YETI Film Tour Sets the Benchmark for Community Building Through Storytelling


In January, YETI announced it would travel across North America and overseas for a 12-stop film tour debuting a collection of unreleased and never-before-seen films “from the wild”. YETI’s commitment to storytelling has been second-to-none since the launch of YETI Stories in 2015. The following year, YETI launched its film tour, taking the short films about real people using real YETI products on the road. 2020 marks the first year that YETI’s film tour has gone international, including stops in Canada and Australia.

With the film tour stopping at the Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara, California, the Brand Storytelling team decided to go check it out and experience first-hand how YETI is using storytelling to connect with their consumers where they live. Here’s what we found:

YETI’s Films are Better Than Ever

Kathmandu Punks? Snowboarding Ranchers? Rock climbers surfing big waves? The stories sourced by YETI for this tour are as interesting as any YETI has presented. Films like Kekoa, which follows brothers Jamison and Ryan Witbeck through the ups and downs of building, saving, chartering, and saving (again) the beloved wooden seacraft they’d spent two years building by hand. Then there’s A Prayer for Joshua Jackson, a harrowing and remarkable story of a young man who’s potential NASCAR career was derailed by a debilitating racing accident, only to wind up back on the track doing what he loves at any cost. From films with an eye on conservation and wildlife like Geoff Rowley’s Finding Ground to films about pitting an unyielding spirit against the outdoors in Lauren Spalding’s Lean Against the Wind, YETI delivers a slate of new and entertaining stories that inspire and uplift, with an emphasis on getting outside and living life to the fullest. Be sure to watch these films as they become available on YETI Stories.

The Film Tour is Purpose Driven

“This year’s stories not only come from the wild, but all proceeds go toward preserving the wild,” reads YETI’s Film Tour landing page. All proceeds from the YETI Film Tour’s ticket sales benefit conservation groups dedicated to preserving the outdoors, including the Outdoor Foundation, Trout Unlimited, Surfrider Foundation, Operation BBQ, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Additionally, proceeds from the Melbourne stop ticket sales will be donated to organizations delivering aid and support to communities affected by the Australian bushfires. “Because of YETI, we’ve been able to work with groups like the California Rangeland Trust and all these different people. It allows us on a daily basis to work on conservation and I just can’t tell you how thankful I am for that”, said legendary surfer and film director Keith Malloy (Keith appears alongside his brother Dan in the film Sandbagging Jimmy Chin and acts as a YETI ambassador). Malloy’s observation that YETI provides opportunities for conservation extends to its ambassadors and consumers alike, as attendees relished opportunities to bump their ticket status to VIP at a greater donation price as well as purchase raffle tickets once inside the venue.

YETI Fans are Superfans

The folks in attendance at the YETI film tour are proof of the fact that YETI has managed to accomplish what any brand hopes to achieve: becoming synonymous with something greater than itself. Scrawled on every sign is the phrase “Stories from the wild, for the wild”. It’s this type of messaging that gets under the skin, reinforcing the idea for owners of YETI products that, yes, they too are part of the wild. But it isn’t just YETI enthusiasts in attendance at the film tour. “Everyone from die-hard fans to people who don’t even own a single YETI product have turned out for this tour”, said one YETI employee, while handing out limited edition YETI merch to a long line of eager attendees. “People come to experience the thrill of adventure captured in the films.” The buzz of conversation and energy from the audience reinforced this idea - that everything from the films, to the products, all the way down to the logo have become representative of a collective ethos that is synonymous with a feeling - a feeling gives YETI fans a sense of identity and a feeling of community.

Everybody Loves Merch

We can’t forget about YETI’s bread and butter: coolers and drink ware. And while YETI products only make the slightest of cameos in the films (you might catch someone drinking their morning coffee from a YETI mug or spot some brightly colored coolers in boat storage), there were YETI products abound at the Film Tour. Everyone in attendance went home with a limited edition film tour water bottle while VIP attendees also scored a limited edition film tour hat. All in attendance were entered into a raffle to win larger YETI products like coolers and cold bags. More than a few attendees went home with full hands and smiles on their faces.

Through their combination of commitment to sourcing, producing, and distributing quality films that capture the brand’s values, creating opportunities to connect directly with local and global communities, using proceeds for wildlife conservation, and ensuring that every person in attendance leaves with a brand product in their hand, YETI has curated and implemented a very high-level brand experience that still manages to feel down-to-earth. What went on at the Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara felt more like a community gathering or celebration of the outdoors than a brand’s event. It’s that achievement that has YETI setting the benchmark for community building through storytelling.

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