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30th ISPO Brandnew Series: Norwegian Helmet Specialists for Winter and Water Sports

Sweet Protection: From Illegal Nerds to Innovative Pioneers

They started as a group of ambitious, sports-obsessed boys. Today, Sweet Protection develops high-tech products for ski stars like Aksel Lund Svindal. From “good times with the guys” has grown one of the most progressive companies in the sports industry. The Norwegians’ quality has been convincing at ISPO Brandnew since 2003 - and development has been going way up ever since. We’re celebrating 30 years of ISPO Brandnew, read the story of Sweet Protection here.

Freerider Matthias Haunholder on the road with Sweet Protection.
Freerider Matthias Haunholder on the road with Sweet Protection.

ISPO Brandnew as first milestone

When Sweet Protection is distinguished as one of the winners at ISPO Brandnew in 2003, one would have never guessed they’d be so successful today. Back then Atle Enberget, International Sales Director of Sweet Protection, and his small team present the helmets they designed themselves. They win over the jury with the perfect interplay of function and design.

“The helmets completely floored us. The extravagant black and white style, combined with the lightness and strength of carbon, sets new standards in both looks and function,” remembers Reinhard Pascher, then jury member.

Atle Enberget himself has since been able to be a jury member. He’s been rating submitted products since 2014, and is excited about the ISPO Brandnew concept. “I have to admit that I was really surprised when I saw the broad spectrum of products to be judged, the variety of brands and categories. I very much appreciate the new ISPO Brandnew idea, since the concept gives start-up companies an additional incentive and lends visibility, which is very important especially in the beginning,” says Enberget.

 

Sweet Protection auch für den Radsport

Eine große Bandbreite hat seine Firma heute selbst: Im Sortiment findet sich neben Bekleidung und Equipment für Winter- und Wassersport auch eine große Palette an Radsport-Ausrüstung. Der Fokus liegt aber auf der stetigen Weiterentwicklung von Hightech-Helmen für den Leistungssport.

Sweet Protection hat es sich zur Aufgabe gemacht, die besten Helme der Welt zu designen. Dank ausgewählter Rohstoffe wie der Prepreg-Kohlefaser, die auch bei Rennautos und Kampfflugzeugen zum Einsatz kommt, sowie fortschrittlichster Technologie, bieten die norwegischen Produkte einzigartigen Schutz. Filigrane Handarbeit ist die Grundlage für innovative Helme wie den Rooster Discesa RS, der als offizieller FIS-Rennhelm auch in härtesten Wettkämpfen schützt.

 Excellent helmet by Sweet Protection as an illustration.
 Excellent helmet by Sweet Protection as an illustration.

Top athletes rely on Sweet Protection

The secret to the creative developers’ success is close cooperation with renowned professionals. “Every athlete on the Sweet Protection team lives for the moments in the harshest of environments, and makes them their playground. While the athletes are testing the limits of their sports out there, we’re faced with the challenge of continuing to outdo ourselves in product development,” explains Ståle Møller, Head of Design. He founded the company in 2000 together with five friends.

Back when the company was founded, Terje Håkonsen recognized the potential of the helmet prototype and joined the small team. The snowboarding legend gave valuable feedback for further development and quickly made the company internationally famous. Skiing star Aksel Lund Svindal has also trusted in the award-winning quality of Sweet Protection since 2012.

The Olympic champion and multiple-time world champion is a staple of the development team. His Norwegian countryman, Henrik Kristoffersen, then switched over to Sweet Protection products two years later. “It was an easy decision for me. The performance, and the uncompromising approach to helmet development, convinced me,” said the Sochi bronze medal winner.



Clothing and distinctive helmets for outdoor athletes

The story begins in 1986 with a film. The friends see the skater drama ‘Thrashin’’ and are fascinated by the sport from then on. Because skateboarding was prohibited in Norway at this point, they have axles, rollers, and magazines smuggled over the border from Sweden. “We built our own boards. But we didn’t just make copies. We wanted to make our decks better than the originals,” says Ståle Møller, looking back.

Thus emerged the first boards in the small village of Trysil, in the middle of the Norwegian wilderness at the foot of the mountains. These were tested on a self-built halfpipe hidden in the forest, and consistently further developed in his father’s garage.

When the skateboard ban was lifted (1989), the tinkerers could no longer be held back. But instead of just designing boards, the friends also specialized in developing clothing for various outdoor sports and building distinctive helmets. “It irritated us that the equipment was restricting progress,” says Møller. This was the beginning of a unique success story that continues to be written on an even keel today.

EN Tarjei Aasen
Tarjei Aasen with Sweet-Protection-helmet and -jacket. 
Tarjei Aasen with Sweet-Protection-helmet and -jacket. 

Acquisition a major opportunity for Norwegian outdoor brand

The company’s philosophy has gone unchanged for more than 30 years. Ståle Møller describes it thusly: “Our focus was always on having fun and a good time with our buddies, whether on the mountain or in the water. Nevertheless, we’re damn serious when it comes to our products.”

The capacity in Trysil became insufficient in 2006, and Sweet Protection expanded to Italy. There, nothing stood in the way of further growth, so after the Crusader flight suit (2006), a new collection for free skiers and snowboarders (2009) and award-winning bicycle helmets made their way to market (since 2011). The acquisition of the Gore-Tex license (2006), the continuous expansion of the variety of products, and the increasing export growth saw to overall revenues of 7.8 million euros in 2013.

 

The Norwegian sporting goods company Active Brands AS took on full ownership of Sweet Protection in 2014. The key founders and top athletes stay on at the company. “With Active Brands as the new owner at our backs, we can now pick up speed once and for all,” rejoiced Møller. “We’re now capable of focusing even more strongly on the products and activating the enormous potential in the brand.”

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