The inside story of Merrell’s brand film TranSending

The film’s star, sponsor and director took Brand Film Awards attendees behind the scenes.

Producing a brand film that is authentic and impactful demands transparency, trust and a shared vision, said panelists at this month’s Brand Film Awards U.S. workshop. 

A quartet of panelists included the director, brand partner, executive producer and film subject of outdoors brand Merrell’s film, TranSending.

The short documentary tells the story of Erin Parisi's journey as she became the first transgender individual to reach all “seven summits,” the highest peaks on each continent. 

Panelist Lauren King, senior marketing manager at Merrell, said the outdoor performance and lifestyle brand has always been welcoming and inclusive, making Parisi’s story a natural fit. 

“Our brand purpose is to share the power of being outside and make sure everyone feels welcome on the trail,” said King. 

Parisi told the virtual audience that she “spent decades of my life afraid of being seen.”

“My story needed to be heard, not because what I was doing was to spite the world, but because I was doing it with the world,” she said. 

The collaboration between Merrill, Parisi and the creators was built on mutual respect, said  Lindsey Hagen, executive producer of Stept Studios. 

“The relationship wasn't forced; it was as transparent as it could be. It was a seamless production, everyone was coming from the right place,” she said. “No one was trying to force any messaging ideal with the branded content.”

Panelist Marin Hart, director of No Road Productions, wanted to showcase the trail as a place where Parisi came to terms with who she is and learns to heal herself from years of pain.

“When you watch the film, you get a sense of Erin’s full journey, where she was before, the time it took to come to terms with her own identity, the people along with her as part of that journey and where she will continue to go while she brings awareness to our community,” said Hart.

King noted that while Merrell is the film’s sponsor, the brand wasn’t trying to create anything specific. 

“How we connect our marketing dollars and what we spend it on is something we think about carefully,” said King. “We know how important it is to invest dollars in building that emotional connection with our consumers, and how that lifts our entire brand and sales. Part of our marketing mix is how we engage with our consumers to build an inspiring environment.”

Parisi explained that before she partners with a brand, she does an extensive amount of research to make sure the brand’s beliefs, product and messaging aligns with her own. 

“It’s not just about telling a story for the sake of telling a story,” she said. “I’m telling a positive story to a group of people who have had a negative narrative for most of their lives. I have to look at the brand as a potential ally, and how do they fit in my world.”

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