In a 2010 survey of U.S. marketing executives, 64 percent named events as their top selling strategy. For active-lifestyle brands, event marketing has come a long way from the days of doling out stickers at races and festivals. Today’s field efforts often require sophisticated planning and tons of creativity. Take New Belgium’s ski-area scavenger hunts—elaborate contests in which marketers serve as moving targets, riding chairlifts in cowboy and Sasquatch costumes.
ESSENTIAL SKILLS: Superior energy, a sharp logistical mind, and a dynamic presence are major assets. “Personality is huge—you’re the face of the brand,” says Amy Koch, the field-marketing director for Hermosa Beach, California–based Zico, which makes a coconut-water sports drink.
BREAKING IN: A marketing degree or experience in event planning is a good start. Spend some time researching agencies, job listings, and industry news through trade publications such as BizBash and Event Marketer, and approach the marketing teams of the brands you believe in.
Facebook may be a good way to stay in contact with distant friends and relatives, but with more than 500 million users—half of whom log on daily—it’s also become one of the most powerful venues for companies to reach out to customers. Twitter and YouTube play similar roles, and two-thirds of small businesses now use social media for marketing, according to a recent study. Larger companies, including outdoor-industry stalwarts Patagonia and REI, have hired social-media teams to do everything from post videos and sales promotions to dream up interactive contests.
ESSENTIAL SKILLS: Proven ability to develop popular social-media channels—yes, this can include your Facebook page, but more impressive is experience driving traffic to a company’s website. One of Backcountry.com’s recent hires designed a successful Facebook push around a Nashville musician’s comeback.
BREAKING IN: Create a prolific Facebook page, Twitter feed, and personal blog; attend social-media seminars like Content Marketing World; and keep tabs on job sites like SocialMediaJobsHQ.com.
Eleven years ago, Chad Mihalick had just completed his degree in business administration at Pepperdine and was searching blindly for an entry-level position at an action-sports company. Frustrated by how difficult it was to even figure out who was hiring, Mihalick hit upon a solution: Malakye.com, a combination job board and news site that he launched in 2002. Malakye.com now hosts listings from some 1,900 action-sports and outdoor companies, from Quiksilver to The North Face. Here, Mihalick outlines a strategy for scoring all types of gigs in these fun and growing industries, whether your background is in design, marketing, sales, or finance.
2. BRAND. Like it or not, LinkedIn is probably the method most companies will use to get to know you initially, and they pay close attention to your recommendations and who’s in your network. An active blog or Facebook page can also help define you.
3. NETWORK. Trade events like the SIA Snow Show, Interbike, and Outdoor Retailer are ideal venues for establishing industry contacts, but they usually require a company affiliation. It’s often easier to connect with industry people at big sporting events like the Sea Otter Classic and Teva Mountain Games. Shake hands, collect business cards, then follow up over e-mail or social media and ask if they’d be willing to spend a few minutes answering some exploratory career questions.
4. TARGET. Being a diehard weekend skier doesn’t necessarily mean you understand the technical aspects of binding design or ski lamination. Professional experience should be your entry point: if you’re an accountant, apply for a job in the accounting department.
5. CHARM. In the outdoor industries, a good cultural fit is a significant factor in landing a job. A demonstrated passion for sports and adventure can tip the scales when you’re up against other qualified applicants. Race results, volunteer stints, and travel experiences are fair game for résumés and those small-talk moments during interviews.
On first consideration it doesn’t make sense: in the worst job market since the Great Depression, a company starts doing everything it can to make its employees happy. Instead of cutting back on basic benefits—“Unfortunately, we’ve had to make some tough decisions…”—it offers extraordinary perks. An all-company trip to the Olympic Games. Paid days to volunteer for a beach cleanup. Bonus checks for exercise.
What might sound like wasted dollars turns out to be the calculated strategy of a growing cadre of forward-thinking shops: spur employees to be engaged in their communities and live active lives and they’ll be more productive, creative, and committed. In four years of putting together Outside’s Best Places to Work, we’ve heard this refrain repeatedly. And yet here we are, stunned all over again by just how hard the winners are striving to provide the kind of work-life balance we imagined possible only in the best of economic times.
So if your job—or job hunt—has you beaten down, know that there are incredible opportunities out there. In fact, when deciding which of the 50 companies on this year’s list to send your résumé to (many are hiring), the challenge comes down to identifying the ones that could fulfill your wildest career dreams. Let us offer some guidance.