Charging into Fall 2104

Having just completed the bi-annual Backbone Charge (because we do not retreat) staff outing, here is a quick look at some recent projects we’ve completed—from product launches, to trend stories, to native advertising.


Bonfire at the annual Charge at the Harry Gates Hut (photo compliments the talented Erik Wardell)


At 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, September 7, we dropped the F-bomb. For the past several months we’ve been working with Abominable Labs on the launch of their game-changing goggles, which feature a lens that heats up to immediately eliminate fog, much like your car’s rear window defroster.  It’s a product that is really innovative, but also makes you think, “why didn’t I think of that.” We’ve been working for weeks to coordinate the announcement of the product with the launch of their kickstarter page and it was fun to see the stories roll in from the Oregonian (Abom is based in Lake Oswego) OutsideOnline, GearJunkie and Gizmodo in the first 24 hours. This is a brand that’s poised to shake up the goggle market.




On the heels of the Outdoor Retailer show and recent awards in Runner’s World, Competitor and Trail Runner, to name a few, HOKA is hitting it’s stride. Here’s a quick look at Deckers CEO Angel Martinez on Mad Money talking about HOKA along with other Deckers brands. Key take-aways: connect, create experiences and build relationships with consumers, omnichannel sales and “web-rooming.”

Black Diamond
Following up on BD’s popular Mountain Project mobile app is a native campaign with Outside. “If it ain’t broke, break it” takes consumers into Black Diamond’s QA/QC lab and provides a peak into the product testing that serves brand’s mantra: Use Design Engineer Build Repeat.

See you out there!


Post OR – wrap

Here’s a quick look back at the Outdoor Retailer show.

Greg Williams started his OR in Steamboat where he began a 4-day, 400 mile bike ride to Salt Lake City with 75+ other outdoor folks. In its seventh year, the SmartWool ride to OR battles heat, rain and 100+ mile days. This year Greg was joined by Chris Steinkamp, executive director from Protect Our Winters, Brian Vaughan, co-founder of GU Energy and chief endurance officer (how do I get a title like that?) and a Texan named Lance. Props to SmartWool and the entire group on their effort.

Funny how most of images of this guy Mellow Johnny are always from behind...

Funny how most of images of this guy Mellow Johnny are always from behind…

The demo day was highlighted by a Sperry floating pontoon boat piloted by our own Captain Ian Anderson. The Sperry boat passed out lobster rolls and Sam Adams beer to anyone who paddled or out to visit.

Capt. Ian 'Meryl Stubing' Anderson

Capt. Ian ‘Meryl Stubing’ Anderson

Mackenzie hands out lobster rolls

Mackenzie hands out lobster rolls

those Yeti Hopper coolers are everywhere

Those Yeti Hopper coolers are everywhere

Revo relaunched to retailers at the outdoor demo, showcasing its stylish new Spring '15 line.

Revo relaunched to retailers at the outdoor demo, showcasing its stylish new Spring ’15 line.

One of the goals Backbone collectively set out to achieve during this OR Show was to connect with people beyond the tradeshow floor. Whether it was an early morning road ride, fly fishing the day before OR or hiking up Mt. Superior in the afternoon—we worked to build key relationships—basically doing cool stuff with cool people.

Kara casting on the Provo

Kara casting on the Provo

Shannon Davis and Julie Ellison on Superior's south ridge

Shannon Davis and Julie Ellison on Superior’s south ridge

Climbing mag crew and JLD on summit

Climbing Magazine crew and JLD on summit

full moon below climber @ Psico Bloc comp

Full moon below climber @ Psico Bloc comp

Back on the show floor, editorial awards are highly prized by every brand as they’re often a bellwether for future sales. Per usual, our clients had a good showing. The new Big Agnes MtnGLOW collection of lighted tents picked up best in show awards from Outside and GearJunkie, HOKA won Editor’s Choice from Runner’s World and an award from Competitor Magazine for the new Clifton shoe, and Polartec/Bomber Gear got a Best New Gear award from Gear Institute for the Palguin dry top featuring Polartec Neoshell.

photo 1

Nyberg loves NeoShell



With Independence Day in the rear view mirror, Backbone salutes the independent-minded entrepreneurs of our newest brand partners: HOKA, AvaTech, Protect Our Winters and Pat’s Backcountry Beverages. As summer is hitting full stride we are excited to work with these new companies to build their brand stories via paid, earned and owned media.



HOKA ONE ONE is the fastest growing premium running shoe brand in the world. HOKA shoes were quickly embraced by the ultrarunning community, and today, more and more road runners, both everyday and serious competitors, are embracing the unique ride the shoes provide. As a brand, HOKA has been on the Backbone radar since they launched. As an agency of runners, HOKA’s technology coupled with first hand endorsement from many of our colleagues and running friends piqued interest. We are stoked to help continue growing the HOKA community and show how these shoes are revolutionizing the running industry.


AvaTech  is a start up out of MIT that was first introduced to Backbone through an athlete who was testing the product. After multiple discussions and meetings on skis and over beers with Brint Markle, one of the founders, AvaTech brought in long time Backbone friend Thomas Laakso, formerly Black Diamond’s ski category director. AvaTech is a proactive solution that quickly and accurately analyzes snowpack and facilitates real-time sharing. AvaTech will debut at Banff’s ISSW in September and be available in Winter 2014/15. AvaTech will set out to solve key needs of military, mining, railroad, highway, hydrology, oil and natural gas markets.


POW Long Logo

Protect Our Winters is a global nonprofit fighting climate change on behalf of the winter sports community. POW’s mission is to engage and mobilize the winter sports community to lead the fight against climate change. Their focus is on educational initiatives, advocacy and the support of community-based projects. With POW, Backbone will be working to engage and grow POW’s social media channels and outreach through programs such as the Rider’s Alliance, a community of athletes and Olympians who have banded together to amplify their first hand experiences and views on the impact of climate change. A great example of the Rider’s Alliance action on climate #actonclimate last month generated over 100 million in a few days in collaboration with the White House and EPA climate regulations.


Pat’s Backcountry Beverages invented the world’s first Beer and All-Natural Soda that allows outdoor enthusiasts to make delicious beverages anywhere. Pat’s patented, portable Carbonator Bottle replaces your standard water bottle with the added feature of being able to carbonate any liquid you put in it. The system significantly reduces the weight of carrying canned 12oz beverages by 87% and space in your backpack by 89%. Pat’s Backcountry Beverages also produces five gourmet, all-natural soda concentrates, made with pure cane juice, key replenishing vitamins and no preservatives

I mean seriously. We love beer and we love doing cool stuff. Pat’s is a perfect solution to every climber, hiker and paddler out there.




The strength of our business has always been built on delivering results for our clients first. Sure, we invest in Backbone in a big way annually, but to be honest we have never made it priority #1 to promote ourselves or overly focus on our brand. To this point, it is far easier and more genuine to tell another brand’s story rather than focus on talking about oneself. This client centric approach has served us well. New business has always been driven by great word-of-mouth recommendations from our clients, our agency partners and our friends in the industry.



However, 2014 marks a change. Our original logo designed in 1997, by our then shared-office graphic artist friends at Rainy Day Designs, has been a solid one for us. The history of the logo – a stylized yin of the Continental Divide, the backbone of the Rockies running through the heart of the state of Colorado, is being retired in favor of a more modern, bold mark with a hint of western design.




If you have ever run a new logo/design process it can be PAINFUL. It took over a year and we mangled more than one design team relationship. Internally, it was near contentious at times, bordering on combative and hilarity. Funny, because at first blush most people seem to care little about a logo or fonts, but if you dig just a bit deeper – oh, it gets real. As always, we persevered, trusted the process and each other and now are happy.

You may notice the B’s have a peaked center that represent the twin summits of Mount Sopris, the noble peak that sits above Carbondale. The new Backbone logo is  bold, clean and strong. I won’t get into some of the descriptors given about how the line below represents a continuum and progress in a static form. I mean, some of the stuff our graphic artist pals spun makes even the most flowery PR language look pretty tame.

Big call out to Fred Hammerquist and his team for helping shepard us through this process. We like Fred. We collaborate together on a few brands. Rumor has it when the snow is deep he skis on Megawatts. Thanks to Fred and his team.







There is a lot of static out there these days. As marketers and brands claim to get more targeted and specific, our collective social media channels gum up with all sorts of filler. What it comes down to, what matters are pieces that resonate.

Recently two projects have hit high marks in terms of target and scale. In mid-May, Black Diamond announced its partnership with Mountain Project. No big deal right? Well, actually Mountain Project is the most comprehensive online climbing guide to ever exist, featuring route beta for over 112,000 climbing routes at over 19,000 climbing areas worldwide. The mobile application allows users to download route information (location, description, images and rating) on their devices and access it anytime without a cell signal. Mountain Project features over 304,000 unique users per month and reaches nearly 2,500,000 climbers per year.


As a modern day climber you can search and discover new areas on your phone and go climbing. The tool is indispensable. The cool part about the BD/MP partnership is Black Diamond took the app and made it free. Make sure, you catch this part. FREE. Why? BD wanted to provide its core community with a great proactive mobile app to help them go climbing. Pretty cool. And the on the metrics side – Mountain Project has seen an immediate, robust and sustained level of engagement since partnering.

Spear of Destiny

Spear of Destiny

We searched for 4 star routes on River Road and got this single pitch chimney/tower

We searched for 4 star routes on River Road and got this single pitch chimney/tower

The second case study is from earlier this week working with Protect Our Winters. In a coordinated effort around President Obama’s announcement of new EPA regulations to limit carbon emissions POW worked with the White House and activated a social media campaign, #actonclimate asking POW athletes to organically share a place or reason why we should support these new EPA standards for the generational and long term health of our planet.


The results were staggering with positive trends in the first six hours upward of 100 million impressions. More importantly was the core audience initiatives where POW saw over 7,000 new Instagram followers day one and over 13,000 tweets by over 10,000 individuals. Taking it even a step further, the profiles of people posting included: Alex Honnold, Conrad Anker, Jeremy Jones, Gretchen Bleiler, Jamie Anderson, Jimmy Chin, Danny Davis, Renan Ozturk, Chris Davenport and brands such as The North Face, Teton Gravity Research, Camp 4 Collective, Goal Zero, and Snowsports Industry of America.

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 11.45.59 AM

All this prompted the White House to comment on the authenticity of this social campaign and how the photos from the athletes were inspiring everyday people in a way only athletes could and driving a larger audience to identify with the cause of climate change.






6 Best Practices for Programmatic Advertising


By: David DeMartini

There are few locations within the world of digital media that can rival the reputation of San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Last month, Backbone was invited to attend a client immersion day hosted by Rocket Fuel, a programmatic partner with which we work closely. Eager to experience what some call the promised land of innovation, we jumped at the opportunity.

For two days, we attended roundtable discussions covering a range of programmatic topics spanning from ad security and viewability, to mobile device tracking. We were amazed by the level of intelligence and drive to innovate, evidenced by the group of 50 young, eager new hires attending orientation.

Anyone working in the digital advertising space would tell you programmatic advertising has profoundly impacted the marketing landscape. While this shift has provided brands with great opportunity, it’s also become difficult to navigate. In attempts to alleviate some of the challenges, we’ve compiled a list of 6 best practices for programmatic adverting.


6 Best Practices for Programmatic Advertising         

1. Integrate prospecting and retargeting efforts – Programmatic advertising works best when it’s allowed to combine upper- and lower-funnel efforts. Delineating funnel objectives can have a negative effect on performance and should be avoided if possible. Integration allows for maximum data capture, driving faster learning and optimization.

2.  Collect pixel data on every page of the advertiser’s website – Allowing for more data capture drives faster optimization and more efficient impression buying.  Programmatic tactics work best when the maximum amount of data is provided.  While capturing data from conversion pages is important, the systems can also learn from the behavior of users who do not convert, which in most cases is just as valuable.

3. Relax your constraints – Programmatic tactics perform best when they are free to optimize without constraints. Limiting the initial audience to a specific demographic slows the optimization process as less data can be collected. There may be users who convert that fall outside of the target audience- allowing the systems to test this audience will identify either a new group that’s likely to convert or a group that can be ruled out. Either scenario is a useful insight.

4.  Test multiple creative variations in real time – Just as programmatic tactics work best when they are free to analyze many different audience segments, allowing for creative/messaging optimization can vastly increase performance. When optimizing in real time, small variations in creative can greatly impact performance. Allowing the algorithms to make these optimizations based on the millions of data points they collect is the most efficient way to ensure maximum performance. The reality is that these algorithms are able to identify optimal messaging much more efficiently than humans, eliminating errors we sometimes don’t catch.

5. Allow the algorithms to make daily optimization decisions – Marketers by nature, carry a very hands-on mentality. We are used to constantly checking in on our campaigns and making adjustments when necessary: shifting targets, adjusting budgets, changing creative messaging. While this is necessary for traditional advertising tactics, it can be counterproductive in the programmatic space. The systems are able to take environmental variability into account and adjust at the most opportune time. Changing or shifting campaign initiatives can cause models to reset and decrease efficiency.

6. Embrace view-through conversions – View-through conversion is a topic we discuss frequently here at Backbone Media. If we as marketers are succeeding in our profession, a consumer’s path to conversion should be filled with our advertiser’s messaging. Whether it be a display ad, an FBX in feed post, a search result or an email, each play an integral role in driving users to convert. For this reason, it makes little sense to attribute the full conversion to the last touchpoint or click that the user executed before purchase. Ignoring view-through eliminates the value on any top-funnel initiatives. While it’s tempting to take this approach, the reality is it oversimplifies attribution models and can have far reaching negative effects on marketing strategies.


The programmatic space can be difficult to navigate. Feel free to leave any further questions in the comments section or reach out to us directly.


Backbone POV and Points Unknown

When a great group of creative people end up all together in the same cool place, we like to get them together for a little POV.

Steve's Guitars provided the setting

Steve’s Guitars provided the setting

Mike Douglas, Mavis Fitzgerald, Sarah Hubbard and Nate Simmons

Ian Anderson, Mary Anne Potts, Mike Douglas, Mavis Fitzgerald, Sarah Hubbard and Nate Simmons

Seven years ago, the Backbone POV series was conceived by former Powder magazine editor/Aspen Snowmass/K2 Snowboarding/Backbone Media and now SmartWool marketing maestro, Steve Metcalf.

Steve Metcalf, earlier this spring under the bright lights of Outside TV in NYC

Steve Metcalf, earlier this spring under the bright lights of Outside TV in NYC

This year during the 5 Point Film Festival we organized a group of influencers, athletes, brand managers, artists, writers and filmmakers. The lively discussion was centered around Inspiration, Creativity and Cause—pretty big topics to cover, but a room full of smart people to tackle them.

Auden Schendler always has insight buried in humor

Auden Schendler always has insight buried in humor

Special thanks to the panel of Niko Jager from the European Outdoor Film Festival, Brian Emerson from Outside Television, Alexandra Fuller creative director from Struck, and Travis Rummel of Felt Soul Media and director of 5 Point award winning film Damnation. Also thanks to those attending including marketing teams from Aspen Snowmass,, Black Diamond, Salomon, First Descents, Outdoor Research, Big Agnes, and influencers Brendan Leonard, Fitz Cahall, Anson Fogel, Skip Armstrong, Mary Anne Potts, Lou Dawson, Michael Kennedy, Beda Calhoun, James Mills, Mike Douglas, among others.

Panelists Niko, Brian, Alex and Travis

Panelists Niko, Brian, Alex and Travis

In addtion to 5Point, Backbone recently traveled to the left coast for the Sea Otter Classic. Sea Otter marks the official start of the spring cycling season with POC on site to debut their new Octal helmet and the AVIP road cycling apparel line. ICEdot also had a busy festival as their emergency notification system continues to make inroads in the cycling world.

POC @ Sea Otter

POC and ICEdot @ Sea Otter

A few weeks ago on the other coast, Backbone was in NYC for our bi-annual showroom where we showcased new products from Eddie Bauer, SmartWool, Polartec, La Sportiva, Horny Toad, Trimble Outdoors, Stio, Oliberte´, Thule, First Descents, and Chaco.IMG_0333 IMG_0316 IMG_0339

April was a busy month, but to boil it down: the best recipe is great brands, with innovative stories and products with the right people in the room.


5 Point Film Festival and Backbone POV

“We need better online content.”


“We need to do a better job of telling our story.”


“Man, putting together integrated media is complex.”


Just as  manufacturers raced to secure the responsibility to control their own brand editorial and ID, they have oft struggled with the work that comes with the editorial process. This statement stands simply enough  – let alone if you factor integrated media adding units of video, interviews, b-roll and imagery to a well crafted story.

It is pretty clear – if content is king, the jury may still be out as to if content marketing is even a long lost prince.


Content marketing is 88% less effective than public relations

One thing is for certain. As brand story and the use of video has exploded in terms of popularity and consumption  – inspired story telling is at a premium.

Enter the 5 Point Film Festival this coming weekend April 24 – 27 and another Backbone POV.

POV_fourth edition_v5

“5 Point celebrates films and adventures that inspire people,” explains Sarah Wood, executive director. “In today’s social media-driven world, the demand for authentic storytelling is greater than ever. Our festival is at the nexus between outdoor brands and their core consumers. Our partnership with industry’s leading brands, from Patagonia, to Outside Television, Polartec, Black Diamond, Sierra Nevada, NRS, Big Agnes, Osprey, evolv, Whole Foods and others, speaks to the growth and opportunity we’ve had with 5 Point.”


The Backbone POV will take place Friday, April 25 at 2PM at Steve’s Guitars in Carbondale. The panel discussion will discuss Inspiration, Creativity and Cause and will feature special guests Travis Rummel from Felt Soul Media and director of Damnation,  Alexandra Fuller creative director from Struck and writer/producer of award-winning short Sister Wife, Brian Emerson from Outside Television and Niko Jager creative director of the European Outdoor Film Tour.


Past POV discussions have centered around many of the macro themes surrounding multi media platforms with prior attendees including Jimmy Chin, Renan Ozturk, Chris Davenport, Mary Anne Potts, Jeremy Collins, Semi-Rad Brendan Leonard, Beda Calhoun, Pete MCBride, Anson Fogel, Dave Amirault, Matt Hobbs, Lou Dawson, Shannon Ethridge, Kelly Cordes, Chris Kalous and many others.

For a list of upcoming films go here. See you at 5Point and the POV!

*Images from previous POV events in 2012, 2013 include (not complete) of Andrew Bisharat, Jonathan Thesenga, Mavis Fitzgerald, Chris Kalous, Kelly Cordes, David Lama, Shannon Ethridge, Jimmy Chin, Dirk Collins, Christian Knapp, Kristine and Allon Cohne, Ian Anderson Mike McCormack, Josh Nielsen, Jeff Johnson, Beda Calhoun & Casey Sheahan.





Springtime in the Rockies

Springtime in the Rockies.


Snowfall and sticky single track.

Sandstone in Escalante and Moab.

Spring ski touring.


Sunlight after work.

Mother’s day hatch on the horizon.

Spring is also full bore at Backbone. Today, April 2, Backbone adds two new team members, former Patagonia CEO Casey Sheahan and media planner Melissa Atwood.


Casey joins Backbone in a new role as senior advisor, focusing on client strategy and new business as well as our agency growth, efficiency and structure. Casey stepped down as the CEO of Patagonia in February. Under his leadership the company tripled its profits and experienced significant growth. Prior to Patagonia, Casey served as president of Kelty, Inc. In addition to his management roles, Sheahan has extensive experience in marketing, sales and publishing. He worked as the vice president of marketing at Merrell Footwear, category marketing manager at Nike ACG and the editor/publisher at POWDER Magazine.


Melissa is a Mainer who recently relocated to Carbondale with strong experience in traditional media channels: broadcast, cable, newsprint, and magazine, as well as digital media: display, re-marketing, SEM, mobile, social and video. Her past experience includes working with national and regional clients such as DeLorme, SYLVANIA, the University of Maine and more.  Prior work includes time at Time Warner Cable and more recently on the agency planning side at Garrand in Portland.

Spring has sprung and Backbone continues to thrive. We’re stoked to have both Melissa and Casey on board.



The Forecast Calls for Pain

photo: Jeremy Swanson

photo: Jeremy Swanson

Media FAM checklist

  • 17 miles of ski touring and descending
  • 8,000 feet of vertical gain
  • Top elevation 12,392 feet
  • 70+ mph wind gusts
  • Zero visibility
  • Waist deep powder
  • 160 cm skis
  • 2 buckle boots
  • 6+ hours of racing

Press trips or media “FAMS” are a tried and true PR tactic. The concept is pretty simple: invite journalists to experience your hotel/restaurant/product first-hand so they can write about it. Generally speaking, journalists are pretty pampered on FAM trips, enjoying extravagant meals, five-star accommodations and more. At Backbone, we host well over a dozen FAM trips every year, often travelling to exotic locations to go skiing in Iceland, canyoneering in the Grand Canyon, kayaking in the San Juans, rafting the Middle Fork, or surfing in Costa Rica. In fact, right now, we’re hosting a trip in Patagonia with Eddie Bauer.

But this past weekend we tried a different FAM trip concept: make them suffer.

As you may have heard, ski mountaineering, or SkiMo is exploding in popularity.  Our client La Sportiva is one of the brands helping to drive the sport, sponsoring some of the world’s top skimo racers and races. They make some of the lightest, most innovative skimo gear on the market, including the nearly $3,000 carbon fiber Stratos Cube boot.

To showcase La Sportiva’s skimo line, we decided to invite a small group of journalists to try the gear in the environment for which it’s intended—a race. It just so happens that we have one of the country’s biggest and best skimo races right here in our backyard, the Audi Power of Four.

We tricked coerced lied to persuaded journalists from Outside, Skiing, Gear Patrol and Gear Junkie to come up and stay at the new Wildwood Snowmass on Thursday, take a day to shake down their gear on Friday, and then enter the race on Saturday.

The conditions on race morning were epic. It had snowed most of the night, it continued to dump snow all day and the wind on top of Highlands Bowl was howling with gusts over 70 mph (or was it 90? The number gets bigger every time I hear another racer talk about the race).

Anyway, I’ll let the pro storytellers share their own race day tales, but I can tell you this was the most memorable FAM trip most of our group had ever experienced.

Read Gear Junkie Sean McCoy’s account here.  And the boys from Skiing shared their thoughts on the race here with a photo gallery here.

As for me, I was happy to run support for the race, grabbing videos of the media teams where I could and having my little 7-year-old friend Ella push whiskey on the unsuspecting racers.