SBJ/June 19-25, 2017/People and Pop Culture

The world at his feet

Adventurous, entrepreneurial Brody Leven finds his own path

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Photo by: MARY MCINTYRE
Brody Leven admits he will never be an Olympic-caliber skier. As a youth, he lacked the money to pursue the elite development circuit. Not to mention he grew up in the flatlands of northern Ohio.

But he loves to ski, and he has an entrepreneurial spirit and a knack for storytelling. In the content-hungry world of modern media and marketing, that’s more than enough for him to build a career as a professional ski mountaineer with a roster of committed sponsors.

Leven, 29, travels the globe in search of outrageously difficult challenges with a video camera in hand. His exploits include a 47-day climbing and skiing trip around Iceland and a combo cycling-and-skiing trip through Norway. They’re grueling and isolating.

But they also make for great content, and brands in search of outdoor enthusiasts’ dollars love it. He has long-term deals with GPS technology company Garmin, French sports equipment maker Salomon and solar-power generator device maker Goal Zero, along with project-specific partnerships.

Photo by: MARY MCINTYRE
As Leven tells it, this business is not the result of a precise plan, but rather the evolution of his unusual combination of entrepreneurship and adventure chasing.

After graduating from Westminster College in Salt Lake City in 2010, he started taking outrageous trips and writing about them. He found buyers at action sports websites and magazines, but that wasn’t paying the bills, and he didn’t want to be a journalist per se.

Thanks to his social media savvy, he was getting free equipment from sponsors. He went back to them and sought backing for his trips.

“These were nontraditional trips and adventures I was taking that people were really latching on to,” Leven said. “They’re not things they’re going to do to themselves, but hopefully they are things that will inspire people to go out and try their own challenges. … That’s only snowballed over the last five years.”

The big breakout came at the end of 2013, when Salomon invested in him as a year-round athlete committed to a bigger budget.

“I knew I had this other skill I could hone, as a writer and content creator, but I wanted to be a professional skier first and foremost, with writing and skiing to be supplemental,” Leven said. “I give a lot of that credit to Salomon as the first
brand that saw enough value in it to allow me to do it full time.”

The concept fits what every brand claims to want out of a modern sponsorship: a long-term relationship, a real investment on both sides, viewer engagement and high-quality video content.

Leven’s work with the brands and media outlets hasn’t fallen into a standard pattern yet. In 2015, he appeared in a 30-
minute film called “Eclipse,” a Salomon-driven project about freeskiing under a solar eclipse in the Arctic, but he also self-produced “Pedals to Peaks,” an account of a bike/ski trip over mountains from Portland to Seattle.

“Sometimes I’m the athlete on these trips, and sometimes I’m the one coming up with the ideas,” he said. That includes identifying stories that will
Photo by: COURTESY OF BRODY LEVEN (4)
resonate, distribution strategy and a media campaign. He still secures freelance deals with magazines to tell behind-the-scenes stories of the shoots and pitches news coverage of the trips.

“I’m happy to do that,” he said. “I don’t want to be a skier who’s told to go to Alaska and have fun, and jump off big cliffs. I have an education, I have a brain.”

Leven spoke with SportsBusiness Journal in March before three planned trips illustrating the diversity of experiences he looks for, and the risks. First, he and some friends tackled the back country of the Ruth Gorge region in Alaska, where he got frostbite while trying to execute the first ski descent of a classic ice climbing route. That forced him to pull out of a Salomon-created project in British Columbia’s Monashee Mountains.

After some time off, he left for the remote borderlands of Uganda and Congo to hike a week through the jungle before climbing a glacier in the Rwenzori Mountains.

“My partners and I tend to have a high ‘suffer tolerance,’” Leven said.

• • • •

Where’s Brody? To follow his adventures, go to brodyleven.com or instagram.com/brodyleven.


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