September 11, 2021 – The Croatian brand Highlander has spread to many different countries and spread across continents, bringing together hikers and “hard fitness” enthusiasts from all over the world. Is it on its way to becoming the number one hiking event in the world? May be.
As Poslovni Dnevnik / Ana Blaskovic writes, the first time you climb the peaks of the Velebit, a magical mountain with views of the endless greenery of the Lika forests and the blue of the sea stretching to Italy neighbor, you will almost certainly get off as a different person. Enchanted by the mighty Velebit, a team from the very different Slavonian Plains, led by Jurica Barac, became passionate mountaineering enthusiasts whose story began as a local mountaineering adventure and has grown into a global enterprise.
Five years ago Highlander Velebit was created, an adventure that combines the beauty and peace of this natural gem with the ultimate long distance hiking experience. When this year’s mountaineers leave Zavizan on September 25, in five days, they will cross 100 kilometers through the North Velebit and Paklenica National Parks, where the trail ends with a triumphant leap into the sea at Starigrad.
While ten years ago it was almost impossible to meet living souls on Zagreb’s Medvednica except on weekends, today it is common to meet a group of climbers or cyclists on Wednesday evenings that descend into the city below with lamps on their heads. The reversal of mentalities and the growing need to escape to nature after work is also one of the main reasons for the success of the Croatian brand Highlander.
“The wellness market is set to explode over the next five to ten years. Croatia has not yet fully realized its potential, but more and more people are starting to practice sports and hiking, ”said Croatian Brand Highlander Executive Director Jurica Barac.
This is reflected in the applications for the next Velebit adventure, the number of which is increasing year by year, and these events could easily be followed by around 600 climbers.
Shortly after its birth, the Croatian Highlander brand transcended local and regional borders and is today organized on 12 other mountains in Austria, Greece, Portugal, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, North Macedonia, but also Spain, Egypt, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.
“When the coronavirus pandemic started, we had a year of great expansion in which we sold the rights to the event in five other countries. Then for 2021 in ten other countries, mainly here in Europe and the Middle -Orient “, explained Barac. It was, as he puts it, a trigger to start thinking about taking the next step: looking for a fund or a bank to finance the expansion or a strategic partner.
The decision ultimately fell on the world’s leading events brand, the American Spartan Race, which made contact with the Croatian brand Highlander and with whom a global strategic partnership was recently concluded. Spartan Race has also been organizing obstacle courses since 2010, while it has expanded its activity to 45 countries and has become a world leader in endurance sports, creating a new category of “Tough Fitness”.
“When we started the talks it wasn’t really the money that was crucial for us, but the possibility of global branding. It’s very difficult and takes a long time to get to the US market. , which is the ultimate market for us, ”said Barac. Spartan Race, whose events are followed by 1.5 million people per year, already has all of these channels open and will be available for the Croatian brand Highlander.
Barac did not disclose the investment and the amounts in question, justifying this on the grounds that the numbers are a trade secret, but he will only say that majority control of the company is still in his hands.
Next year, Croatian brand Highlander will be hosting three to five events in the US, China and much closer to home in England, the exact locations are currently under discussion, but it is to be expected that ‘they are in some of the most famous national parks.
“It was crucial in the talks that Highlander became the number one hiking event in the world with this cooperation. We are already negotiating with countries like Argentina, Australia and South Korea, we would not be able to do it alone without a strategic partner, ”said Barac.
When it comes to a taste of success, anyone who has dabbled in business will say that a special mindset is needed. Just like in sports, the dominance of the mind over the body is crucial. The old adage that luck favors the brave, or that God loves the one who tries, also rings true here.
Incredible luck arose when the Croatian brand Highlander embarked on intellectual protection of the brand in the United States and Europe, successfully protecting the name Highlander, although in America, where around 40 million people practice the brand. mountaineering, it is practically synonymous with mountaineering.
With the support of Spartan Race, the Croatian brand Highlander has an optimistic future and aims to present their concept to a much wider audience, while keeping the concept and philosophy in the hands of the founders.
“Investing in a partnership with Highlander allows us to encourage even more people around the world to participate in physically demanding activities that they think are beyond their reach. We are excited to be working with Highlander and increasing their global reach, but also that we will be able to offer our Spartan community even more opportunities to step out of their comfort zone, ”said the founder and CEO of Spartan Race. Joe De Sen when the collaboration was agreed.
For the American company, the cooperation with this rising Croatian company is an opportunity to extend the “tough fitness” portfolio to hiking.
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