The once booming snowboard industry has a hard fight ahead of it; even sporting goods giants like Nike are having to put winter sports plans on the back burner. Ways out of the crisis are hotly debated in the industry, something ISPO MUNICH not long ago answered with a new indoor concept for action sports companies.
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But what can the companies themselves bring about in order to create turnaround? Maybe learn from young, digitally experience trend sports.
Headis inventor and ex-snowboarder René Wegner, in a conversation with ISPO.com, analyzes the snowboard industry’s positions and uses the success of Headis to explain how the way out of the crisis can be successful.
“It’s uncontested that the snowboard industry marketed well in the past, but the industry has overdone it with too much innovation, technology, and professional sports,” says the 34-year-old, who prior to his success with Headis was likewise on the road as a rider in the snowboarding circus.
“With snowboarding, right at the beginning there was an activation using film premieres or even advertising banners,” remembers Wegner, “When we invented Headis, the spread over social media started immediately.”
For Wegner, it’s fundamentally about the fact that “potential advertising partners are always heavily integrated into the story be told, and they’re still given the normal advertising presence in addition.”
The problem: The snowboarding industry has gotten bigger during the boom phase, maybe too big – the number of companies has increased. In addition, there’s the question of how the companies can extend their sales beyond the winter and activate customer loyalty over the course of the whole year. For example, using the apparel segment with pro athletes as role models and trendsetters.
Also of major importance is marketing the athletes where there are deficits. According to Wegner, athletes would have to play a significantly more active part in order to strengthen the connection with the customer.
“That’s definitely a part of the job,” states Wegner, “Sure, there are exceptional athletes like snowboarding legend J.P. Walker, who for example appears totally naturally in videos and always wears his sponsors’ clothing, but that still happens too rarely.”
It’s about proximity and connection – and that’s what Wegner and his Headis team are trying to achieve in their communication with their consumers. Players and fans are supposed to identify with the product of Headis, ISPO BRANDNEW 2010 finalist, in equal measure.
Even via social networks, Headis is achieving an immense propagation. More than 200 million users clicked on the Headis team’s published posts in the first half of 2016.
And even when action sports companies attempt to draw new consumers’ attention to their own products, the attempt usually fails. Wegner faults the fact that “industry’s existing, and also interesting, history is communicated past the new target groups.”
The classic narrative style of “higher, faster, further” is naturally still an option for Wegner for approaching buyers, but athletic performance is oftentimes no longer discernible for the consumer.
“Even if action athletes keep pushing the boundaries further and further with their new tricks, the difference is still only discernible by a fraction for the target group. The last 180 then isn’t perceived at all, and consequently, identification with top athletes leaves much to be desire,” says Wegner, whose dissertation focuses on the “development of trend sports.”
“Instead, many people are interested in what makes a driver apart from the crazy stunts,” says Wegner.
Thus there could be possible paths to a turnaround, but Wegner is still concerned: the industry still insists on outdated marketing views. The core target group – that is, true snowboarding enthusiasts who spend nearly the entire winter on the piste – is still in the focus, but: these are still rare.
“Many people still go snowboarding once, twice a year, so the need for new equipment is pretty low,” says Wegner, “If there aren’t enough consumers in the core group for the companies to keep business viable anymore, then the companies have to turn to new target groups.”
But Wegner is pessimistic, at least for the moment: “The readiness of snowboarding companies to open up to new target groups is, in my opinion, too scarce.”