Outdoor Diehards and Dabblers: Research findings on outdoor consumers

By a host of objective measures—economic impact, consumer interest, national park attendance—the outdoor industry is thriving. But that doesn’t mean outdoor brands can be complacent. That’s because market forces have slowly been changing the face and needs of the outdoor consumer.

That was the gist of the presentation Hanson Dodge made at the January 2018 Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show in Denver.

In our work with a variety of outdoor brands over the years, we’ve observed a gradual change in both the demographics and psychographics of outdoor consumers. Specifically, we see signs that the degree to which someone actively participates in the outdoors has less impact than ever on that person’s behavior as a consumer.

Earlier this year, we set out to ground that observation in some fresh data and insights.



In January, Hanson Dodge surveyed 900 consumers who identified themselves as being passionate about the outdoors and/or outdoor brands. We complemented this work with statistics from GfK MRI: a research bureau that conducts a comprehensive, annual survey of 25,000 consumers across the U.S.

The resulting data allowed us to segment outdoor consumers into three groups, based on their relative affinity for the outdoors. (By affinity, we mean the frequency with which a person participates in active outdoor pursuits such as hiking, climbing, skiing and kayaking.)

Elites/Diehards – The most frequent and most skilled practitioners in their respective outdoor activities. Elites/Diehards have altered their lives in some meaningful way in order to be active and outdoors at every possible moment.
Weekend Warriors – People who are passionate about the outdoors, and active in the outdoors every chance they get. But their love of the outdoors takes a back seat to commitments such as family or career.
Dabblers – Appreciate the outdoors, but are active in the outdoors once or twice a year at most. These consumers tend to favor outdoor brands for reasons related to fashion and/or personal image.


Our Findings: A Quick Summary

In some areas, the gaps between high and low affinity outdoor consumers remain significant.


Still, the above data also points to opportunities for brands. That’s because nearly half of the Dabblers we surveyed make purchase decisions based on a brand’s beliefs and behaviors. Meaning an outdoor brand can reach lower affinity consumers by trumpeting its authentic beliefs, values and practices—just like the brand would do to connect with the dedicated outdoorists it typically targets.

Our data also shows that in numerous areas, outdoor consumers think and behave in relatively similar ways, regardless of their level of commitment to an outdoor lifestyle.

The above data is great news for brands looking to reach new consumers without sacrificing the devout outdoorists who have always been the core of the business.


How Hanson Dodge can help

Hanson Dodge has a long history of helping outdoor brands increase revenue and enhance brand strength. Contact Amy Tramonte at 414-467-6927 or to learn more about how we can help your brand connect with a wider set of consumers.

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