“Trail running is 10% of the European outdoor market”

Columbia main partner of UTMB

Romain Cancilleri-Michy is Columbia’s Marketing Director for Europe, UTMB sponsor. Trailer top class (2nd in the 1st edition of the UTMB, 6th in 2005 and 2006, 11th in 2008 …), it looks back at what seduced the legendary brand of sportswear and outdoor equipment to get involved alongside the UTMB.

How did Columbia become the official sponsor of the UTMB?

Columbia is a company created in 1938 with more than $ 2 billion in sales. The company is 51% family owned, the rest is listed on the stock market. During the 2000s, the group acquired other brands. Today, Columbia Sportswear Company owns Mountain Hardwear for mountaineering and expeditions, Sorel, which designs outdoor and very cold shoes, and Montrail for trail running. In 2015, when Columbia had the opportunity to become a partner of the UTMB [l’équipementier The North Face avait mis fin à son partenariat, d’un commun accord avec l’organisation de l’UTMB, NdlR], we jumped at the chance. But it was a group-level partnership contract. In other words, we brought the whole Columbia group to Chamonix: Moutain Hardwear, especially for the PTL [la Petite Trotte à Léon, 300 km, 25 000 D+, NdlR] for more technical and specific equipment, Montrail for trail running shoes and Columbia for the textile part. We were not a title partner, but a rank 1, 2 and 3, one brand per level. When the naming official of the event became UTMB [la course s’appelait jusque-là Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc], we had the opportunity to become presenting partner from 2016. If the UTMB has no more naming partner, Wanting to be a brand in its own right, Columbia today has the highest level of partnership of the event. We are talking about the UTMB by Columbia.

It’s sort of a homecoming for Columbia. Franco Fogliato, Director General Europe, Columbia and Sportswear Company Africa and Middle East, and Topher Gaylord, President of Mountain Hardwear, having been in the UTMB adventure from the start …

Not really, because at the time Franco and Topher worked for The North Face. They arrived at Columbia’s house afterwards. But it’s true that their personal connections allowed them to initiate conversations business with the Poletti [fondateurs et organisateurs de l’UTMB] pretty quick.

What motivated Columbia to become a partner of the UTMB?

Columbia is part of a trail running strategy. In 2017, Columbia and Montrail merged under the Columbia Montrail brand. The UTMB is one of the biggest trail running events in the world by its organization, the number of bibs, the difficulties in aligning with the starting line … The UTMB is the benchmark race in the world . Columbia has the will to assert itself in the outdoor community. And trail running is no longer a trend but a sport in its own right. Chamonix has an international resonance. For our foreign subsidiaries, Chamonix makes sense. The UTMB week is the busiest of the year for Chamonix. For us, it is an extraordinary platform for visibility and field tests. We have beta testing throughout the UTMB week, we have Columbia Montrail athletes for shoes, like Ruy Ueda [2e sur le Gaoligong by UTMB 2018, 124 km, 6 700 D+], registered on the OCC this year, the Camus brothers [dont Sylvain, fondateur du Team Adventure Garmin, 2e de la TDS 2017], registered on the UTMB this year, for which we have great ambitions, or Amy Sproston [8e des femmes UTMB 2017], also involved in the UTMB.

What does Columbia expect from the trail phenomenon?

It is no longer a phenomenon. The UTMB was born in 2003 and trail running has been a sport in its own right since 2007, 2008. Today, in all sports shops, you have a section of wall dedicated to trail running and athletic brands all have a trail running offer. The market is valued at 500 million euros in fair market value for Europe, when the market value of European outdoor sports is 5 billion euros. Trail running therefore occupies 10% of this outdoor market. We can therefore speak of activity assumed in its own right. As an outdoor brand, we see that trail running must be part of Columbia’s activities. We have to bring our point of view on textiles and shoes.

What exactly is Columbia’s “point of view” on trail running?

Columbia brings all the expertise developed by Montrail, one of the first full-fledged trail running brands, to shoes. We also have proprietary technologies on the soles, midsoles and stability points. In Lyon, you can now find all Columbia Sportswear products in our new store, which opened on July 28.

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