By Barry Janoff
September 29, 2015: The North Face, long known for its outdoor and adventure sports gear, accessories and activations, this week breaks its first global campaign, "Never Stop," which seeks to inspire people to explore their world by taking on personal challenges and expanding their physical and intellectual boundaries.
The multi-platform campaign is part of The North Face's strategy to transition from being regarded by consumers as an outdoor apparel brand to an "active and lifestyle" brand.
"We are building a strategy that can drive our brand for the next five-ten years," said Todd Spaletto, president for The North Face. "For a long time there was an outdoor market and an active lifestyle market, and brands didn't cross from one to the other. But those lines have become blurred, mainly because consumers have changed. The modern outdoor market is faster, younger and more motivated, and we want to speak to them."
The anchor of the multi-media campaign, a 60-second self-titled spot, "Never Stop," breaks on YouTube and social media today, with a 30-second version hitting TV Oct. 12 on Comedy Central, ESPN, TNT and other sports programming.
The full spot debuts NBC during Sunday Night Football on Oct. 18 and will run for four consecutive Sunday nights.
The spot shows people challenging themselves and exploring different parts of the world, not just by mountain climbing, snowboarding and ocean exploration, but also by tasting new foods and visiting new places. It ends with a rallying cry from North Face: "Never Stop . . . searching, pushing, learning, playing, moving, creating, making, climbing, finding, dreaming, jumping."
"We want people to get outside, to live a life of exploration," said Spaletto. "And we want to continue to challenge ourselves to have the best products and most authentic messages, so that when people do explore, they trust North Face to go with them."
In addition to TV, the effort includes Internet, social media, a dedicated Web site and blog and POP in North Face's more than 70 retail and outlet locations in addition to dedicated departments in such chains as Macy's, Nordstrom and Dicks Sporting Goods in the U.S. as well as locations in Canada, the U.K., Europe and Asia Pacific.
Lead agency is Mekanism, New York/San Francisco.
"Never Stop" is the brand's second major push of the year, following "I Train For," which hit this past April. That came on the heels of "Your Land," unveiled last October, which at the time was called the biggest campaign in North Face's history.
According to Spaletto, the media spend for "Your Land" "was 50% more than anything we had previously spent" on any campaign. He said "Never Stop" tops that by another 40%.
North Face, a division of VF Corp., spent $13 million in the U.S. on media, per research firm Kantar Media, NY.
"'Your Land,' a very successful campaign for us, was about the destinations," said Spaletto, of which the spot has been viewed more than 7.4 million times on YouTube. "'Never Stop' is about people."
"Never Stop" comes as The North Face is building an its alliance with the Department of the Interior, launched in 2014, to "protect, preserve and celebrate public lands." Key to that is support of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, which includes a $100,000 grant that will be divided among four 21SCS leaders "who embody 'Never Stop' and who are doing extraordinary work in their communities."
It also comes as The North Face is unveiling the next generation in its Summit Series premium line of gear, including base layers, mids, jackets, and shell pants, all made exclusively for climbing. That hits in October with its own multi-media marketing campaign.
The "Never Stop" spot opens with a young girl in a museum, who slips away from her group and finds a painting of a majestic mountain covered with snow. Her vision then turns the painting into a real mountain, which leads to people involved a serious of challenging adventures: skiing, snow gliding, bridge jumping, undersea exploration, snowboarding, star-gazing and even tasting unusual foods.
Dramatic music builds until we return to the young girl, who in the next shot is older and scaling the side of a mountain, played by professional climber and The North Face athlete Paige Claassen.
Also featured in the 60-second spot are The North Face athletes Conrad Anker, Xavier de LaRue and Tom Wallisch. (See the full spot here.)
According to Tommy Means, executive creative director and founder for Mekanism, "We wanted to create a film that challenges the way people think about exploration. So "Never Stop" opens with a rambunctious little girl running through a museum where a painting captures her imagination. The painting sparks her imagination in a series of fluid match cuts where skiers, climbers, creators and scientists push their physical and intellectual limits."
Shot around the world, Means said that each vignette was "purposefully framed to fluidly cut to the next, giving the film a strong continuity of action. The ending finds our girl from the museum, now older and wiser, in an epic moment of perseverance."
"We used to be a brand that spoke to just the hard-core extreme explorers," said Spaletto. "We haven't forgotten them, but now we're looking at a growing pool of people who wear our products and come to our brand when they go outdoors."
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