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February 02, 2016

Having just been to ISPO last week, let me explain the biggest gold mine of ISPO and even if it’s just you and your camera why you should attend ISPO next year.

Firstly, what is ISPO? It’s a winter outdoor sports convention with all major brands from Snowboarding and skiing, hiking and ice climbing etc. Inluded in there is all moving parts from in the industry. It’s a place you can find new manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, the next seasons apparel but also grab a beer and have a party.

time to waterproof the next model of Vallerret gloves with eVent
Vallerret Shooter capturing the skate comp at ISPO, Munich

To us the ability to have new material suppliers with breathable hydro allergic fabrics, self heating membranes and water transporting blended textiles all at our grasp to pick and choose for our next production line was intensely epic. No more back and forth with samples or squishing my face up to a screen to see if the material is in fact what we had been searching for. I realise that appeals to us in the apparel production and perhaps a little unrelated for the rest of you. The conversations and shopping took it’s toll on us as well, and before long the ‘museum legs’ kicked in.

On the other side of the convention the big boys were hanging out. Brands like GoPro, Nitro, DJI, Lib Tech, Salomon, K2, Icebreaker etc etc were showcasing their next seasons’ wares. It was like window shopping on steroids, well more accurately, window shopping with a beer in your hand. Industry giants were holding networking and social events with beers and burgers being handed to all their partners, customers and those posing as if they were affiliated somehow.

Did I mention ISPO is HUGE? We had some idea of the size so devised a game plan before we entered. I would suggest you do the same. With so many attractions it is way to easy to get sidetracked. Our plan was attack and hyper focus on finding new materials, then look for merino manufacturers and alternative apparel suppliers all before energy levels got low and our attentions turned towards the bright light, action sports entertainment, beers and socialising.

We had pre arranged a few meetings with interesting material suppliers. For instance eLance, who create outstanding waterproof membranes, but we had not anticipated which was perhaps the biggest benefit of going to ISPO, NETWORING.

Amongst the beers and the shot ski we bumped into a familiar face hanging with the NZ brand Mons Royal. Catching up and spinning yarns in a simulated après ski party this is where the value bombs started falling and I realised this was not something we had even considered, however it made perfect sense.

Gathering amongst the newest in equipment and sports apparel were company founders, marketing and sales reps, athletes, photographers and industry Entrepreneurs, this is where connections were made and trade was done. We met production film crews shooting independent snowboard films in search of new sponsors. We found sales reps and company founders willing to share advice on certain situations and markets. There was general banter and insights into style trends 2 years ahead of time and then just down to earth talking rubbish and having a laugh.

So after making a bunch of new connections, note books full of design ideas and brands willing to sponsor our events, I realised a few key things.

  • I did not take enough business cards. I have never been one for just handing out cards but it got slightly embarrassing handing out Stine’s cards as my own.
  • Knowing that the gate-keepers are all in one room, you can find new sponsors and distribution channels all in one conversation, which means coming prepared with a pitch and knowing your stuff.
  • Don’t go around just plain pitching and asking for things, authentic conversations go a lot further. I found out I’m better at pitching our business after 1-2 beers and get worse after 5-6.
  • If there is one place where you could access the decision makers from all the brands you ever wanted to ride, work or shoot for, then this is it.

Why you should be at ISPO 2017… other then eyes on the newest gear and having a blast, it’s connections and relationships! Being a photographer running a business, and the biggest value in building a business is making in-person connections.

See you at ISPO next year.

Carl van den Boom.

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