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Tread Lightly! in Your Advertising

Advertising Guidelines

Show vehicles on obvious roads and trails

Whenever possible, show an obvious road or trail if marketing motorized and mechanized vehicles in a scenic setting. If the roadway is not visible, showing the vehicle on rock, gravel or in some cases sand or snow may still imply responsible use if done conscientiously. Staying on designated roads and trails is the most basic and most important way to minimize impact on the environment. This indirect message can directly affect public behavior.


Never blaze a new road or trail

Blazing a new trail is not sending a responsible message. Straying from existing unpaved roads and trails causes user conflict, destroys plant and animal life, and increases soil erosion. Resulting scars are unsightly and long-lasting, not to mention difficult and sometimes impossible to repair.


Do not use the word wilderness

When Congress passed the Wilderness Act in 1964, it became illegal to take motorized and mechanized vehicles into areas designated as Wilderness. Sometimes the word wilderness is used when simply referring to an area far removed from civilization. If marketing motorized and mechanized vehicles, use of the word wilderness should be avoided because it incorrectly implies consent and allowable use of vehicles inside these Congressionally designated Wilderness areas.

Wildlands, backcountry and the great outdoors are preferred terms for describing these areas. Using these terms will help avoid sending the wrong message regarding vehicle use in designated Wilderness areas.


It is best not to demonstrate vehicles in conflict with water

All bodies of water contain extremely delicate ecosystems—so it is best not to demonstrate vehicles in conflict with water. However, if vehicle action shots are near water, using a bridge is your best alternative. If you’re demonstrating your vehicle crossing a body of water, vehicles should cross at designated fording points (where a trail intersects with a stream). Avoid excessive speed, wheel spinning or splashing while crossing. Whether at a lake or stream setting, campsite scenes should be a reasonable distance from the water’s edge.


Avoid excessive speed

When portraying vehicles in action, fun and excitement need not be excluded in marketing images, but be aware of the implied message associated with excessive speed—a lack of good judgment and safety. Excessive speed may cause damage to the natural resources, vehicle, occupants, other visitors, and/or road surface where visibility or road conditions are hazardous.


Avoid showing mud-covered vehicles or excessive dust

Vehicles can damage wet or soft backcountry roads and trails and create huge ruts, making them impassable and encouraging others to bypass the obstruction, consequently creating unauthorized roads and trails. Avoid scenes depicting these conditions to eliminate negative perceptions. Advertise the smart way—demonstrate restraint. Depict vehicle actions that demonstrate wildlife and plant/vegetation conservation. Demonstrate concern for the inhabitants and visitors alike.


Download Full Advertising Guidelines

Tread Lightly!’s mission is rooted in education, and our involvement spans numerous worthwhile programs that support and benefit federal agencies, corporations, schools and individuals. Encouraging responsible advertising is important to Tread Lightly!, however it is not our sole focus. As an educational organization, advertising is only one of the many areas in which we must educate corporations about the need to communicate responsible messages in their advertising. Tread Lightly!’s Advertising Guidelines, not exclusive to its members, are intended to offer recommendations on how to produce ads that advocate Tread Lightly! principles. It is not Tread Lightly!’s objective to police advertising, but rather to educate all outdoor recreationists and the industries that serve them.

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