top of page

Outdoor Industry Association

Case Study

ORCA, the Outdoor Recreation Coalition of America, the trade association of the Outdoor Industry, was an organization with a problem. Their name was associated not with Outdoor Recreation, but with whales. This confusion impacted the staff, the Board and the various audiences the group was purported to serve.


Research conducted at the initiation of the project showed that for their core audience, potential members from the ranks of manufacturers, sales reps and dealers in the human-powered outdoor recreation industry, the organization seemed less like a trade organization and more like a loosely affiliated affinity group. Among the media, the organization suffered from low awareness, confusion with whale groups and the image of a small, ineffective organization. Among the public policy sector, the organization was perceived as a small group, representing a small, non-influential industry.


What’s more, the organization was in the midst of a major initiative, thanks to a major grant from the Pew Charitable Trust; an initiative that would rely in part, on their economic clout. This required an even greater focus on both the membership and the critical audiences. They asked Dave Sollitt to execute a rebranding of the organization.


A Brand Inventory™ session among staff and board members identified several issues:

  • Staff and board members differed considerably in their perceptions of ORCA as either a passionate, “mission-based” advocacy organization and a businesslike, professional “service-based” organization. Neither role was felt to be related to the ORCA name.

  • There was a broad disparity between board members’ perceptions of ORCA and the perceptions of their peers in the industry;

  • The name was widely perceived to be a barrier to membership growth;

  • All groups believed the ORCA name had no awareness among key consumer, media and public policy audiences. This greatly limited the organization’s influence.

  • Less than half the participants in the brand inventory sessions felt the organization’s mission statement and current desired image matched either the current name or perceptions among any target audience;


However, in projective exercises during the inventory process, many of these “differences” became far more unified. Below the surface, there was far more agreement related to desired image elements, sources of influence and other components of the brand.


To support the Brand Inventory™ we conducted individual interviews with current members, with outdoor recreation businesses that weren’t members, with outdoor consumers and with government officials that interacted with the outdoor recreation industry.


Both members and non-members felt the organization was ineffective and provided little value. They wanted an ROI from the organization’s dues. The business was getting harder all the time and they wanted a trade group that would lead the industry.


Government officials we spoke to felt the organization wasn’t effective either. Too often, the group was lumped with other conservation activist organizations. They rarely met with conservation groups, because if you meet with one, you have to meet with all of them. So they relied solely on position papers to staff to represent the industry’s point of view.


We developed a strategic platform based on the following proposition:


  • The organization represented an influential (then) $7 Billion industry that creates jobs, taxable income and encourages a healthy lifestyle;

  • Membership provides tangible, measurable benefits equal to at least 65% of the dues;

  • Membership provides intangible benefits, to include support for conservation of the wild areas that draw their customers;

  • The organization creates knowledge, through research, through industry data, through forums to share information;


This platform was integrated into a Brand Essence document that was reviewed and ratified by the organization’s board, the first such review in the organization’s history.


The name and logo generation sessions generated over 250 names and over 90 variations of logos. Through strict adherence to the Brand Essence as the primary evaluative tool, we were able to generate almost universal agreement on the name: Outdoor Industry Association, and the Logo; a compass rose, that has been “morphed” into a universal symbol of effort and achievement in outdoor recreation.

Award-winning logo developed for the Outdoor Industry Association



According to OIA President, Frank Hugelmeyer, the Outdoor Industry Association rebranding has resulted in 70% gains in membership in the organization in two years.


Perhaps more significantly, the Government Affairs Division of Outdoor Industry Association credits the new brand with a significantly higher “take” rate among legislators with whom the organization has attempted to meet. “We have been able to significantly increase our profile with key government agencies as the result of our new identity,” according to Myrna Johnson, Government Affairs Director. “Our role as a trade organization for a significant industry makes our advocacy for conservation issues far more successful.”

bottom of page