ISPO OPEN INNOVATION: Five Product Testers Tell What Makes Them Tick

A rucksack which looks good, but puts strain on your hips after four days in the mountains? Worthless. Without product testing under real conditions, the product can’t go any further, especially in the sports business where materials often undergo extreme stress. But who are the individuals behind the often anonymous crowd of testers? spoke with five product testers about their experiences and motivations.

They are part of ISPO OPEN INNOVATION: Ilka Groenewold (l.), Franziska Hoell, Martin Blum, Hubert Spieß und Julian Witting.
They are part of ISPO OPEN INNOVATION: Ilka Groenewold (l.), Franziska Hoell, Martin Blum, Hubert Spieß und Julian Witting.

What does a mountain sports journalist have in common with a packaging engineer who spends all her free time in the mountains? It’s clearly the fact that they both know a lot about mountain sports. The difference is that only the journalist shares his knowledge with a wider public.

Many sports companies have begun to realize the potential of sports enthusiasts. In these people there is an enormous untapped source of expertise about sports equipment, clothing, wearables and other sports products, and a great desire to talk with others about their passion.

ISPO OPEN INNOVATION gives these people the perfect opportunity to share their ideas, suggestions and criticisms as product testers and co-developers. tells the stories of five people from the sports-mad community of specialists: “We are the crowd.”

Martin Blum (45, Engineer)

Martin Blum works as an engineer for TÜV, a safety testing company.
Martin Blum works as an engineer for TÜV, a safety testing company.

When, after months of waiting, thick snowflakes begin to fall from the sky, the Chiemgau-native’s favorite time of year has begun. “Every other winter I take a couple of months off and dedicate them fully to enjoying the winter,” says Martin Blum. The 45-year-old usually works for TÜV, a safety testing company, specializing in cableways. “Alongside my normal duties I am constantly looking for jobs in the winter sports scene,” he says.

Blum once was a skiing instructor in Japan, advised on film productions as a location guide and carefully scrutinized all the latest sports products. He was so good and well-established that in 2015 he was asked to be a member of the ISPO AWARD jury in the skiing category.

“The winter sports community is very sensitive to change, so the distance between the manufacturers and customers must be kept small,” Blum says as an insider. “I can fully imagine that open innovation platforms will be standard in many other industries in ten years’ time.”

Ilka Groenewold (31, Presenter)

Ilka Groenewold is a passionate runner.
Ilka Groenewold is a passionate runner.

The Hamburg-native brings a cheerful mood, both in her job and in private. As a presenter (for Sat.1, NDR, BMW and Audi, among others) and running coach, Ilka Groenewold is constantly on the move. “Sport makes up about 30 percent of my life,” she estimates. Her working life? “No, the whole of my life”, the 31-year-old laughs. “For me, sport is passion, balance and motivation. I want to share that with others, for example as a fitness trainer on AIDA cruise ships. Soon I will be keeping passengers fit on a cruise to the Caribbean.”

Even while doing her sports degree in Hamburg, she was a guinea pig for lots of different tests, as she recalls: “It’s really exciting to be among the first to try out new products and developments which aren’t yet on the market.”

A year ago, Groenewold was chosen to be a member of the ISPO AWARD jury, where she gushed over everything. “I still reap the benefits from those two days,” she says. “To be able to honor the best sports products was a really great experience.”

Groenewold also says she believes that “it is a really positive thing for companies when they can say: ‘Our product was developed with and tested by a real community of experts!’ As a professional salesperson, I think that’s a lot more believable than an advert created by a corporation online or in print.

Click here for the demographics of our testers and discover more about their sporting interests and how they use social media >>>

Hubert Spiess (46, Internet Entrepreneur)

Hubert Spiess loves hiking in the mountains.
Hubert Spiess loves hiking in the mountains.

Hubert Spiess, from Munich, still laughs about one curious experience he had as a product tester. “I had to test a shirt made from merino wool and wore it just before Christmas at a nativity play. As I began to sweat, I suddenly started to smell of sheep. That was quite embarrassing.”

Other than that, the 46-year-old only encounters sheep in his outdoor activities, while jogging in the Englischer Garten in Munich or on his mountain expeditions. “I do sport every day and switch between various different kinds, whether yoga or weight training,” the internet entrepreneur says. “First and foremost to balance out my work spent at a desk.” He is a knowledge worker with a constant urge for movement – he has many of his best ideas while playing sport – and he can hardly wait to share his ideas with the sports community.

Spiess responds to the biggest cliché about product testers: “Of course, it’s a great incentive when you are allowed to keep the products, especially when they are not yet for sale,” he says without hesitating. “But I don’t do it to get some 50 euro shirt. I could buy that myself.”

For him it’s much more important to be a part of the specialist sports community. “It’s really great to discuss things with like-minded people. I am really dedicated to testing products and try to test them as authentically as possible. So not only to mess about and then take a selfie with the product. When I can help to make products better and to have some influence, it gives me a great feeling.”

Franziska Hoell (22, Student)

Franziska Hoell loves to be in the nature.
Franziska Hoell loves to be in the nature.

Franziska Hoelll from Stuttgart is one of those people who could not live without sport. She most likes to be outside, on the move, “active in lots of different ways,” as she says herself. “Rowing, canoeing, swimming, cycling, hiking, skiing and lots more.”

Hoell hopes to make a career out of her passion and she currently studies sport engineering in Magdeburg. “I have for a long time been interested in finding out why some products last longer than others,” she says. “After my studies, I want to work in the product development of sports devices and equipment. Product testing is for me not only exciting but also educational.”

Why is that? “As a product tester I get to really intensively get to grips with the products, because for example I look at the choice of material or special demands of the product,” says the 22-year-old. “Thus I can quickly see if it has the key qualities of a good sports product, like sustainability and individual customization.”

Julian Witting (25, Student and YouTuber)

Julian Witting tests the X-Bionic Effector Running Sets.
Julian Witting tests the X-Bionic Effector Running Sets.

Julian Witting also shares the enthusiasm for new innovations. “I also look for new products in the supermarket,” the 25-year-old from Wenden says. “I’m simply curious about everything.” This of course makes him the ideal candidate for working with open innovation platforms.

Witting is an aspiring industrial engineer and a passionate skier. “At the moment I’m living in Innsbruck and get around 80 days skiing per year,” he says. As a Youtuber and blogger (, he gives “tips to all who have a heart for winter sports.” He confidently tells us: “I believe I can tell a good product from a bad one.”

When Witting is on the slopes or in the gym for a video, he tests new sports products at the same time. “By testing the X-Bionic Effector Running Sets and WingTech shirts from CEP, I really became aware of both brands,” he says. Recently he ordered ski socks from CEP: “I was won over by the quality of the brand.”

“Crowdsourcing has two nice side effects for the companies,” Witting says. “You increase recognition and, when testers identify with the products, you get a lasting marketing boost in the fast-moving world of social media.”

Bergans Tests Innovative Jacket

It is this effect that Bergans of Norway has used for the development of its new Eidfjord Jacket. The functional jacket is made of 30 percent plant-based polyester obtained from molasses, a side product in the manufacturing of sugar. 30 members of the ISPO OPEN INNOVATION community, including environmental technology experts from the Munich Trade Fair’s IFAT network, have tested the product – with positive results.

The testers gave Bergans important feedback and were all in agreement: The functional jacket is ready for market. Since the summer of 2016, the Eidfjord Jacket has been available to buy.

The Bergans Eidfjord Jacket was tested by the ISPO OPEN INNOVATION Community.
The Bergans Eidfjord Jacket was tested by the ISPO OPEN INNOVATION Community. Logo
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