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.

Turning a Passion into Action, by Kara Armano

Everyone who knows me, knows that I love to fish and often back with words “lost my shoes“. What a lot of people don’t know is that more than anything I love to teach and share the joys of fly fishing with others. Of course, to share my passion there needs to be wild places where the rivers run free and the fish are abundant. Those places should be celebrated and protected. I was recently moved to take action to defend and protect both my passion for fishing and wilderness when I learned that they were in danger of being compromised.

The Thompson Divide, 220,000 acres of federally owned land just outside Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, has exposed me to some of the greatest outdoor experiences of my life. The Divide includes free flowing streams that are home to native cutthroat, and vast expanses of pristine forests and meadows that are teeming with herds of elk and deer.

The future of the Thompson Divide is threatened by oil and gas development. Because the area means so much to me, I spoke up.

I’ve worked with the Sportsmen for the Thompson Divide via Trout Unlimited to express what the area means to me. I’ve supported the Thompson Divide Coalition in its effort to teach the community more about the issues.

Working at Backbone Media, it’s easy to share my passions with my colleagues. Nate, one of the partners, feels just as strongly as I do about the Divide and the hunting opportunities it provides him. But as a growing agency we have several new employees who don’t know about the local land conservation issues. So, I decided to host a get together at my house to educate people about what’s at stake, the status of the pending oil and gas leases, and how everyone can get involved.

So last night Scott Hanley from the Thompson Divide Coalition and Aaron Kindle from Trout Unlimited came to my house to lead an open discussion about the issues facing our water and land, domestically, agriculturally and recreationally. A lot of people from work showed up. All the attendees seemed moved by the discussion and asked good questions. My hope is that my passion to save this area from drilling was instilled in them and that with their support, and possible action, we can protect the Thompson Divide for future generations to experience and enjoy.

Content is not a new Concept

800px-Pancho_Villa_Expedition_-_Around_the_Campfire_HD-SN-99-02005.JPEGJust when you think you’ve cracked the code to creating a successful communications strategy, things change. Whether it’s big data, UGC, virality, influencers, followers, fans…the communications landscape is fast-paced and ever-evolving (and full of buzzwords).  In the midst of change, it’s important as an agency to take a step back and understand how we got here.

Backbone Media’s business model was built on telling memorable, authentic stories about the products, people and places we love. When you have great stories, you want to tell them, enjoy them, and maybe learn something along the way. This is a pretty basic concept, but one that won’t ever change because it’s based on a meaningful interaction.


More and more we’re hearing that “content is king,” “content is the new social currency,” and “content is the center of communications.” What is content? To us, it’s a great story, a memorable message or a shared experience. We want to help craft these stories in an authentic and compelling way, and we want to share them with the world. The only difference with telling brand stories today versus five or even two years ago is that these stories can now be multidimensional­ with, images, videos, animation, infographics and editorial. Change in the media medium is inevitable and attention spans may be depleting, but the value of good storytelling stays the same.

At Backbone, content isn’t a new trend we’re chasing—it’s something we’ve always been all about. It’s the heart and passion of our business. It’s a PR manager taking editors backcountry skiing in the Wasatch or fly-fishing in Argentina to build a story about that experience. It’s our digital team putting a great consumer testimonial into an ad unit and delivering it to a targeted audience across various media platforms. It’s our social team developing a hashtag strategy to bring a community together to be a part of the brand story.

We’re doing it right. We’re always adapting to change and new technology, but most importantly, we’re staying rooted in the basics—telling great stories. And to me, that’s the most refreshing and human approach to communications.

The Time is Now

A few years ago I made a personal pledge to myself to get more involved in something. I wasn’t sure what it should be. But I wanted to give back.

Sure, I realize that sounds lame and super vague, but over multiple dialogs with people like Terry Kellogg from 1% For The Planet and Peter Metcalf from Black Diamond I was inspired. They did not shy away from big, audacious undertakings and were unintimidated by the scale or seeming futility of setting out and breaking a lonely trail uphill. I was also haunted by my personal concerns over climate change and the fact that one day one of my kids would ask me why we as a society didn’t do something about it when we knew what was happening.

DSC_0114 3Soon enough an opportunity came forward when Auden Schendler and Chris Davenport asked that I join the Board for Protect Our Winters (POW), a non-profit started by snowboarder Jeremy Jones focused on climate.

Here was the opportunity to work with a great group of people and try to move the needle on a big issue. Sure, I was inwardly skeptical if we could move public awareness or truly affect change. Yet I was also inspired by the mentality that people like Jeremy and Dav have whether planning to ski and ride huge intimidating faces, or in taking a public stance around education, activism and climate change.

DSC_0613Since joining POW, in various conversations with friends the most pressing question has been, “you don’t actually think you can make any headway, do you?” After a lobbying trip to DC last fall that fell during the government shut down, the skepticism seemed even more acutely counterbalanced against the vision. Skepticism. Futility. It’s easier to not not even try because the system is jacked, right?
DSC_0015Yet the groundswell continues. Porter Fox’s op-ed landed on the cover of the NY Times Sunday Travel Section. The POW Rider’s Alliance spawns an Olympic group of 105 international athletes focused on climate. The collective efforts of POW colleagues Chris Steinkamp, Matt McClain, Naomi Oreskes, Anne Nolin, Joni Lynch, Conrad Anker, Gretchen Bleiler, Winston Binch and Ryan Gellert continues to build the message forward.

This morning friends from the NRDC sent over a great email highlighting major coverage on climate impact covered by the AP, ABC, The Today Show, USA Today, Huffington Post, Boston Globe, Washington Post and more. Skepticism. Futility. Or maybe not?

This blog is not about POW. It is bigger than that. It is about the impacts of climate change on water supply, agriculture, forest and air quality. The wonkiness of radical climate change is everywhere and increasingly hard to ignore – massive flooding in England, expected increase in produce prices due to the ongoing drought in California and glaciers in Greenland shifting up to 150 feet per day. Yet to affect change takes activism, which means individuals getting involved even if you doubt you can make a difference. Activism is the enemy of apathy.

So, the question is are you apathetic or active?

Awards Season

SHOT Show, OR, ISPO, SIA….tradeshow season is finally in the rearview mirror and we’re all happy to be back home (especially because it’s dumping snow again). Looking back on the past month, our clients have a lot to be proud of. It’s not quite the Emmy’s or the Grammy’s, but the industry and media accolades that are awarded during the annual tradeshows are terrific recognition for the hard work and dedication that goes into new product development.

Here is a  run down of all the awards our family of clients recently received in the past few weeks:

Black Diamond

black-diamond-jet-forceBD’s new Jetforce Technology was the certainly most talked about product of all, racking up an impressive array of awards including Gear Junkie “Best in Show”, an ISPO Award Gold Winner in Ski Advanced Avalanche Gear, a “Best New Gear” award from the Gear Institute, a Skiing Magazine “Hot New Gear” award and an Outside Gear of the Show nod.

gos-sia14-metallogo_phThe team at BD also laid claim to several other awards including:

ISPO Award in Ski Off Piste/All Mountain—Black Diamond Equipment Carbon Megawatt

ISPO Award in Ski Touring Equipment + Outside Gear of the Show at SIA + Skiing Magazine “Hot New Gear“—Fritschi Diamir Vipec 12

ISPO Award Gold Winner in Accessories—Cohaesive Embedded Components (Apparel)


Big Agnes

Backpacker Editor’s Choice Award—Double Z Sleeping Pad

ISPO Award in Adventure Equipment—Helinox Ground Chair



bestNewGearWinter2014_3d8e299b74542ab556656467451dc882Gear Institute “Best New Gear”— Scarpa F1 Evo

Gear Institute “Best New Gear”—K2 Route Helmet

Gear Junkie “Best in Show”—Scarpa F1 Evo and K2 Route Helmet

ISPO Award—Topo Athletic Sante shoes

ISPO Award—Tubbs VRT snowshoes

ISPO Gold Award—Descente Mizusawa Down Jacket and Platinum ski jacket

ISPO Gold Award—Thusane Malleo Dynastab Boa Ankle Brace



UntitledOutdoor USA awarded Chaco “Best In-Store Display” at OR.



ISPO Award for Action Segment – Accessories

Skiing Magazine’s Hot Gear Award

ISPO Award in Accessories—POC ICEdot Crash Sensor




ISPO Award in Helmets + Outside’s Gear of the Show—POC Skull Orbic Comp H.I. MIPS

ISPO Award in Accessories—POC ICEdot Crash Sensor



Skiing Magazine “Hot Gear” Award—Strafe Cham Jacket and Pant



SKI Magazine “Show Stopper Gear”—Kastle MX70



PhD SmartLoft Hoody Sport – ISPO innovation award.


La Sportiva

Gear Junkie “Best in Show”—Vapor Nano 15791