Tree-top adventure course company Go Ape runs 26 courses in the UK and has just expanded to the US.
Tristram Mayhew, Go Ape founder, and his wife Rebecca Mayhew were holidaying in France when they discovered a tree top adventure course set deep in the Auvergne National Forest. Research showed there were 200 similar small-scale courses in France, but none in the UK.
Tristram said: “We watched a French family swinging through the canopy. The teenagers were having a grand time, but it was the ‘we haven’t had this much fun in years’ look on their parents’ faces that convinced us we should do this in the UK.”
Go Ape courses are now located in 26 forests across the UK, nearly a decade after launch. Tristram said: “We have won leisure and tourism awards for our Go Ape High Wire Forest Adventure courses.
“We are proud of our growing team and our achievements in the last year. Creating a wow experience for our customers is what drives us.”
Go Ape has done this by styling itself an expert in adventurous recreation with its strapline “Live life adventurously”.Head of marketing Will Blair explains how important being seen as an expert is for the company: “Any brand should have authority, whether consciously or not. It’s all very well having a product but people need to believe in you to get some loyalty and buy-in.
“Our authority is two-fold. First is the safety aspect. We have systems that are highly tuned. The other is that the onus is on the customer to have their own adventure,” he says. Rather than have an instructor lead people around its tree-top courses, Go Ape teaches customers how to use a harness so they can have their own adventures.
The company sees being positioned as an expert that teaches consumers about adventure as far more alluring than being a chain of leisure parks. “If we just sold high-wire trips, it would be quite hard for people to think about us more broadly,” says Blair. “Owning adventure would be a bit of a grand way of saying it, but having authority within the adventure world means we can extend into other areas. We can inspire people to live more adventurously.”
He adds that people whose exercise habits have lapsed have sometimes been inspired to get outside again by doing a course. “Our magazine Tribe features emails from people saying that Go Ape has changed their lives, having had an experience on an emotional level,” claims Blair. The company’s future planned brand extensions, he says, will appeal to those who have done the courses and want to learn more about adventures.