Winter sports/12/29/2015

Ski brands at the Four Hills Tournament: the flying promotional platform

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Each jump is replayed in slow motion. The ski brand is (almost) always in the picture. And millions of viewers who have nothing better to do around New Years look on with fascination.

Ski jumper up in the air at the Four Hills Tournament
Four Hills Tournament: A perfect marketing opportunity

The Four Hills Tournament is the ideal promotional platform for jump ski manufacturers – something not just the traditional skiing companies like Fischer or Elan have taken notice of. Travel site, sports retail chain Sport 2000 and athletic clothing manufacturer Löffler have now also joined the show.

Better brand representation

“The brand is pictured – certainly for longer, more often and at a better time than with other skiing disciplines. These are television hours that would otherwise cost a great deal to buy,” says Tanja Winterhalder, Head of Marketing at Fischer, a skiing company.

And the Four Hills Tournament is certainly a premium event with special significance for 2016 for the company, which has redesigned its presence at ISPO: “We wouldn’t otherwise have access to this kind of platform.”

When Austrian jumper Stefan Kraft was crowned the winner of the Four Hills Tournament last year using Fischer skis, “the public took clear notice.”

The media value for the TV broadcasts of the ski jumping grand slam event (last winter a total of 34.07 million people watched live on TV channels ARD and ZDF alone) and the countless (promotional) photos in newspapers and online was rated in the millions for the ski manufacturer. However, the expense is also relatively high.

Over thousand skis a year

The classic Austrian company does not have any official figures, but the costs for manufacturing, development and personnel must be just short of the million mark. Each year, four employees produce some 1,500 pairs of jumping skis.

One of them, former champion jumper Franz Neuländtner, is always on hand at world cups and the Four Hills Tournament to service skis.

Zwei Skispringer beim Jubeln
Trikots der Skispringer: Viel Platz für Werbung
Image credit:
imago/GEPA Pictures

The problem for jumping ski manufacturing? Unlike with alpine or cross-country skis, jumping skis are not purchased by ”normal” consumers. So Fischer almost never earns the official sales price of 799 euros. And at most only half of the athletes pay even the reduced team price of 550 euros.

Brands want to serve as allrounders

This is because top ski jumpers like world champion Severin Freund receive their materials sponsored by Fischer. “And each of these skis is produced uniquely for these top jumpers,” says Winterhalder.

And the times are not exactly easy for the skiing industry. Because of this, there has been talk of implementing jumping ski production, even at the traditional Fischer brand. Rossignol – which used to be Martin Schmitt’s brand – and Atomic (e.g., Janne Ahonen) have done so already “As the northern market leader, we, on the other hand, want to serve as an all-rounder.

At the same time we are using ski jumping as a pool of knowledge to play around with new materials,” says Winterhalder. However, the most serious argument remains the ideal promotional platform. Right now that’s as part of the Four Hills Tournament highlights.

Because of this, and Sport 2000 have their skis manufactured by the successor company to erstwhile East German sporting goods manufacturer Germina in Thuringia.

At one time the company was knocking on the doors of Audi and Lufthansa to rescue their jumping ski production operations. Controversial Leipzig online company Unister ultimately stepped in. It rightly saw ski jumping as the ideal promotional platform for its online travel portal – and word on the slopes is that they pay an estimated 700,000 euros per year for the perfect advertising.

Peanuts compared to alpine skiing

And Sport 2000 is quite open in its philosophy of “ski jumping instead of advertisements.” This appears to be a successful model: even Löffler is now having its skis manufactured by its sister company Fischer and is taking advantage of the tournament as a promotional platform.

Although the promotional value is enormous, the athletes themselves play only a minor role. The winner of the Four Hills Tournament can win around 20,000 euros extra.

Peanuts compared to alpine skiing, where top athletes can earn up to seven-figure sums from their sponsor companies each year depending on their success. 

Author: Lars Becker