Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Defining Action Sports The North Face Cryptic Line

How Do You Define Action Sports?

What is an action sport? As an avid outdoorsmen, I could give you my take on the question, but I wondered how someone totally uninvolved with the subject would perceive the words action sports. So, I emailed a former English professor that very question. This person was not involved in action sports, nor did they really follow any events like the X-Games that would give them any preconceived notions. This us simply an unbiased answer from a person who always has a way with words.

She answered,
"I guess I would categorize it as an activity, or sport that pushes the boundaries of something with existing prevalence, or perhaps creating a new genre. An evolution of a commonality by methods of reinvention; rethought styles with unique approaches that spark illustrations of faster, more intrepid pursuits . . . blanketed with adrenaline and passion. I think (Friedrich) Nietzche's concept of the 'will to power' in a way could lend itself to the ambitions of perceived action, sports participants. My personal thoughts on them (action sports participants) evoke images of young men and women striving to reach higher achievements than previously performed, or thought possible - a driving force, or spirit within an individual."
- Professor B. Rigney

Wow, now that could be the best, and most complete, answer I could have received. I think she nailed it. The purpose of the question was to obviate any impressions that may seem to pigeon-hole action sports into an arbitrary class. 

A variety of manufacturers brand themselves as solely ski companies, or solely snowboard companies, etc, which is fine and probably relevant to their pursuits in the industry. However, the good Professor makes no mention of what type of sport is considered an action sport. One could argue that athletes stomping tricks in urban, backyard settings, while others huck cliffs in the backcountry are one in the same.

The similarity lies in the aggressive inventiveness surrounding action sports. The differentiation exists in the development of characteristics within a sport, combining aspects of two or more sports, or starting something new altogether. Impartiality is king because, like it or not, the lines are blurred and companies realize that individuals in the action sports community are focused on quality, creative products, that are resourcefully rooted in the spirit to explore the outdoors.  

The North Face is one company in particular that has produced bomber apparel for the some of the most core athletes since 1968. Now, TNF has taken their diligence a step further introducing an action sports collection inspired by the demands of  skiers, snowboarders, and mountain bikers.  

VF Outdoor Corporation Promotes Rendle to VP & Group President

TNF's parent company, VF Outdoor Corp (NYSE: VFC) produced higher than expected fourth quarter revenue thanks in part to a big push from the Outdoor and Action Sports Division. VF has taken many steps to ensure that TNF keeps this momentum going throughout 2011.

Recently, VF has made some changes to their corporate ladder. Steve Rendle whose previous title was President of VF Outdoor Americas was promoted to Vice President, VF Corporation and Group President, Outdoor & Action Sports Americas.  He may need a larger business card. According to, VF Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Eric Wiseman commented on the role of the Group President and what it means for VF. 

The creation of the Group President role streamlines our organizational structure in North America, much as we have done internationally over the years under Karl Heinz’s leadership,” said Wiseman. “It also provides opportunities for Steve (Rendle) . . . to extend (his) leadership capabilities to new businesses, while promoting greater communication and connectivity among our coalitions.”
For those who don't know, Steve Rendle may be as integral to TNF's success as the brand is to the industry. Rendle arrived at TNF in 1999 after working his way through the ranks at W.L. Gore and then running Asian manufacturer Youngone Corporation's sales and merchandising in the United States. After arriving at TNF, Rendle began a pursuit to bring back TNF's core values of product innovation. Equally important was refocusing TNF's distribution channels toward retailers that embodied what the brand stood for. 

TNF / Vans 20% Global Revenue Increase, TNF Gets Cryptic and Olympic

VF's success in 2010 and TNF's growing market share of the outdoor apparel industry are testament to their vision, and the business model VF Outdoor incorporated after the acquisition. Combined, The North Face and Vans posted a global revenue increase of 20% (17% Americas, 32% Internationally) according to fourth quarter reports, and expectations are high for VF in 2011. 

Earlier this month news broke that The North Face has formed an eight-year alliance with U.S. Freeskiing in anticipation of the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) consideration of new action sports events for the 2014 Games. What does this mean for TNF?  They will not only be the official supplier of U.S. Freeskiing Olympic competition outerwear until at least 2018, they will also have feature exposure at U.S. Freeskiing events like the U.S. Revolution Tour.

Moreover, the USSA will work closely with The North Face to develop signature events that support the rapid progression of freeskier athletes. With this inspiring news along with TNF's continuing advancement of their Cryptic collection this Spring with mountain bike apparel; their doesn't look to be a floor in site for this steadfast company. 

Urban(e), slopestyle magician, Tom Wallisch, rocks his TNF Cryptic collection outerwear park-style.
Hailing from Pittsburgh, PA it may be obvious that his roots are firmly cemented in Steeler country.
TNF Signs Pros to Compliment Cryptic Collection of Action Sports Apparel

Pros and amateurs alike are pushing the limits and venturing just a little further outside of their comfort zones -- gaining confidence and entering new realms of free-ride exploration. Areas that were once off the grid, are now within range. 

As proverbial pacesetters of the industry, TNF went out and signed some of the world's best to represent the most technically advanced gear on the mountain. Freeskier Magazine's 2010 Skier of the Year award winner, Tom Wallisch, AKA Pretzel Man, has joined the squad along with Mike Riddle and young-gun, Nick Martini.

TNF has also put together a very impressive team of snowboarders including Snowboarder Magazine's 2010 Big Mountain Rider of the Year, Xavier de le Rue and Kaitlyn Farrington, winner of the Winter Dew Overall Championships. 

The type of forward-thinking that TNF is exhibiting with their pro team of world class athletes, their endeavors in sustainability, outpour of support for action sports and its participants, and their unyielding efforts to create outstanding, technically advanced gear are setting the industry bar pretty high. 

Our team at OI is looking forward to seeing more Cryptic on the mountain. We are already anticipating next year's Signature Pro collaborations, because who better to brainstorm functionality and style with than guys like Wallisch and de le Rue who constantly push the limits on the front and back sides of the mountain.  


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