Outside Business Journal

Massimo Alpian on the State of LGBTQIA+ Diversity in the Outdoor Industry

Inclusion has come a long way, but we still have a long way to go


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Now that Pride month has come to a close, brands across the industry will once again begin taking down their rainbow logos, packing them away until next summer.

There’s no question we’ve come a long way in our celebration and amplification of LGBTQIA+ people in the outdoor space in recent years. But there is still, obviously, more work to be done.

To mark the conclusion of another Pride month (and to serve as a friendly reminder that, just because July has rolled around, the work doesn’t stop here), Outside Business Journal spoke with Massimo Alpian, public relations director at OutsidePR, about his experiences as a member of the outdoor LGBTQIA+ community and what he thinks the industry is doing well—and not so well—to further inclusion for everyone.

Let’s start with the good. What is the outdoor industry doing well in promoting LGBTQIA+ inclusion?

The thing I’ve noticed most is that brands are starting to lean in to greater representation when it comes to athlete and ambassador rosters in storytelling. Even three to five years ago, I didn’t see what I see today. This is still very new for the industry, but I am seeing more and more storytelling in many formats—celebrating Pride month, amplifying stories from the LGBTQIA community, highlighting the stories of different athletes and ambassadors. The next step will be bringing that storytelling outside of Pride month and making it evergreen. This isn’t just a moment; it’s a continued movement and effort that should always be top of mind moving forward.

Speaking of Pride, do you think the industry does a good job celebrating in an authentic way?

Generally yes, but I do see some brands celebrate Pride month from more of a marketing perspective than anything else. Maybe I have this viewpoint as someone from the LGBTQIA community, but like I said, at times it feels like more of a marketing initiative for profit when you see an outdoor product with rainbow logos thrown on and not much storytelling behind it. I would love to see more effort put into celebrating and amplifying the community, not just by sticking a pride flag on a pair of shoes or something like that, but by bringing in individuals from the LGBTQIA community to actually help with the design processes that go into these initiatives. If you’re going to use rainbow logos and products to celebrate Pride, hire members of the LGBTQIA community to work on your creative campaigns.

As a marketer and PR specialist, how do you approach these conversations—the positive ones and the difficult ones—with the brands you represent?

One of the biggest privileges and powers that I have as both a member of the LGBTQIA community and as a PR director is that I have touch points with all of our brand partners when it comes to storytelling. We get to work with some of the most powerful brands in the industry that set the tone, and we have no issue coming to the table and challenging them to do better. For instance, I’ve made one suggestion to several of our brand partners that I hope becomes a bigger discussion. I have yet to see—in the outdoor industry, anyway—a marketing campaign that shows families with same-sex or trans parents recreating outside. I really have not seen any. Maybe the imagery could be a family out hiking or having a picnic with two fathers or two mothers and their kids. I would love to see that.

It’s interesting you mention that, because those campaigns have shown up—occasionally—in other industries. Why do you think the outdoor industry is behind?

Well, first of all, I think marketing generally mimics the tone of the national conversation. As the country has become more comfortable with individuals from the LGBTQIA community, I think there’s still a taboo around celebrating families that don’t fit the traditional cisgender-heterosexual model. I think a lot of it stems from the fact that [other family models] haven’t been represented well. And I feel that the outdoor industry in particular is very focused on binary models that have been around forever; many outdoor marketers just aren’t willing to step out of that space. The way to fix that, of course, is to get more LGBTQIA people in marketing and communications positions.

It seems like a big missed opportunity for building brand loyalty and attracting new customers.

Absolutely. It’s billions of lost dollars. Look, I’m a marketer, and at the end of the day, marketing is focused on profit. To miss out on a whole segment of individuals who want to give you their loyalty, who want to identify with your brand and buy your products because you authentically represent their experiences, is shocking.

What can those of us who don’t work in marketing do to help push the industry in the right direction in terms of representation?

The first thing, I think, is always education. As a person from the LGBTQIA community, I’m constantly reading and trying to educate myself about my own community’s history, our struggles and our successes. I also try to educate myself about brands and how they work to be allies to the LGBTQIA community. That’s how I approach the outdoor space specifically, because the best way to effect change with brands and corporations is to vote with is your dollar. If an entire community chooses not to spend its money with brands that don’t support our values, those brands are going to take notice.