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May 31, 2020 5 min read

It's 2020, Women can finally vote everywhere (except Vatican City and Brunei). However, when it comes to the outdoor industry it still feels like we have some way to go. In this article, we have taken a look at the role of the female brand ambassador and the implications it has throughout the outdoors industry. 


As we turn the corner into a new decade, it feels like more women than ever are participating in outdoor sports and activities. Women are pushing the boundaries of their sports, whether it's skiing, snowboarding, climbing, running or adventuring; breaking records and inspiring other women to try something new or push themselves further. However, when we shop for our gear, when we look to brands for inspiration, why does it still feel that we are still an afterthought; in second place behind our male counterparts? We took a look at some of the top outdoor brands to see who was representing them as athletes, team members, or ambassadors. 

Of 17 Outdoor Brands, on average 28% of their ambassadors were female.

We wondered whether this was representative of female participation in outdoor sports? The short answer is no! In the USA, 46% of people participating in outdoor sports are female1 and in the UK 45% of participants in outdoor activities are female.1 So why are women underrepresented as brand athletes or ambassadors?

To be perfectly honest, we are still baffled and would love to get your thoughts! We believe there is a real opportunity for brands to take the lead, move away from male-dominated content, news, film, and social media, and spend their marketing dollars in a more balanced way. 

Which brands have the most female Ambassadors?

We reviewed 17 top outdoor brands and calculated what proportion of their published ambassadors were female. Outdoor clothing brand Merrell tops the list by far! A whopping 65% of their ambassadors are female, check out their ambassador page where you will find not only many inspiring females but their page is also more ethnically diverse than other brands too. 

\Winter sports brand Rossignol comes in 2nd place, 44% of their 36 athletes are female. And Osprey, the US brand famous for their backpacks and accessories are in 3rd place with 36% of female brand ambassadors.

Which brands have the least female ambassadors?

Freeski brands Line and Armada are languishing at the bottom of the list with an average of 9% female brand ambassadors. 

Female brand ambassadors

Is the model of athlete sponsorship outdated?

There are a few brands that appear to have moved away from big-name sponsorship and have stepped away from an athlete or team page on their website. Columbia, Salomon, and Cotopaxi are three of these. From their website, their support appears to be more focused on grassroots, events, charities and influencers. Perhaps this is a trend we will see more of in the '20s?

However, many athletes would be unable to train, travel, complete or perfect their craft if it was not for brand sponsorship. Where would you rather a brand's marketing dollars were spent?

What else is happening in the industry?

The Freeride World Tour announced equal pay for male and female athletes this year as FWT CEO Nicolas Hale-Woods said "this is the right thing to do." We completely agree and congratulate the FWT for taking such an important step.
In fact, skiing measures up pretty well when it comes to male / female pay. With alpine skiing being only one of 35 sports that award equal prize money to male and female athletes (the FIS requires equal minimum prize money at all Audi FIS World Cup events).


In 2017, Outside magazine interviewed a number of female athletes from different sports on the gender pay gap, which is definitely worth a read. Pay and pay gaps by sport appear to vary considerably but all athletes highlighted that it was far from an easy buck with many taking second jobs to help them live the dream.

Female specific / focused outdoor brands

So, are there any Outdoor brands just for Women? Well we've found a few, they maybe smaller than some of those mentioned above but determined to take this industry on!

Coalition Snow

Founded by Jen Gurecki in 2014 Coalition Snow make women's skis, snowboards and apparel. Through their Sisu magazine, Juicy Bits newsletter and social media they have created a community. Their desire to redefine an industry shines through both their branding and the conversations they have with their community. They believed they could do better than the "shrink it and pink it" strategy applied by their competitors and set to designing and building a new approach to Women's skis and snowboards. The result? Award winning ski's and boards that have even graced the Olympics and are now stocked in retailers such as REI.

Wild Rye

We've been following Wild Rye for a little while, their original collection set a new bar in Women's mountain biking apparel with a focus on fit, contemporary style also maintaining high performance standards. They have now broadened their range into Women's Merino Layers as well as a great range of Women's Mountain bike tops and bottoms. Founded by Cassie Abel, Katie Hover-Smoot with partner Krista Milleman we love their mission "To bring Women beautiful and technical Mountain apparel that inspires confidence and gets more Women outside"

Nikita

The all female Snow and Skate brand with Icelandic heritage has been around since the 1990s. Check out our favourite pieces from the Nikita Winter collection including the Hemlock Jacket and White Pine Snowboard Pants. Designing specifically for Women their collection is both contemporary and technical, with a great fit. And if you want to check out some inspiring female snowboarders and skateboarders take a look at the social feeds too!

 

What does the future look like? 

Research done by Women in Sport showed that women's sports failed to achieve more than 10% of all sport's coverage in four out of five countries in the study, including Malta, Greece, Sweden and the UK. However, Kath Woodward of the Open University states, "Sports coverage is changing - women's sports are gaining visibility, but the language and discourse are often still gendered." 

With the recent events of Covid - 19 there is also the question of how the global pandemic will affect Women's sports. Women in Sport's CEO Steph Hilborne states,  'As organisations plan for life after Covid-19, we urge that teams, clubs, sporting organisations and sporting bodies consider the long-term consequences of going back to a landscape without women’s sport.  Instead of deprioritising women’s sport and returning to an unsatisfactory “norm”, we want the crisis to accelerate the trend, the first shoots of which we saw in 2019.  Some believe that a crisis doesn’t create new change but it can accelerate rates of change.   We want the country to emerge with a renewed urgency to do what is right for everyone in this country and part of that should be to equalise access to sport for women and girls.'  

Covid has also encouraged us all to find new ways to enjoy our freedoms outside including a huge increase in sign-ups to stay at home fitness apps and fitness trackers such as Strava which has now surpassed 3 billion “activities,” and over 50 million users! If brands are clever there is a huge increasing pool of women ready to be marketing to in interesting and inspiring ways! 

Salomon have just launched their Summer 20 campaign 'Any Path Your Way'. Alongside a full website update, putting women at the forefront SalomonWMN have launched their competition to take over the world's most popular Instagram hashtags, putting their own twist on embracing #nofilter or smashing your #morningroutine.

Alongside this, there are small tweaks on the website to show their commitment to their female community such as placing women's clothing options first and rebranding their homepage to feature women's products during this campaign! 

Fingers crossed more brands follow! 

Let us know your views below or join the conversation on our socials. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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