It was an impressive sight! Anyone who entered the ICM at Messe München from December 17 to 19 could hardly get enough of innovations. From smartphone apps and clothing to snowboards and meters-long equipment, a wide variety of products from the sports industry stood in rows. One thing they all had in common: They were all applicants for the most important honor in the sporting goods business, the ISPO Award 2019.
A total of 456 products were waiting to be tested, discussed, and ultimately judged by the ISPO Award Jury. The jury meeting lasted a whole three days. In the end, each product should be given sufficient time to make a fair judgement.
The jury was fittingly high-caliber: 43 experts from twelve countries and various areas of the sports world inspected the presented applicants. Whether company founder in the sports business, professional athlete, or sports journalist: Each member of the jury could and should contribute expertise in equal parts.
“From my point of view, the ISPO Award is distinguished by the fact that we have many experts from different areas of the market who are very constructively involved in this decision-making process,” said Prof. Dr. Niels Nagel of the German Industrial Association for Fitness and Health (DIFG) and jury member in the Health & Fitness segment. “We do a lot of in-depth thinking about the products, which brings about qualitative decisions.”
Of course, qualitative decisions were also the claim of the jury in the Snow Sports segment. In order to do this justice, a part of the jury went to Lech, Austria, for the first time on the weekend before the meeting to personally try out snowboards, skis, and equipment on the slopes and to expose flowery marketing phrases in practice as such.
“It’s important that we get these insights from practical experience. We can judge usability much better in the snow than in dry conditions,” said Sebastian Steinbach, founder and owner of Blacksheepsports, taking stock after the tryout day in Lech.
Then it was back to the Messe München in the early hours of the morning. After a short jury gathering, the experts devoted themselves to their special segments and took the time to look at the submitted products first in a free cruising.
Crowds of people then formed around the tables during the judging. Each product was individually tested and assessed by the jury of experts, the applicants’ videos were viewed and discussed in English by the international jury – extensively and with some controversies.
Right in the thick of it: Cathy O’Dowd. The South African, who now lives in Andorra, is the first woman to climb Mount Everest from the north and south sides. She knows what’s important for outdoor products, and was impressed by the applicants in the Outdoor segment.
“One of the most conspicuous trends, which we also take into account in our decision, are recyclable materials. There’s a strong movement towards more sustainable production chains,” says O’Dowd. “There’s also been major progress in weight loss. Functional clothing and shoes are getting lighter year after year.”
The professional mountaineer sees the outdoor industry as prepared for the future: “We’ve seen many innovative materials that can advance our fight against plastic waste.”
The eco aspect was one of four core criteria when evaluating applicants, in addition to innovation, design, and functionality: each were worth 25 percent of the evaluation. In order to arrive at measurable jury results, the members assessed the products via tablet. They had to answer several questions on a scale from 0 to 10. The applicants with the highest average ratings in their respective segments are named ISPO Award Gold Winners or Winners.
Then on Wednesday evening came the grand finale: All Gold Winners were once again presented to the jury to choose the Product of The Year. Who are the winners of the ISPO Award 2019? We’ll know more in a few weeks…