Friday, 22 May 2009

Outdoor adventures - global and local

I’ve had quite an ‘outdoorsy’ week, which has been very enjoyable. It began with me collecting this beast, which the Family Lines has just invested in. We looked at loads of great tents, but this was the one that really took our fancy – the size, layout, headroom and general quality all appealed. So, we made the choice and look forward to a bit of camping, or maybe even ‘glamping’, very soon.

Anticipating future nights under canvass I then set off for the unashamedly plush Carden Park near Chester, to attend the Berghaus spring/summer 2010 sales conference. There, delegates representing about 30 countries in which Berghaus products are sold, were presented with details of the range that will be available to consumers around the world from next February. I can’t spill the beans on all of that here, but suffice it to say there are (as there seem to be every season these days) some very exciting developments and plenty for Press Ahead to get its PR teeth stuck into.

Berghaus has an outstanding team of sponsored athletes and many of them attended and contributed to the conference this week. Sir Chris Bonington, Mick Fowler and Leo Houlding all gave inspirational presentations about their exploits and demonstrated very clearly how they are the personification of everything that is great about the Berghaus brand. Also at the conference were Anniken Binz, Rob Jarman, Leah Crane and Carlos Suarez – they are all very much part of an extended Berghaus family.

On Tuesday, I led a workshop that Berghaus marketing director Sarah Wilson and I put together for the international representatives. It was designed to give them an insight into how sponsorship can be used to build the brand (and subsequently sales) in their market, and to give them tips on how to create their own sponsorship strategies. Our magnificent seven Berghaus athletes were also involved in the workshop and it was a thoroughly enjoyable session that the audience seemed to both enjoy and find very useful.

One of the best aspects of a Berghaus sales conference is that it gives people involved in the business around the globe the opportunity to get to know each other and share best practice and ideas. At every conference, the company lays on some sort of team activity. This time delegates were split into mixed groups and then set a series of challenges in the grounds of Carden Park. My team included a few from the UK, including Berghaus brand president Richard Cotter, along with representatives from Spain, the Czech Republic and South Korea.

Over the course of a couple of hours, we tried a range of activities and challenges, with varying degrees of success. Our team ‘excelled’ at archery and climbing, but was less successful when it came to ‘laser’ clay pigeon shooting and building a tower of crates. It was all great fun and the sight of Richard Cotter and European sales director Simon Roberts racing each other up a telegraph pole was pretty entertaining. Simon, with reckless disregard to his career prospects, reached the top first and was then given the charming title of 'tree monkey' by Richard!

The images below were taken during the crate building exercise and provide an idea of the fun that was had. The guy balancing at, and then falling off, the top is Mike Clark, Berghaus' retail operations manager.

Overall, the conference was a big success, thanks to a huge amount of work put in by people across the business, from product design and development, sourcing and logistics, and of course the marketing team who co-ordinated the whole event. Well done to everyone involved – now comes the work of selling and promoting the new range!

I returned to the North East to find that the Outdoor and Active campaign up here is really starting to gather momentum. The media coverage in the region is starting to roll in, with a lot more activity in the pipeline. Meanwhile, the team at Press Ahead has been picking up the ’phone to national journalists and visits are being arranged as I type. We’ve got a really cool (can I use that word at my age?) initiative lined up to launch in June, that I think is going to have very wide appeal. I won’t reveal all now, but watch this space for more news on that soon.

So, yes, the outdoors has been the dominant theme of my week. And with the Bank Holiday weekend weather forecast looking quite promising up here in the glorious North East, I dare say I’ll be heading outside quite a bit more over the next few days.

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