Aspen Skiing Co. ramps up activism in new ad campaign

Aspen Skiing Company President and CEO Mike Kaplan speaking Thursday night at the Sundeck restaurant atop Aspen Mountain as part of Skico and Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s annual social-mixer sneak-peek into the upcoming ski and snowboard season.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

Perhaps enough flakes flying out of Aspen will start a blizzard in Washington, D.C.

That’s the goal of Aspen Skiing Co.’s latest advertising campaign — “Give a Flake” — which urges individuals to contact elected officials about matters concerning climate change and equal rights.

“We’re trying to say our lifestyle counts, our business counts,” Skico CEO and President Mike Kaplan said Thursday. “We need to be not only heard but to solve this problem.”

Kaplan’s remarks came after he spoke to a packed crowd inside the Sundeck restaurant atop Aspen Mountain as part of Skico and the Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s annual social-mixer sneak-peek into the upcoming ski and snowboard season.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, Skico unveiled its Give a Flake campaign for the 2018-19 season, an obvious extension of its Aspen Way marketing mission in 2017-18, when the company touted the words “love, respect, unity and commit” in ads and videos, and on various locations at its four ski areas.

Last winter saw scant snowfall at Colorado ski mountains, including those in Aspen and Snowmass, so Kaplan said it’s difficult to say whether the left-leaning Aspen Way campaign repelled some customers and attracted new ones. However, Skico’s highest ranking executive said the positive feedback outweighed the negative.

“People say, ‘You’re bringing politics into skiing, and I don’t like that,” Kaplan said. “‘I’m not going to go there because of that, and I’ll spend my dollars elsewhere.’

“But honestly, those were very few and we really heard from a vast majority of longtime customers and millenials who hadn’t been here before saying, ‘That’s cool you stand for something.’”

The Give a Flake campaign, while in its infancy, already has gained traction since its launch, Skico marketing head Christian Knapp told the audience.

Within 24 hours of its rollout, the campaign had garnered 61,000 impressions on social media, whether through a “like” or share, for example. Skico also has created a Give a Flake landing page on its website, which includes a tool that enables visitors to tweet about the environmental record of federal elected officials within their ZIP code. Skico does a lot of the work for the user already, telling them whether the politician’s record demonstrates a majority of support for issues positively impacting climate change. For example, the user can tweet a flake to Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, for having a good environmental record, while a user can tweet no flakes to Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Scott Tipton, both Republicans, who have supported fewer than 50 percent of environmental initiatives before them, according to Skico, which based its findings on a scorecard issued by the 2017 League of Conservation Voters.

Knapp said 337 tweets had been directly sent to senators through the widget within 24 hours of the campaign launch, while the Give a Flake page attracted another 3,800 visits. Additionally, Skico’s posting of the Give a Flake video on its Facebook and Instagram accounts drew 24,000 and 29,000 respective impressions.

“So people are consuming this content, and this is just the beginning,” Knapp said. “We have a lot more planned.”

Knapp also encouraged the audience to focus its attention on three GOP senators — Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine) and Rob Portman (Ohio) — by contacting them about taking action on climate change. Skico also is placing prepaid postage cards in Give a Flake advertisements in national publications for readers to sign and send to the senators.

Whether it’s through videos, social media or national advertising campaigns, however, Knapp said the campaign’s bottom line is to rally people to vote.

“Voting is really the most important thing we can do as citizens to impact legislation change,” said Knapp, adding that “this campaign is about taking action and it truly is about a movement.”

Also making the case to tackle climate change was speaker Cameron Wobus, a senior scientist at Lynker Technologies in Boulder. Wobus painted a gloomy picture of the future of ski areas, but said the industry could realize $1.5 billion in savings through climate-change mitigation. Aspen, he said, could lose 15 to 30 skiing days by 2050 and 30 to 50 days by 2090 because of a warming climate.

Skico is not wading alone in its corporate activism. For Thursday night’s NFL regular-season opener, the shoe giant Nike was scheduled to air a new commercial featuring former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who protested against the national anthem because of racial injustice. The ad campaign’s new slogan: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Kaplan called the company’s latest campaign “inspiring.”

“To see what Nike is doing, Nike is a smart company and is pushing it,” said Kaplan, who wrote an opinion piece published in December titled “We’re Still Here,” which discussed how President Donald Trump’s policies and values weren’t in line with Skico’s.

The newest Skico campaign, Kaplan said, is more about action, activism and engagement.

“We’re trying to say, ‘Look, we need action. We’re all doing a lot individually to green up our open operations, green up our lifestyle, but it’s not enough. We have got to curb emissions and get off this path that’s going to take legislative action that puts a price on carbon then unleashes the market forces and unleashes the technology that is already there.

“That’s the thing: We can solve this problem. Renewable technology is there. We just need to send the marketplace the signs through pricing on carbon pollution that will unleash that innovation, and the key to doing that is legislative action and having our elected officials collectively recognize and do something about it, that’s all.”