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Trade show Munich

Takeaways from ISPO Munich 2023: Working together on the big picture

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Let's once again feel the vibe of ISPO Munich between inspiring key notes, exciting panel talks, intensive discussions and creative exhibition stands. What will we take away from the three days in Munich? What remains in our minds? What motivated us? One thing for sure: the feeling of a strong community of like-minded people.

Buzzwords come and go like fashion trends. One that is currently popular in marketing is "holistic", i.e. understanding things as a whole instead of breaking them down into isolated parts. However, the holistic approach of ISPO Munich 2023 was not empty PR-speak, but a concept that made sport tangible and tangible in its complexity - and confirmed this with a varied program.

Sport is more

Health and fitness, emotion and community, integration and innovation, sustainability and climate protection, competition and growth ... Sport is nothing less than the kit of our society and the engine for many necessary changes. This power was once again palpable in the Trade Fair Center Messe München. "Sport is perhaps one of our last great campfires," said Professor Ralf Roth from the German Sport University at the Winter Sports Symposium, for example. "We have to preserve this and focus on it for the future. And we should do this with confidence and without fear."


Collaborations strengthen the industry against crises

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The industry is moving closer together, especially in the current difficult market situation and with many regulatory tasks ahead. Brands have to break new ground, sales are no longer just about price, but also about purpose, commitment and transparency. These tasks can hardly be tackled alone. Industry associations such as the European Outdoor Group (EOG) or the World Federation of Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) help with this. The latter announced at ISPO Munich that it would be working with the WHO in future to develop initiatives to promote physical activity. For its part, the EOG presented the latest Outdoor Retailer Climate Commitment report, in which eleven outdoor retailers from Europe demonstrate their joint efforts to protect the climate. There were also exciting collaborations at product level, for example between Deuter and the start-up Exopek. Exopek has developed a portable gym that won the ISPO Award 2023.


Circular economy gets going

When it comes to sustainability, the pioneers in the industry have grown out of their infancy. More and more brands and industry players are giving comprehensive thought to how the path to a functioning circular economy can be shaped. It is clear that we are still at the beginning. However, many brands such as Houdini, Vaude and Picture Organic Clothing, as well as ingredient brands such as Polartec, have design for circular products at the top of their agenda and are implementing more and more of them. As a result, the longevity of products is also moving further into focus. Repairs and re-use offers must become an elementary part of the product life cycle. Many brands such as Patagonia and Vaude have been offering this for years, with others such as Bergans of Norway following suit. Retailers are also jumping on the bandwagon and installing re-use areas in their (online) stores.

It is important for brands to communicate their efforts. Because in addition to the offers, it is also important to increase participation. "The question we ask ourselves is: how can we inform our customers sufficiently without offending them?" said Guillaume Robert from Picture Organic.

However, the biggest hurdle on the road to a circular economy is probably recycling. Complex cross-industry developments are needed here in order to truly produce in a closed loop.


Natural materials on the verge of a breakthrough

Interaction between human and nature was a major topic at ISPO
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Messe München GmbH

The problem of recycling could also be tackled in other ways: For example, by using materials that are compostable. In the Circular Experience at ISPO Munich 2023, some ideas for raw materials were presented, first and foremost mycelium - the root-like structure of fungi.

Mycelium can be cultivated in a laboratory environment and even grow into a predetermined shape, such as a helmet, as studioMOM showed. Packaging or leather alternatives are also possible. Or alternative meat, as developed by Infinite Roots® (Mushlabs). In addition to mushrooms, there was more to see: Textiles from Ananas Anam Ltd. made from pineapple leaf fibers, a down alternative based on cattail from traceless materials, algae EVA from Bloom or a bio-based polymer from Arkema made from castor beans. With the new MAXFLY, WINQS has already designed a shoe with a bio-based content of 84%. The aim is to achieve 100% by 2027, including with wool, castor beans, sugar cane, starch, natural rubber - and mushrooms.


Digitalization has reached the next level

Health, training, products, media, supply chains, administration - advancing digitalization is influencing all areas of sport. And it is doing so ever more concretely and ever faster. For B2C, this could be experienced very clearly in the GameChanger SportsHUB and in the Future Lab, where AR and VR-supported gamification applications could be tested and ideas for new creative digital solutions were developed in hackathons. For example, to playfully encourage young people to exercise more or to reanimate the ailing club life.

Digitalization is also penetrating B2B. This is because many processes can be simplified or made possible through structured data processing - an important prerequisite for collaboration and compliance with EU regulatory requirements, such as the digital product passport.

One concrete example is the Outdoor Market Intelligence Service (OMIS), which EOG has developed together with market research partner Sporting Insights. This is an online dashboard that summarizes current, aggregated monthly sales data at brand and product level from a critical mass of outdoor retailers. The tool is already active in the UK market, with plans to expand to Europe.


Fusion of sport and fashion differentiates itself

Bunte Sportklamotten stehen unter einem Basketballkorb.
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Messe München

The term "gorpcore" is no longer enough to describe the fusion of fashion and sport. The two have long been inextricably linked - as demonstrated by stars such as Rihanna, who wore Salomon shoes at the Super Bowl half-time show. The trend is also becoming increasingly diversified, free and inclusive. Numerous trends have now emerged: Whether it's city dwellers who go into the forest after work, the TikTok phenomenon of "soft hiking" for those seeking a little mindfulness in nature or hardcore athletes who place a lot of value on style - there's something for everyone. And so outdoor stores are increasingly becoming fashion boutiques.

What else was needed? A place where this fusion can be lived and celebrated. This is where ISPO teamed up with the hype brand Highsnobiety and launched the 520M platform at the end of 2022. "ISPO and Highsnobiety have been working together towards this point for a while. Over a year ago, we joined forces on a topic that is very close to both of our hearts - the sports and outdoor market. We differ in the reasons why we love it so much, and that is the basis for a perfect partnership," said Tobias Gröber, Head of ISPO Group, at the opening of Highsnobiety's keynote at ISPO Munich 2023.


Awareness for (mental) health remains important

Thomas Tuchel, coach of FC Bayern Munich, at ISPO 2023
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Messe München GmbH

Training is no longer just about muscles, but also about the mind. Coaches and athletes are increasingly focusing on mental health and a holistic approach. "You can't separate body and mind. If you have a lot of mental stress, you can't perform at the same level," said Ireen Wüst, Dutch speed skater, at the Global Trainer Summit. In general, people are talking more openly about mental health today - even at the highest levels of sport, as Thomas Tuchel, coach of Bayern Munich (season 2023/24), confirmed on the big stage. And this insight from sport is also being transferred to the workplace, where the well-being of employees is playing an increasingly important role. Ana-Marija Garcevic from the IOC also emphasized the importance of sport, as a lack of exercise has far-reaching consequences: "Sport must be on the political agenda! It is essential for the health of our society. COVID-19 has shown us that at the latest."


Talent search still has room for improvement

Like many other industries, the sports industry is suffering from a shortage of skilled workers. But there is hope: the trade show highlighted many innovative ways to attract and retain new talent, for example through the presentations at Career Day. At the top of the list of applicants: Purpose. "We receive a lot of unsolicited applications," said Benedikt Tröster from Vaude, a brand with a strong sense of purpose.

In addition, the young generation is paying more attention to flexibility, personal development and, above all, work-life balance. Health and performance coach Marco Grund makes it clear that it is particularly important for Gen Z when choosing a job that employers focus on the well-being of their employees. Because "you only have productive employees if you look after them. The times of 'work hard, play hard' are over!"

The good news: the career tour has shown that there is plenty of talent just waiting to get started in the sports industry.


Women move even more into focus

Sechs Frauen diskutieren auf einer Bühne der ISPO.
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Messe München

Women in sport are finally getting more of the limelight. A strong community is forming that is campaigning for better pay, more media attention and generally for the empowerment of women in society. Some brands are setting an example by bringing more women into management positions. This sends a strong signal and shows that sport is no longer just about men. "It's great that something is changing in the industry and that this issue is being addressed, because outdoor is for everyone," said Georgina Kirby, General Manager of Kari Traa, at Women's Day by ISPO.


Communities promote loyalty and sales

People want to do more sport in the community again. Social contact and fun in a group are very important to many people after the pandemic. One reason why padel is so successful. "It's very interesting to see how huge the demand for open matches is. Players often don't know each other beforehand and book a free spot," said Filip Kollar from Playtomic, a booking software that makes such matches possible.

Ronny Kübrich, co-founder of Sally Trailrunning, has observed something similar. The young company organizes trail running events in response to increasing demand. "You can actually run cross-country on your own. But people want to experience it in a community, the community concept is very important here," explains Kübrich. This also applies to yoga. "Online yoga was a big thing due to coronavirus. But people are being drawn back to studios and yoga retreats. Yogis are looking for the community, the closeness to like-minded people and the magic," says James Apppleby, General Manager EMEA at Manduka.

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