Driving to the Nature Trail

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To the Editors of American Demographics:

I'm interested in any information you have on outdoor sportsmen, particularly those whose activities include snowboarding, skiing, kayaking, hiking, rock climbing, and mountain biking. As a Ford engineer, I'm particularly interested in any market data that would be useful in designing a vehicle for this group.

Ken Barringer

Product Engineering Designer

Ford Motor Company

Dearborn, Michigan

Dear Ken:

While it seems the supply of automobiles aimed at outdoor enthusiasts has reached critical mass in recent years, you can rest assured that demand for such vehicles continues to grow. In fact, according to the National Sporting Goods Association, participation rates in outdoor activities like the ones you've mentioned have outpaced traditional sports for the past five years. (For additional information, see our cover story, “The Great Outdoors,� August 2000.)

Certainly, it's more common for men to be avid participants in activities such as snowboarding, skiing, hiking, climbing, biking, and kayaking. But according to Simmons Market Research Bureau, 39 percent of your “outdoor sportsmen� are, in fact, of the female persuasion.

Singles are the most likely to engage in outdoor sports, but it's the married set that constitutes the largest percentage of outdoor sports participants (50 percent). That said, it should come as no surprise that many sports enthusiasts handle live cargo (i.e. children) on a day-to-day basis. In fact, 44 percent of this group have kids, compared with 39 percent of the adult population at large.

According to data from the researchers at Simmons, the highest percentage of extreme sports participants hold “professional specialty� occupations — a census classification that includes everyone from architects to lawyers to scientists to artists. Eleven percent of those employed in these professional specialty occupations claim to be fervent contenders in at least one type of extreme sport. Farmers, administrative support, and clerical employees are the least likely to be found reenacting spots for Mountain Dew.

Fifty-eight percent of these ardent adventurers bring home $50,000 a year or more and 22 percent earn $100,000 or more. But a quick word of warning to domestic companies: These folks are less than sold on the “Made in the U.S.A.� label. Passionate sportsmen are 109 percent more likely than the average American to say that the next car they'll purchase will be European-manufactured and 24 percent are more likely to say they'll buy Japanese.

We can't tell you how to design a vehicle for this group. But we can tell you that the outdoorsy type is more likely than the average American to own a car that's equipped with airbags and anti-lock brakes. (They're also more likely to have an extended service contract, burglar alarm, radar detector, and, of course, a sunroof.)

To begin your marketing adventure, head West, where 32 percent of all zealous American outdoor sportsmen live. The remaining 68 percent live in the South (26.7 percent), the Midwest (22.8 percent), and the Northeast (18.6 percent). And, if you're interested in a musical tie-in with this crowd, check out the reggae, bluegrass, and folk music scenes. One in five who purchase bluegrass and reggae music and 15 percent of folk music buyers are into some type of extreme outdoor sport. Any requests for “River Man�?

John Fetto

Associate Editor

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Submissions should include writer's full name, company, address, and e-mail. Letters may be edited for clarity and space.

I'd Rather Be…

Popular leisure-time activities of extreme sports participants; index in parentheses.

Model building (221*)

Painting, drawing, sculpting (204)

Visiting an art museum (201)

Playing a musical instrument (194)

Photography (173)

Bird watching (170)

* The national average is 100. For example, extreme sports participants are 121 percent more likely than the average American to build models in their leisure time.

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