Our monthly interview - Jürg Capol (FIS)
Formerly a top-level cross-country athlete, Capol was a member of the Swiss team from 1985 to 1994, competing at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary where he came fourth in the 4x10 kilometres relay. After his sporting career he became spa director in Silvaplana, changed to the World Ski Federation FIS, invented the Tour de Ski with Norway's cross-country skiing legend Vegard Ulvang and has now been Marketing Director of The International Ski Federation (FIS) for four years.
The elite ski competition 2020-21 season has been deployed with success. What have been the key success factors?
Indeed, due to the collateral effects of Covid-19, we were obliged by the circumstances to innovate and adapt the standard way of organizing the events. First, we adapted the World Cup Calendars and tried to reduce the number of persons on site. Additionally, all of them had to follow a Covid - 19 protocol including testing, whereabouts, healthy questions etc... The different Local Organizing Committee (LOC´s) did a great job and invested additional money. Unfortunately, there were no spectators on site and the relationship with fans was through media and TV productions. At the end of the day circa 320 World Cup competitions/ FIS World Championships in the different disciplines (Alpine, Nordic, Freestyle/Snowboard) were successfully delivered.
What are the main challenges that FIS is facing from a marketing perspective? Last season has been a challenge for FIS. Our main challenges have been missing audience on site regarding the atmosphere; no VIP guests on site; not able to deliver all the promised rights; and no meetings with companies and its sponsorship and marketing persons. We kept the World Cup bubble limited and exclusive. The key values that are part of our FIS World Cup agreements are visibility and due to strong broadcasting, we were able to deliver.
In early 2022, Beijing will host the Winter Olympic Games and the Winter Paralympic Games. China has a lot of potential when it comes to winter sports. How the Games will impact in the development of Winter Sports in China, in other Asian countries and, in general? China is, definitively, one of the main emerging markets when it comes to winter sports. A lot of investments were done regarding winter sport, not just on the Olympic slopes, tracks, and resorts. Many of the facilities are new and the Chinese population get the opportunities to practice winter sports. New ski domes have been built, most of the hills in the winter sport resorts are for beginners; ski instructors have been recruited and educated, etc... Of the main characteristics is that Chinese population like to get a certificate after a successful camp, and we are helping them to get it.
FIS has a prestigious roster of loyal sponsors. What are the main differentiating aspects that FIS can offer to a sponsor? FIS has long history with no scandals. Our organization has the key target to develop and promote winter sport. Winter sport has a robust link with tourism as well as with winter sport products and services. Many media and TV channels are keen with the winter sport weekends; the ratings are positive. FIS is building up a snow sport community to get new data projects, not only to have a better understanding of the winter sport community but, also, to provide a better service to our sponsors.
On the other hand, FIS has several governance documents fully adapted to the modern times, including the ones referring to sustainability projects like CO2 free events by 2030, gender balance, ethics etc. In one sentence, we are adapting our Sponsorship Program to the real and updated needs and preferences of our sponsors, who are not only interested in brand visibility but prefer, in addition, to co-create and develop specific projects.
Digital transformation is key for any sport federation nowadays and in the future. How is FIS tackling the digital transformation process and what are the main challenges FIS is facing? We have different touchpoints (follow, attend, watch, play and participate) with our fans. Several digital platforms and Social Media channels are used by our media coordinators from the different disciplines. Athletes are the key drivers during the off season. In addition, live information and content during the events are both important. We try always to be on time and updated.
FIS is also aware that new generations (mainly the target group between 16 – 24 years old) are consumption winter sport communication in a different way, and FIS is adapting to match their preferences (for example, with Snapchat and TikTok. Moreover, FIS understands that innovation goes far beyond fan engagement, and we are involved in several projects to foster and assist the winter sport ecosystem to embrace innovations and excellence, whether would be incorporating technology or not.