REI Excursions to “Discover Life”

​Hi Nolan,

Community board is good.

However, I want to emphasize that my primary interest is in demonstrating a branding partnership at the community level that can be scaled up nationally.

That’s the whole idea behind DLIA: demonstrate success first in the Smokies, then branch out nationally and globally.

As you know I cross-post my e-mails to my personal blog (

One of your REI Adventures vendors in the Smokies (A Walk in the Woods) actually came across my initial e-mail to you on my blog, then reached out to me to see how she could better incorporate DLIA into her hikes – something she already does on her guided hikes in the Smokies.

So, this is a local partnership that has potential with an existing REI vendor.

I’m not sure I’m being clear that what I’m asking you for is, I think, more valuable than financial support:

I’m asking for your support in demonstrating, then scaling a partnership up to help DLIA "piggyback" on the existing, well-known REI brand and reach new markets.

I feel strongly this potential partnership has strategic value for REI at the regional and national scale, and I want you personally to be involved.

My next step was to reach out to the Southeast regional office in Atlanta, or perhaps the Asheville REI, since we share the Smokies with North Carolina.

I’d rather take the next step with you and our Knoxville REI – and I can’t deny it’d be an easier step with the Knoxville REI’s assist – particularly given your personal experience in engaging young people "new to the outdoors" with the outdoors.

My thinking is this:

I support Legacy Parks; I support AMBC; I’m grateful you’ve chosen to partner with these groups.

However, allow me to point out a simple oversight:

Legacy Parks and AMBC do not make new REI customers.

These customers already exist.

Futher, the prevailing market demographic consuming outdoor recreation products and experiences is slowly but surely yeilding to a new cultural landscape that historically has seen low participation in outdoor recreation. Growing markets and demographic groups like hispanics and multicultural ethnicities are without doubt the future of the outdoor industry‘s continued viability.

The greatest threat to the outdoor industry may simply be that outdoor lifestyle consumer markets are not self-sustaining, with decreases in overall outdoor recreation participation correlated with population growth.

Simply put, the long term survival of outdoor brands relies on creating new customers interested in the outdoors.

In my mind, interest in the outdoors is critical to desire to spend time in the outdoors – be it hiking, biking, climbing, or paddling – driving purchases of gear to enjoy those activities.

Creating interest in the outdoors is why efforts like "Outdoor Nation" and even campus outdoor rec programs like UTOP exist. This is why President Obama recently announced the "Every Kid in a Park" and "Find Your Park" campaigns aimed at giving every fourth grader a pass for their families to our national parks. This is why my grade school and high school had "Parks as Classrooms" field trips from Gatlinburg to the nearby GSMNP.

I think you’ll agree with me that more and more, people – especially children and youth – need to be inspired to get outdoors:

Inspired to get their hands off their apps, and feet outdoors.

To me personally, and Forest Service research supports this idea, there is nothing more inspiring than discovering life – a salamander under a log, a snake under a rock, a trout in a cold mountain stream.

Any kid you ask will agree – note that the 2014 Outdoor Industry trends report places "Wildlife Viewing" and "Birdwatching" in the top 5 favorite outdoor activities​ for youth ages 6 – 24, and in the top four activities for adults. Best of all, there’s no "barrier to entry" to enjoying wildlife, whereas even a basic mountain bike setup can be cost prohibitive to starting a new outdoors interest.

Do you see what I’m saying?

A financial contribution would be amazing – don’t get me wrong.

But, what I have in mind – a co-branding opportunity – is a bit larger scale and potentially more valuable for both organizations, in my estimation.

If I can explain what I’m thinking better, please let me know.

If I’ve explained my idea clearly but you’re still not convinced of the relevance or feasibility of a co-branding opportunity between DLIA and the Knoxville REI, I need to move on with the next natural step in my exploration of this idea, which is to try and drum up interest at the regional level with Asheville or Atlanta.




About Tanner Jessel

I am a recent M.S. in Information Science graduate from the University of Tennessee School of Information Science. I was formerly a graduate research assistant funded by DataONE (Data Observation Network for Earth). Prior, I worked for four years as a content lead and biodiversity scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey's Biodiversity Informatics Program. Building on my work experience in biodiversity and environmental informatics, my work with DataONE focused on exploring the nature of scientific collaborations necessary for scientific inquiry. I also conducted research concerning user experience and usability, and assisted in development of member nodes with an emphasis on spatial data and infrastructure. I assisted with research designed to understand sociocultural issues within collaborative research communities. Through August 1, 2014, I was based at the Center for Information and Communication Studies at the University of Tennessee School of Information Science in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Posted on April 9, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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