Saturday, 11 September 2021

Could Popular Croatian Highlander Become World's Number 1 Hiking Event?

September the 11th, 2021 - The Croatian Highlander brand has taken to many different countries and spread across continents, uniting lovers of hiking and ''tough fitness'' around the world. Is it set to potentially become the world's number one hiking event? Maybe.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Ana Blaskovic writes, the first time you step out onto the peaks of Velebit, a magical mountain with a view of the endless greenery of the forests of Lika and the blue of the sea stretching all the way to neighbouring Italy, it's almost certain that you will descend from it as a different person. Enchanted by the mighty Velebit, a team from the very different Slavonian plains, led by Jurica Barac, became mountaineering enthusiasts whose story began as a local mountaineering adventure and became a global business.

Five years ago, Highlander Velebit was created, an adventure that combines the beauty and peace of this natural gem and the ultimate long-distance hiking experience. When this year's mountaineers leave Zavizan on September the 25th, in five days, they will pass 100 kilometres through the national parks of Northern Velebit and Paklenica, where the trail ends with a triumphant jump into the sea in 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 mountaineers or cyclists on Wednesday evenings who are descend back down into the city below with lamps on their heads. A reversal in the way of thinking and the growing need to escape to nature after work is one of the main reasons for the success of the Croatian Highlander brand as well.

"The wellness market is set to blow up over the next five to ten years. Croatia hasn't yet fully tapped into its potential, but more and more people are starting to engage in sports and hiking,'' stated the executive director of the Croatian Highlander brand, Jurica Barac.

This is reflected in the applications for the upcoming Velebit adventure, the number of which is increasing from year to year, and these events could easily be attended by about 600 mountaineers.

Soon after it came to life, the Croatian Highlander brand transcended local and regional boundaries and today it is organised on 12 more mountains in Austria, Greece, Portugal, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Northern Macedonia, but also Spain, Egypt, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

Global branding

"When the coronavirus pandemic started, we had a year of great expansion in which we sold the rights to the event in five more countries. Then for 2021 in ten more countries, mainly here in Europe and in the Middle East,'' explained Barac. It was, as he says, a trigger to start thinking about taking the next serious step - looking for a fund or bank to finance the expansion or a strategic partner.

The decision eventually fell on the world’s leading event brand, the American Spartan Race, who initiated contact with the Croatian Highlander brand and with whom a global strategic partnership was recently contracted. Spartan Race has otherwise been organising obstacle race events since back in 2010, meanwhile it has expanded its business to 45 countries and become a world leader in endurance sports, creating a new category of "Tough Fitness".

"When we started the talks, it wasn't really money that was all that 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 attended by 1.5 million people per year, already has all these channels open and will be available to the Croatian Highlander brand.

Barac hasn't disclosed the investment and the amounts in question, justifying that with the fact that the figures are a trade secret, but he will only say that the majority control of the company is still in his hands.

Next year, the Croatian Highlander brand will organise three to five events in the USA, China and much closer to home in England, the exact locations are currently being discussed, but it is to be expected that they will be in some of the most famous national parks.

"It was crucial in the talks that Highlander will become the number one hiking event in the world with this cooperation. We're already negotiating with countries like Argentina, Australia and South Korea, we wouldn't be able to do that alone without a strategic partner,'' Barac said.

When it comes to tasting success, anyone who has tried their hand at business will say that a special mindset is needed. Much like in sports, the domination of the mind over the  body is crucial. The old saying that luck favours the brave, or that God lovers one who tries, also rings true here.

Incredible luck appeared when the Croatian Highlander brand embarked on the intellectual protection of the brand in the USA and Europe, managing to protect the name Highlander, although in America, where about 40 million people are engaged in mountaineering, it is practically synonymous with mountaineering.

With the support of Spartan Race, the Croatian Highlander brand has an optimistic future and the aim to present its 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're excited to work with Highlander and increase their global reach, but also because of the fact that we'll be able to offer our Spartan community even more opportunities to step outside of their comfort zone,'' said Spartan Race founder and CEO Joe De Sen when the collaboration was agreed.

For the American company, the cooperation with this rising Croatian company is an opportunity to expand the "tough fitness" portfolio to hiking.

For more, follow Made in Croatia.

Thursday, 26 August 2021

American Spartan Race Invests in Croatian Highlander Brand

August the 26th, 2021 - The American Spartan Race has invested in the increasingly popular Croatian Highlander brand, which is attracting more and more hiking and mountaineering fanatics as time goes on.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, just last week, the world's leading event brand, the American Spartan Race® concluded an investment in the Croatian Highlander brand, thus forming a global strategic partnership. The goal of this partnership is to support the growth of the Croatian Highlander brand, whose mountaineering events are held across a total of thirteen countries around the world, and at the same time expand the "tough fitness" portfolio of Spartan Race to hiking.

“Spartan Race’s mission is to create challenging, life-changing experiences for the better,” said Spartan Race founder and CEO Joe De Sena. ''Investing in a partnership with the Croatian Highlander brand 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 able to work with Highlander and to increase their global reach, and we're also excited by the fact that we'll be able to offer our Spartan community even more opportunities to step outside of their comfort zones.''

The compatibility of the goals of Spartan Race and the Croatian Highlander brand naturally gravitated towards the aforementioned global strategic partnership. The vision, mission and core values ​​of these two brands form the same core: a strong state of mental and physical well-being that encourages positive lifestyle changes. Within the partnership, the Croatian Highlander brand will have the opportunity to present its concept to a much wider audience and pursue its core objectives.

"We want to encourage people to rise from their established routines and embark on the path of discovering a better version of themselves, all while contributing to a better world," said Highlander CEO Jurica Barac. ''Highlander offers a fantastic adventure that takes place in some of the most impressive locations around the world. That's why we're very proud to be able to work with Spartan Race - together we're going to change the lives of people around the world.''

The strategic partnership will result in the Croatian Highlander brand's real breakthrough into the world's largest markets in the event industry such as the USA, the UK, China and Australia. The conceptual simplicity of the event itself, as well as the fact that hiking has become one of the most desirable forms of physical activity worldwide, greatly contribute to the desire of the brand's founders to allow hiking enthusiasts to attend their events on every continent.

Spartan Race, which began organising hurdle racing (OCR) events back in 2010, then expanding its business to as many as 45 countries, has become a world leader in endurance sports, creating a new “Tough Fitness” category. Over more recent years, Spartan Race has expanded its business initially to trail running with the launch of the Spartan Trail World Championship®, followed by mountain biking with strategic partner La Rute, the world's first multistage mountain bike race in Costa Rica, which has since expanded to Spain.

In addition, Spartan Race has acquired former OCR rival Tough Mudder, launched the functional fitness brand DEKA®, launched a digital app and training platform. In total, more than one million participants participate in all events within the Spartan Race portfolio each year.

For more, follow our dedicated lifestyle section.

Sunday, 18 April 2021

Osijek Highlander Brand Reaches United Arab Emirates!

April the 18th, 2021 - The Osijek Highlander brand has attracted attention from across the world as yet another innovative, creative and interesting project to come out of Croatia, and now the brand has stretched to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marta Duic writes, the Osijek Highlander brand began as a mountaineering adventure, and this group of nature lovers from Eastern Croatia have taken their passion across the globe.

This Croatian team of recreational mountaineers and nature lovers from Osijek are responsible for the creation of this mountaineering adventure following their recognition of the sheer beauty of Croatia's many stunning mountain peaks and roads.

This adventure initially took off back in 2017 on the beautiful Velebit mountain range, and five years later, new routes were announced in impressive international locations, such as Egypt and now the United Arab Emirates. Recently, a press conference was held for the latter location - HIGHLANDER55 RAS AL KHAIMAH x UAE is the official name of the event, which will take place from the 18th to the 20th of November, 2021.

The attractive trail will pass through Jebel Jais, the highest peak of the Hajar mountain range, which isn't a desert terrain, but still takes place on a demanding mountain trail. The terrain alternates from dry sandy terrain over coastal areas and saline plains to mangrove and mountain forests, making it a fascinating place for all nature lovers and adventurers. It is also home to numerous mountain goats, camels, foxes, wild cats, as well as hundreds of bird species.

The announcement of the event in the UAE was also supported by the new global ambassador of the Osijek Highlander brand - Ryan Pyle, a researcher, adventure photographer, TV producer and presenter. He has created, filmed and hosted four seasons of the Extreme Treks series, as well as many other internationally acclaimed outdoor series. His photographs have graced the covers of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time, Forbes and other international publications, as well as several books.

The organisers of this mass mountaineering event from Eastern Croatia created a true and totally different kind of mountaineering story, which turned into a sporting, but also a big business venture which is rapidly conquering foreign markets. Here in Croatia, the Osijek Highlander brand is held on Velebit, and back in 2020 it was held for the fourth time despite the pandemic.

They have also recorded continuous growth in terms of their participants. Back in 2017 there were 60 of them, a year later 120, last year 250, and this year as many as 330 participants. In addition, Highlander has its variants in countries such as Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Austria and Greece, and at a press conference held in Egypt, new countries were announced to join the list, including Morocco, Portugal, Northern Macedonia, Spain, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Slovenia, Russia and Egypt. 

“After developing the event here in Croatia for three years, we decided to make a franchise last year because we'd created a concept that currently doesn't exist anywhere, and it has an excellent business model and isn't really demanding to implement. At the end of 2019, we sold licenses to Austria, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Greece. As soon as 2020 started and as soon as we announced new markets, we started talks with our partners around the world and negotiated the sale of the license to other countries. Then the pandemic came and slowed everything down. But, fortunately, there are entrepreneurs who see an opportunity in everything, including in the coronavirus crisis. With such visionaries, we've agreed on 10 more markets for 2021,'' they concluded from Highlander.

For more on Croatian innovation, check out Made in Croatia.

Thursday, 4 February 2021

Internationally Successful Croatian Highlander Brand Gains First Investor

February the 4th, 2021 - The Croatian Highlander brand has gained international recognition and praise, and now money has been placed where the mouth is in the form of the brand's very first investor.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Croatian Highlander brand is an interesting new mountaineering experience, created by a team of recreational mountaineers and nature lovers from the Eastern Croatian city of Osijek, who recognised the beauty of Croatia in its stunning mountain peaks and roads.

"Highlander is an adventure of a lifetime" - say the organisers Igor Mlinarevic, Jurica Barac and Andrej Mlinarevic, three friends from Osijek, who first devised a 104-kilometre route that takes mountaineering participants through the most beautiful parts of Velebit through two National Parks - Northern Velebit and Paklenica, in order to expand the project to other countries from year to year. And they are immensely looking forward to new challenges and adventures.

At the end of last year, the Croatian Highlander programme for 2021 was officially presented in one of the most impressive locations in the world - in front of the Egyptian pyramids in Giza, not far from Cairo, which attracted the attention of many media outlets, bringing this Croatian brand to as many as fifteen countries.

After an impressive announcement from Egypt, Highlander got its first investor, entrepreneur Ivan Vrdoljak, known to the general public as a former politician, although he left politics a few years ago, writes Vecernji list. Vrdoljak, who is also from Osijek himself, recognised the great potential hidden in it, but also the fact that it is being developed by a young team of people from his own hometown. The amount of the investment is currently being kept as a business secret, but what the organisers point out is that Ivan will be involved in Highlander's operational terms as a project partner.

"I see Highlander as a great Croatian product with fantastic global potential. I'm glad that my friends from Osijek have recognised me as a person who, with my knowledge and energy, can help them achieve their ambitious goals on a global level. Highlander unites everything that attracts me in business and what I believe is the work of the future, and that's the preservation of nature and the health and satisfaction of people,'' said Ivan Vrdoljak.

"I'm extremely glad that Ivan Vrdoljak, also from Osijek, made this decision and decided to support the Highlander project. We're at the very beginning of the development of global business and investment collection and I'm sure that Ivan, with his rich experience and knowledge, will significantly contribute to the development of the project, attracting other investors and smart management. We're facing a year of uncertainty in which we have to organise fifteen events in different countries together with our partners, but also a year in which we occupy the number one position in terms of a mountaineering event in the world. I'm proud of everyone involved in the project and I'm sure that we're going to continue with this step, and go even further,'' said Jurica Barac, CEO of the Croatian Highlander brand.

One of the most important goals of Highlander is the promotion of an active and healthy lifestyle through hiking, as well as the preservation and care of nature that we need to leave for generations as a legacy, promoting the so-called Leave No Trace philosophy, and the wish of the organisers is that in the future, Croatian Highlander events deserve the status of a ''100% Green Event''.

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