Brand content as culture

The North Face Ultra Trail Mont Blanc race is taking place today. The runners will cover over a 100km on some unseasonably wintry mountains in the next few hours.

There’s a double interest here for me. I love running, and seem to love running ever increasing distances. So ultra-marathons have a fascination for me, even if I may never get to run one.

There’s also a professional interest here of course – The North Face’s sponsorship of the event and some of the elite competitors and the content marketing that comes out of it shows us how this sort of thing can be done well. 

Take a look at this amazing video of last year’s race, for instance…

I once met some of the senior team at The North Face at an innovation programme in Palo Alto.

I overheard them discussing the hire of a new person to their team and asked to hear more about it as it sounded unusual. Part of the process had involved them hiking and camping with him. They needed to see the passion of their prospective hire , to see him as an outdoorsman as much as a management executive.

It was so impressive that everyone there was equally focused on running a great business and on pursuing their passion for hiking, running, mountaineering.

Another evening, one of their sponsored endurance runners joined us for dinner – they were so excited he was there, so pleased that they were working with him. They seemed like fans…

It reminds me of Rapha as well, who work with our friends at Endless Studios on creating some beautiful branded content – for instance these coffee table books about classic climbs on bikes.

For both these brands – one a giant, the other a growing challenger – the content’s not just about brand association, about spreading awareness – there’s something that is inward facing as well, a way of stirring up their own passions for their sport. Fuel to fire.

Brands that are great at content marketing are chock full of people who are the biggest fans of their own products, that make sure there is a obsessive commitment to do what they do well. The content emerges from and reinforces the culture of these brands.

It’s like that advice you hear to aspiring authors: write for yourself first…