Let Europe go outdoors

To help people around Europe make the move to a more active, outdoor life, the European Outdoor Group (EOG) has launched the campaign “It’s great out there”. The campaign hashtag has already been used over three million times.

The facts speak an unmistakable truth. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in three 11-years-olds in Europe are overweight or obese. One reason is that the kids are less and less physically active. Among adults the pattern is the same. Obesity in Europe doubled between 1980 and 2008.

What can be done to help Europeans lead a more active and healthy lifestyle? The question is discussed by EU decision makers. As one way, the European Week of Sport was launched in September of 2015 at the behest of the EU Commission. The aim was to promote and organize events over the course of a week throughout Europe, letting people try everything from basketball to yoga. “Outdoor” was one of four main categories and it featured cross-country running, rock climbing and more.

According to a report from the EU Commission, The European Week of Sport was a huge success with over 7,000 events held all over Europe. And most of the events fell under the category “Outdoor”.

The report also concluded that many people wanted these types of events to be held all year round and not just for one week a year.

A new industry initiative

The success of The European Week of Sport – and for the outdoor category – came at the right time for a new initiative from the outdoor industry. The idea was hatched a few months earlier in conjunction with the OutDoor trade show in Friedrichshafen. More and more outdoor brands were organizing events aimed at the general public. Would it be possible to form a kind of umbrella organization to promote these events – and to promote participation in outdoor activities in general? After the fair, The European Outdoor Group (EOG) began to draw up plans for an organization with the working name “It’s great out there”.

In January 2016, the EOG recruited Arne Strate as head of marketing & communications. Part of his job was to further develop these ideas together with an existing working group, and to strengthen the relation to the EU officials.

“The EU Commission’s representatives were surprised by the high level of interest in outdoor activities. The sports world, with its clubs, national federations and sports companies, has enormous resources to bring to bear for attracting people. Outdoor activities are not usually organized by groups or associations, but rather at an individual level. And yet ‘outdoor’ was the most popular category at The European Week of Sport,” says Arne Strate.

Lobbying and local initiatives

In 2016, at the request of the EOG, Arne Strate and the working group looked into a number of possibilities. Brands such as Berghaus, Aku, Keen and others put together activities under the theme “It’s great out there” and received an excellent response from the participants. The website and social media campaign were relaunched. And, last but not least, the EOG applied to start a non-profit association based in Brussels, Belgium, backed by 20 or so brand name companies.

“We wanted to highlight all the great events that companies in the outdoor industry arranged all year round. And we also wanted to inspire! Our hashtag has already been used over three million times on social media platforms.

“We also wanted to become a louder voice in Brussels in our contacts with the EU. A lobbying group, if you will, that can push for measures ranging from the planning of local traffic to make it easier to get out into the outdoors, to helping outdoor organizations apply for grants.”

It is no secret that an economical interest is involved:

“Of course, our industry would benefit from more Europeans getting into outdoor activities. But that’s still a long way from now. Primarily ‘It’s great out there’ is a way to accept social responsibility for an industry that grew big because of outdoor enthusiasm, and to lead by good example,” says Arne Strate.

Gabriel Arthur
gabriel.arthur@norragency.com