Columbia main partner of UTMB
Romain Cancilleri-Michy, Columbia’s marketing manager France looks back on the partnership that links the brand with the UTMB.
What are the reasons that pushed Columbia, at the end of 2018, to renew its partnership with the UTMB for three more years, until 2021?
We are very satisfied with the first four of our partnership with the UTMB which is a unique sporting event. We learned during this period and managed to reach our goals. This partnership is part of the construction of our global trail-running offer launched in 2017 and expected to strengthen over the coming seasons. The UTMB has also proven and strengthened its international resonance, which is a strong point in our Asian and South American markets.
What does it mean to be presenting partner of the UTMB ? What does this imply?
Presenting Partner is the highest level of partnership with the UTMB which allows us to have strengthened collaborations with the UTMB teams, visibility on all communication media and on the entire digital ecosystem of the UTMB via the “UTMB presented by Columbia” logo. This partnership status also covers the shoe textile part since we provide the UTMB with all of the runners ‘and volunteers’ endowments, in addition to the organization and press endowments.
What objectives have you set for yourself with this UTMB partnership?
The first objective was to associate the Columbia brand with the UTMB event. Today we come to this level: we have visibility on the ground, on social actions and a presence with the runners. The second point was to raise the perception of the Columbia brand among trail running practitioners and to move from general outdoor to more specific and technical outdoor. We also know that our sales increased in Chamonix this week. This strengthened us in the idea that we must communicate in this way.
How does the UTMB help Columbia improve its R&D?
We invest a lot in R&D. This year, on the UTMB, we are bringing in biomechanics, we are implementing foot scans, etc. We try to take into account the needs of European runners vis-à-vis American specificities. The idea is to better understand how to segment the offer of our products, because in Europe the distances of the trails are not the same, the types of terrain either, etc. Thus, our trail running offer is refined and becomes more and more relevant. For example, we have redefined our range architecture in trail running, because we have faced the terrain.
More generally, Columbia aims to double footwear within three years. This notably involves reworking the product offer. We also have a brand new footwear team. Our VP footwear is a former Nike (he led the basketball category and supported the growth of the Jordan brand) and Under Armor.
The idea behind trail running is also to penetrate the huge sneakers market?
The sneaker is a strong trend in the shoe market. It necessarily questions outdoor brands, because consumers are evolving. We will always have the classic outdoor, but we also know that city dwellers want to hike and will not necessarily change shoes. With our new SH / FT collection, ‘is the beginning of a long-running story between the outdoor and the city of sneakers, a revival of light hiking shoes without compromising on style. Consumers want to have versatile products that are not for single use, but can wear for many different activities. It is a product that we will introduce in Europe in mid-September. It will be the standard bearer of our footwear energy in the years to come.
In terms of supply, what does shoe represent at Columbia?
We are a historic player in textiles, so it is logical that textiles, in number of references, are the most developed. The shoe is increasing year by year and we are working on all segments … By spring-summer 2020, we will present a new offer for trail-running. We have renewed a large part of our range with new cushioning and rebound technologies, soles with different grips, a redesigned clamp, an innovative fit. It was to renew it.
Salomon and Hoka One One are two of the most visible shoe brands on the UTMB. Where is Columbia located?
In distribution, we are still in our infancy, because there are very established players like Salomon, and very talented new ones like Hoka. The difference is that they focus a lot on trail-running and running when Columbia has a wider offer, and is very established in textiles … But in the medium term, our desire is to be able to bring our trail running vision with Columbia Montrail and offer consumers the choice.