Unpacking a Successful Brand-Dealer Partnership: Osprey Backpacks

Team Huebner
11 April, 2022

After more than two years stuck indoors, there’s no denying that the outdoor recreation industry is booming. Adventure-seeking consumers continue to pick up new hobbies and invest in better toys and tools to enjoy their free time. So what does this mean for the brands and dealers selling big-ticket outdoor items like boats, RVs and the supporting elements and accessories that keep them moving?

We recently surveyed 279 retailers of big-ticket outdoor products in the U.S. These retailers, who carry RVs, boats, ATVs, and everything in between, are on the literal front lines of the industry. Their input can help manufacturing brands sell their products more effectively through their sales channels. 

Today we’re unpacking the results of that survey with a great example of a successful brand-dealer partnership: Osprey Backpacks

The Osprey Example

Osprey was founded nearly 50 years ago by Mike Pfotenhauer who ran a small retail operation in the front room of his rental house. Travelers came from all over for his personal service: providing custom-fit, made-to-order backpacks for hiking, mountain biking, and of course, backpacking. 

Today, Osprey has grown and innovated its way to becoming the high-end hiker’s most valuable and reliable companion. While they do sell their packs direct online, they’ve focused much of their marketing effort on also building strong relationships with their dealers. 

Let’s “unpack” a few things any brand can learn from Osprey’s approach:

  • Tell a compelling brand story
  • Empower impeccable customer service 
  • Host special events
  • Stay on the same page
  • Give dealers the right tools to grow

Tell a Compelling Brand Story

The Osprey brand story began with humble roots, but they’ve never lost their quality or innovation—any experienced hiker will say the products speak for themselves. Osprey frames their dealers as their local experts, helping you translate the technical specs and fine-tune your pack so it fits you exactly as it should. The brand has already done the work for them, giving the salesperson a compelling story that will drive sales for both parties.

When a manufacturer begins with a compelling brand story, the dealer can act as a gatekeeper, helping the customer form an emotional bond with the brand and making fans for life. 

Survey Says: 75% of dealers surveyed agree that brand story is very or extremely important to the end customer when making a big-ticket outdoor purchase.

There’s nothing more empowering for a dealer salesperson than a story they can tell their customers that truly differentiates them from everyone else. 

Empower Impeccable Customer Service

Osprey empowers its retailers to provide impeccable customer service. Instead of traveling all the way to Mike’s living room to get your custom Osprey backpack, you can head to any Osprey Pro Shop and get customizable adjustments to your pack—even if you bought it directly from the brand online.

Find an Osprey Pro Shop 

Osprey supports brick-and-mortar retailers with training programs on fit, special product features, proper sizing, and more. Plus, there’s a full suite of educational videos that store personnel can reference anytime. And when customers bring online purchases into the store to adjust the fit, the store receives a commission, further supporting the retailer.

Customer service is definitely top of mind for dealers. 

Survey Says: 53% of dealers cite improved customer experience as a top priority for this year, and 81% of dealership leaders report that the customer service they receive from the manufacturers they work with is very or extremely important.

Manufacturers must remember that dealers are their customers too and the more empowered and supported they are, the more likely they are to sell their product. 


Host Special Events 

Osprey is also well known for the special events it hosts with retail partners like ‘pint nights’ where local hikers can learn about a special trail and enjoy a complimentary beverage. They might host a community ice climbing expedition or have a tent at a mountain bike race where certain participants qualify to test-drive an Osprey backpack, and they’re directed to a local retailer to pick it up. The brand supports and recognizes its local retailers, and in turn, the dealer is proud to show off a product that makes them look good. 

Dealers take the tools given to them by manufacturers and align their approach with the customer journey. Powerful sales enablement programs enable a sales team to tell your brand story and everybody wins (manufacturer, retailer, and salesperson).

Survey says: 72% of dealerships looking to grow their business in the coming year say sales enablement tools from the manufacturer are very or extremely important. And 22% said sales events are a critical piece of that puzzle.


Stay on the Same Page

Osprey makes sure to stay on the same page as their dealers as far as prices go. If there’s a sale price online, Osprey makes sure that the same price applies to its retail partners. Retailers are not seen as competition to their online business but as allies.

By sharing catalogs, new product information, marketing photos, and blog posts first with their retailers, it’s a win-win. Dealers get content to help market their own businesses, and Osprey educates and empowers their gatekeepers to sell their products. 

Osprey Dealer Portal

Communication is key for manufacturers looking to build a strong relationship with a dealer network.

Survey Says: The top ways to improve customer service to dealers are all communication-based: providing a dedicated contact (40%), improved manufacturer updates (38%), and better personal communication with sales management (37%).


Give Your Dealers the Right Tools to Grow

At the end of the day, Osprey gives its retail partners the right tools to grow: a compelling brand story, customer service to both its retailers and its customers, special events for the local community, and consistent marketing and updates from the top down. This brand reaches hero status for its dealers and teaches us a powerful lesson about a successful brand-dealership partnership.

Learn more about what dealers of big-ticket outdoor items say they need from manufacturing brands in our full report on these survey results.

Download Brand Dealer Relationship Trends