REI Celebrates the Inspirational Stories of Dedicated Hikers in New Campaign

Videos showcase perseverance on the trail

To celebrate its customers' love of hiking and exploring the outdoors, REI launched Every Trail Connects, a series of three six- to eight-minute videos that tell emotional stories from three of America's hiking trails.

The first video, which launched in January, features Errol "The Rocket" Jones, a 65-year-old long-distance runner who trains on the Bay Area Ridge Trail outside of San Francisco.

The second, launched in February, features Paul Stiffler, known as Ponytail Paul, who serves as a "trail angel," providing food and supplies for hikers at one of the most remote portions of the Appalachian Trail in Maine. He discusses how exploring the woods and becoming a trail angel helped him overcome his own struggles with depression and an abusive childhood.

The third video, launched in March, follows ultra-long-distance bike racer Lael Wilcox on her attempt to bike through 800 miles of desert on the Arizona Trail, a route that only four other women have completed. 


"The most interesting thing about the trails is the stories: the personalities, the people who shape them and bring life to them. We wanted a narrative-based campaign that tells the stories of people who live their lives around the outdoors," said Ben Steele, chief creative officer at REI.

The videos highlighted their subjects' love of the outdoors, said Eric Levin, svp and executive creative director at Mediavest | Spark, which produced the campaign. "REI isn't about extreme sports or getting outside and doing crazy stuff, instead, it's about how being outside brings something out of you. We looked for people who embodied that spirit."

Rather than creating quick-hit content, REI decided it needed long form video to fully tell these stories. "It was almost a foregone conclusion that we needed a longer form of storytelling to actually do justice to it," Levin said. "REI also felt long form video would set themselves apart when it came to bringing something to life for the brand."

Steele agreed. "If you have good content and compelling stories, and you're focusing on people's passion, then people will be willing to invest a little more time because it's a story that takes them somewhere," he said.

The videos also are running on Outside Magazine's website, along with profiles of Stiffler and Wilcox, and on Backpacker Magazine's website. So far, the videos have struck a chord with REI's fans, Steele said. "There are people who recognize themselves in these videos, or say they aspire to make their lives more like Paul's, or Lael's. We saw tremendous engagement in terms of online conversation. People are sharing how those trails have impacted their lives. We had lots of comments and shares, and tons of people on social media said, 'I met Paul on the trail; he was amazing.'"


Ben Steele, Chief Creative Officer, SVP
Craig Rowley, VP, Marketing
Pardis Ghorbani, DVP, Creative Operations
Mike Henderson, Creative Director
Danielle Zaklan, Project Manager
Doug Thielen, Manager, Advertising and Local Marketing
Paolo Mottola, Manager, Content Marketing
Sam Horn, Program Manager, Product Marketing & Integration
Amy Ball, Program Manager, Advertising
Ashlee Langholz, Program Manager, Content Marketing

Mediavest | Spark
Eric Levin, SVP/ Executive Creative Director
Anthony Agbaere, Content Supervisor
Kathy Dillon, EVP
Chris Mittman, VP
Jan Vitturi-Lochra, AMD
Ellie Carroll, AMD
Michael Barutt, Supervisor
Agata Sciupider, Associate
Katie Watson, Associate Director
Dylan Rossi, Supervisor

Production Company: Talweg Creative
Directors: Ryan Heffernan / Grayson Schaffer
Directors of Photography: Kahlil Hudson, Grayson Schaffer
Editor: Kahlil Hudson
Producers: Anna Callaghan/ Gillian Brassill

Outside Magazine:
Janet McKevitt, Associate Publisher
Sam Moulton, Content Marketing Director