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Sometimes brands take on a life of their own, expanding their appeal beyond the original intended audience. The North Face is one such example—after starting out as a product for climbers, it has become one of the hottest brands in fashion.
Now, The North Face faces a marketing challenge of speaking to two different audiences: the outdoor recreation and fashion communities. Its latest campaign, by creative agency B-Reel, reminds viewers of its roots in the outdoors while positioning itself as a brand for all types of exploration, from city streets to the mountains.
Entitled “We always have your back,” it plays on the simple concept that The North Face’s logo has an unusual placement on the back of its apparel. To show its support of various audiences, the ad begins with young people on an urban rooftop and pans out to climbers atop a snowy mountain range, all wearing its signature puffer jackets.
Alex Honnold, a famous climber who starred in the Oscar-winning film Free Solo, appears in the ad alongside extreme climber Caroline Ciavaldini. The spot ends with the brand’s longtime tagline, “Never stop exploring.”
Director Anton Tammi shot the ad through production company Pine. The campaign will span digital, social media, retail, print, PR, out-of-home and TV across the EMEA region.
“The brief from The North Face was about how it has become very trendy and respected in the fashion community, but how do we remind people that we’re also the original brand of the outdoors?” said B-Reel creative director Afshin Moeini. “We want both core groups [in fashion and the outdoors] to look at this and feel a sense of pride.”
The brand is also emphasizing that its “Never stop exploring” ethos could be applied to “explorations big or small,” added B-Reel creative director Christian Poppius.
“The hardest part is finding a balance that can resonate and speak to people in fashion, the mountains and everything in between,” he explained.
Becoming more inclusive
Previous partnerships with brands including Supreme and Gucci have helped The North Face boost its fashion credentials. Its popularity as a streetwear brand can be traced back to the 1990s, when some hip-hop artists began adopting the products. Recently, its puffer jackets have grown popular on TikTok and on Gen Z fashion resale site Depop.
In the outdoors, The North Face has also been trying to become more inclusive and accessible to a wider audience in a sector whose advertising has historically been typified by images of white men conquering mountains.
“[Outdoor recreation] is a very caucasian industry, advertising-wise,” Moeini said. “We were very careful with the talent we picked for the film and in the images.”
The brand’s Explore Fund, founded in 2010, provides grants, discounted gear and volunteer opportunities to marginalized explorers. More recently, The North Face collaborated with competitors including Patagonia and Adidas to establish a nonprofit called Opening Up the Outdoors to remove barriers to inclusivity and support grassroots leaders who are making outside spaces more accessible to all groups.
Executive creative director: Zack McDonald
Strategist: Thomas Eon
Creative directors: Afshin Moeini, Christian Poppius
Copywriter: Felix Jörneman
Art director: Sofia Skogquist
Brand director: Caroline Deas Ehrnvall
Brand manager: Hannal Håål
Senior producer: Mei Li Heman
Designer: Lisa Nyberg
Agency producer: Colony
Producers: Markus Ahlm, Therese Engberg
Production company: Pine
Director: Anton Tammi
Executive producers: Adam Holmström, Joel Rostmark
DOP: Olivier Miller
Director assistant: Alexander Peri
Producer: Victor Lindström
Post-production: Rascal Post, WGTAM
Sound design: Mattias Eklund @ Studiofyr
Grade: Joakim Rissveds @ WGTAM
VFX supervisor: Kalle Lundberg @ Rascal Post
Service production: Trixtr
Producer: Damir Vajdic
Global account project managers, The North Face: Maria Bellitskaya, Samanta Gubitta
Global creative lead: Jacob Frisk