Jul 06, 2011 • By

Living the brand

My name is Andrew Lainsbury, and I’m an integrated marketing communication manager in the Snacks division. I recently had the chance to organize a “Live the Brand Day” experience for my Snacks colleagues to put them in closer touch with the Nature Valley business.

As the name may suggest, Nature Valley is all about the enjoyment of the great outdoors. This brand also has made a commitment to preserving these special places through its National Parks Project, to benefit the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).

It was a day to remember!

We kicked things off with a quick ride to the North Mississippi Regional Park in Minneapolis, just 15 minutes away from General Mills headquarters. Who knew that this special place – in our very own backyard – is actually part of the National Park Service?

Several park rangers greeted us as we got off the buses. They were joined by a team from Wilderness Inquiry, a local organization that has taken hundreds of thousands of people out into nature since 1978. Together, they served as our guides and created an experience that was both fun and eye-opening.

The day started with a restoration project near the Kroening Interpretive Center. Some 60 participants were divided into small groups to help remove invasive plant species, including Trefoil, Garlic Mustard and Leafy Spurge. These quick-spreading plants have taken over vast areas of the park. By removing them, we created a space for native grasses to repopulate.

In just a few hours, we filled more than 100 bags with invasive plant species. Just goes to show what an impact we can make, collectively, when everyone pitches in. It also reinforced some of the reasons why Nature Valley has partnered with the NPCA to help preserve our parks for generations to come. Check out some of our handiwork in the picture here!

From there, we walked down to the banks of the Mississippi River to board 24-foot Voyageur canoes. These impressive handmade wooden canoes can seat up to 10 people. They’re huge!

Once seated in the canoes, it quickly became evident that each person’s life vest had the name of a different endangered species written on the back with magic-marker. I could have picked one that said “Prairie Rattlesnake,” “American Alligator” or even “Buffalo.” Something with a little danger, or edge, like me.

But no.

To everyone’s amusement, my personal flotation device was labeled: “Blue Butterfly.” And, there was nothing I could do about it once we were on the river. (To make matters worse, the person who loudly pointed this out to the group had one that read “Lone Wolf” – so I had absolutely no comeback.)

Paddling the mighty Mississippi in eight Voyageur canoes was just incredible. We saw uprooted trees floating on the river from recent tornadoes – underscoring how much these special places need our attention. We learned about the historical and cultural role that milling has played in Minneapolis. And we had the chance to observe the Stone Arch Bridge and downtown Minneapolis from a completely different vantage point on a beautiful Minnesota summer day.

What a great opportunity to not just communicate – but also help people experience – the enjoyment of nature, as well as the importance of preserving these great outdoor spaces for future generations.

This Blue Butterfly will probably select his personal flotation device a little more carefully next time he finds himself on a river. But I’m already mapping out my next wilderness adventure!