulted in strong business growth for TELUS – allowing this partnership to come full circle.
Another great example of brands leveraging the mountain resort platform is video gaming brand Nintendo. In partnership with Whistler Blackcomb for nearly 10 years, Nintendo recently developed Nintendo Gaming Lounges in each of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains’ largest mountain top lodges. These Gaming Lounges have exceeded Nintendo’s expectations in terms of guest engagement, reaching their target market and experiencing nearly constant daily use throughout the winter season. Our research shows Mountain Enthusiasts are significantly more likely than non-Mountain Enthusiasts to play video games and, most significantly, two thirds of snowboarders play video games as compared to the rest of the sample.

While sponsor categories like consumer electronics and telecommunications may be expected, our research shows that many other categories would benefit from exposure to the Mountain Enthusiast demographic. For example, what if we paired a home improvement company with a mountain? Seems like a stretch, however our research shows it would be worthwhile to help a home improvement company find ways to improve the guest experience on mountain while driving guests to retail.

Our research tell us that guests are already making home improvements, with 60% of Mountain Enthusiasts having renovated in the past 2 years, including remodelling, decorating, flooring, landscaping and additions.

By partnering with a mountain destination, home improvement retailers are able to connect with an audience that is already dreaming about and planning for their next project and able to afford significant renovations.

This kind of in depth knowledge of your audience is invaluable when making sponsorship decisions and can be used to establish a measurable connection between a brand’s marketing platform and the desired consumer.

Experiencing the natural beauty of mountain life is like nothing else. Fresh air fills your lungs and the awe inspiring views fill your soul. Brands that reach their consumer while they are experiencing the euphoria of mountain culture will have the opportunity to bond with their consumer in memorable ways.

My final recommendation: get outside and experience the mountain lifestyle, as an individual or as a brand. You will not be disappointed.

To learn more about how your brand can tap into the Blue Water opportunity and Mountain Enthusiasts, contact us at info@TwentyTenGroup.com. There’s a pair of Whistler Blackcomb lift passes in it for any brand that reaches out.