The scotch tape which holds a valley together

If you were born and bred in a small mountain community as is Val di Fiemme, you’d notice the presence of La Sportiva, which has always been strong and perceivable, not only for mountain lovers, but for all the inhabitants as well.

yb Luca Mich

For anyone who was born and bred in a small mountain valley like Val di Fiemme, La Sportiva’s presence has been noticeable: not only for those who love the mountains and are inevitably attracted by them like magnets, but for all of us who live in the valley, some more, some less and all in differing fields. My first memory of the company, it might seem strange, was scotch tape: this sticky tape which was enormous for a 10-year old kid, and could apparently wrap itself round everything surrounding it, from the big boxes in which my mum put away my school books at the end of the year, to the shin-guards of my hockey team-mates worn above or beneath socks, but always with that visible blue logo on a white background, which years later I discovered to be the corporate identity typical of the 80s. Or the rear-view mirrors belonging to some broken down car held together with that tape, or the bottom of a backpack fixed in some way to last to the end of the season. That tape was literally everywhere, transcending its original purpose, the strictly technical purpose of keeping two opposite flaps of a box together, which unknown to many (because in those days La Sportiva was really what economic literature defines as a ‘hidden champion’), from Tesero first of all and afterwards Ziano, would set off towards exotic countries, places that a 10-year old who had grown up in Tesero, Piera and Panchià couldn’t even imagine.

The tape also became the playmate in exciting matches of street hockey which were improvised among friends, when instead of using a puck (potentially deadly) of vulcanized rubber, it was definitely wiser to opt for a safer block of tape which was compressed and shaped as a ball, consequently safeguarding the health of friends as well as that of front doors and windows which were regularly used as goal posts, often a few metres from the factory, or in the same building’s yard, where every now and then enormous lorries would pass by to pick up dozens of boxes, covered in tape as well.

I never understood until I was older, what all those lorries were doing there: for me La Sportiva was the company next door, the building with the enormous doors to shoot my cannon ball shots against, together with my friends, where my father would take me to buy trekking shoes, and then who knows who makes them really? How can you make such a thing at Piera di Tesero? Reality was so far-fetched for that child who would never have imagined working there one fine day, and to contribute in his small way in helping that brand to be recognised world-wide. But it is not all clear from the beginning and the script can be written only by living it. Even that man with a cigar who every now and then came out to smoke and watch his grandchildren beating up the doors at the back of his building. Every now and then we would hear him mumble, always paternally, never in an arrogant manner. Years later that same man would sign my university thesis and also my authorization to go to university to discuss the La Sportiva case, a hidden champion among the mountains, in a niche market. It was evident that the white/blue tape had connected more than one world and more than one generation.

Somehow its glue had never come unstuck and the bond it created was a lot more than metaphoric. And that’s how things have been for many other people who, throughout the years, I got to know inside and outside of the company because that brand, with the mountain and that adjective which is so feminine and familiar, in some way represents you, or at least represents a meeting place, contamination and construction of an important alternative to the usual fate of working as an artisan or in tourism, which awaits most people in the valley. La Sportiva is a window which looks onto the outside world, a vehicle of contamination and regeneration, in every sense connected to the area in which it is situated.

«Domaneghe al Lorenzo se el te da valghe da far» often fathers would say to their sons as the summer holidays approached, ask him if there is a job for you, at the end of the day if there was a job or not wasn’t really important; what mattered was to think big, even if its significance was still not fully understood by many of the locals. And throughout these years a lot of us have thought big: the surnames on the 300 tags today are Iellici, Piazzi, Vinante, Varesco, Mich, Delladio, Dondio... while it is legitimate and more than understandable that an American climber or a Japanese brand lover might think of more well-known names such as Johnson, Miller or other more intriguing ones. It’s not excessive local flag waving, not at all. It is in fact the meaning of localization, it is the essence and the most important legacy a company nowadays can leave, a great social responsibility.

These names, as many others, obviously even the ones from outside the valley, have grown together with the firm, giving life to an organism, an ecosystem which is nourished by a work force and local ideas which enter into the international market, without fearing rivals, doing things honestly and sincerely, marking its path without imitations, without ever shutting itself off, but rather staying open to external influences. And there is plenty to prove this.

I began working with La Sportiva in 2006. In those days marketing was synonymous with advertising in a few specialised magazines, now we are regularly featured in magazines and national newspapers, no social media existed, but the firm opened a profile on Myspace in 2007 listening to a young kid just out of university. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and its video productions became a pleasant and rapid consequence. The sponsors were all local with cautious management but now we are partners of international events attracting thousands of passionate enthusiasts.

Online sales were already in the air but there was no proper knowledge of this tool: a few years later words like branding, brand journalism and edutainment seeped through La Sportiva’s DNA and recognitions such as the Best Digital Practice Award for digital communications in Italy were awarded.

«We must explore new territories or we will be extinguished», said Buzz Aldrin, the second man to have stepped onto the moon. And so it was and continues to be for La Sportiva, a business made by people who share the desire to go beyond limits apparently imposed by geographical borders, mountain mentality and common thinking. There are people here that are running towards the future, who are climbing over difficulties, and who can visualize a tomorrow without cheating on today, people who have gradually transformed, not without setbacks, vertical thinking into lateral thinking.

The colour of the scotch tape, as the identity of the firm, has changed in the meantime, even if it is still scotch tape holding the boxes together that travel across more than 70 countries worldwide. The blue on a white background has given way to an iconic yellow/black combination coveted by mountain enthusiasts all over the world. That man with his cigar has left room for his sons and grand-children. That child who played a few yards from that discreet building, now writes the words with which the company introduces itself to the world. In the meantime there are people wearing La Sportiva in cities, on trams, or on subways. Some do it in Tokyo, some in New York, some in Trento. There are even people who don’t know the brand thank to its famous climbing shoes, but only for its trail running shoes, or its stylish and thermal jackets.

If this isn’t pushing into new territories, I don’t know what Buzz had in mind.