Ole Zimmer
Ole Zimmer

Innovative Products Despite the Corona Pandemic

This Is How the Jury Meeting for the ISPO Award 2021 Went

The international sports industry will be meeting purely virtually at ISPO Munich Online from February 1 to 5. Nevertheless, there will be important impulses, exciting new trends and fruitful dialogiue - the jury meeting of the ISPO Award has shown how the personal and professional exchange can work perfectly over distance.

Due to the Corona pandemic, the jury meeting for the ISPO Award took place hybrid: on-site and virtual.
Due to the Corona pandemic, the jury meeting for the ISPO Award took place hybrid: on-site and virtual.

The International Congress Center Munich (ICM) is quiet on this Wednesday in mid-December. But in four rooms of the ICM, the future is coming together: Experts from all over the world are examining the approximately 200 applicants for the ISPO Award 2021.

In the categories "Outdoor," "Snow Sports," "Apparel" and "Fitness," they are looking for the Products of the Year. A fifth jury will also present the ISPO Sustainability Award. Across the categories, 66 products made it into the final selection. "Proportionally more than ever before," says sustainability expert Anna Rodewald happily.

In times of a pandemic, such a meeting naturally only works digitally and remotely: Five judges per category meet to select the Winners and Gold Winners, and choose the Products of the Year. At least one of them is on site in Munich, the others are connected via team call.

The head judges at the ICM are both presenters and lecturers. Over the distance they have to feel, touch, smell and try on for their colleagues. This means full physical commitment; for the experts, but also for the ISPO Awards & Innovation team.

ISPO Award: Jurors With Top Expertise

Urs Weber, editor of Runner's World magazine, for example, who holds headlamps or shoes high above his head into the HD camera to show his colleagues in the distance even the smallest details. Or Alexa Dehmel, founder of Active Sports Design, who slips into shoes, jackets, jerseys and expedition suits and reports on feel, fabric and wearing comfort - how heavy is the product, how does it feel?

But there are also dumbbell bars or new slacklines to test, camping grills and tents to try out, backpacks to carry and much more. So the day at the ICM actually turns into a workout.

"The individual juries are a little smaller than usual this year and we have relied almost exclusively on experienced judges," says Jacqueline Eskandar from the Awards & Innovation team. "The judging process over distance is new and challenging enough, so we wanted to rely only on the top expertise among the professionals."

ISPO Discovers New Trends and Makes Them Visible

Since September, the four colleagues from Awards & Innovations have been working for the ISPO Award, sifting through applications, sorting and preparing all products, organizing shipping, and writing short descriptions to present all products in the best possible way for the jury meeting.

But the effort is worth it: "After all, it is ISPO Munich's claim to discover new trends and make them visible," says Franziska Zindl, Head of ISPO Awards & Innovations. "Especially in these extraordinary times, we can give outstanding products special visibility with the ISPO Award.

Progress in the Area of Sustainability

One of these developments: Never before has the topic of sustainability been so much in focus at the ISPO Award as it is this year. On the one hand, of course, this concerns function. "We're slowly getting to the point where sustainable products are just as light, water-repellent, or durable as conventionally produced materials," says Professor Matthias Kimmerle from the Albstadt-Sigmaringen University of Applied Sciences.

Above all, however, the topic of sustainability is being assessed from completely new perspectives, says Anna Rodewald, Head Judge of the Sustainability Jury. It is no longer a question of simply replacing existing materials. Today it is crucial to rethink a product from the very beginning.

"Sustainability is about making our industry future-proof," says Anna Rodewald. If, for example, it were possible to get the high-quality raw material back safely with a functioning recycling economy, "then I would have long-term raw material security".

Sustainable management is also becoming increasingly important in terms of employer branding - junior staff want to know exactly who they are working for. From this perspective at the latest, sustainability becomes an opportunity rather than a hindrance. "The raw material is lying around, we should use it instead of burning it or carting it off to the landfill," says Anna Rodewald.

The product evaluation happened via tablet.
The product evaluation happened via tablet.

Juror Urs Weber: "a Lot of New Things Are Happening in the Industry"

Because of the travel restrictions, the jury meeting itself was also certainly the one with the smallest CO2 footprint. But was it also as effective as in previous years? And what does that mean for ISPO Munich Online? Of course it's different when you can't meet on site and have a coffee together among colleagues. But the format of the digital jury meeting already shows that personal contact still works well.

The atmosphere is good, the high-level discussions are so engaged and so in-depth that the schedule threatens to become wastepaper in the meantime. A good sign for ISPO Munich Online from February 1 to 5, 2021.

And the products that will be shown at ISPO Munich Online at the beginning of February also make people sit up and take notice. "At least with the entries, there's no Corona effect," says Urs Weber, Head Judge in Fitness. "There are a lot of new things happening in the industry right now," the experienced judge is certain.

"We're seeing new technology, composites with carbon and special bonding that wasn't technically feasible just a few years ago." Another trend: urban fashion and outdoor function are also finding their way to each other, and "with quality and functionality at a high level," explains Urs Weber.

Products of the Year live at ISPO Munich Online 2021

Alexa Dehmel is also pleased about the applicants. "More and more manufacturers are focusing on innovative concepts and circular economy in their collections. In 2021, the apparel sector will revolve even more thoughtfully around the themes of comfort, function, style and sustainability," says the apparel expert.

At the end of a long day, the individual juries spent almost nine hours examining, feeling, questioning and discussing.

The results - the Gold Winners and the Sustainability Award winners - will be presented on ISPO.com. You can then experience the Products of the Year live at ISPO Munich Online from February 1 to 5, 2021.

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Ole Zimmer
Ole Zimmer