Mr. Walter Hofer (Head of FIS Ski Jumping)
Interview questions: SPORTO (sports marketing) magazine, October 2012
Mr. Hofer, Ski jumping is enjoying a repute of a national sport in Slovenia with Planica widely being recognised as the icon of the Slovenian sport. There are not a lot of countries in the world to praise this sport as much and put it even above football on the national level. How important is Planica for the Ski jumping & flying World Cup?
First of all: Slovenja (as a participating nation) and Planica (as one of the best organiser) is "unique" and outstanding in Ski Jumping international World. Ski Jumping in Slovenja is not only a sport discipline, Ski Jumping attracts the emotional impact of the whole country. Even we can proof similar appearances within our international Ski Jumping members, Planica is gathering every year the whole family.
How do you see the development of the FIS Ski Jumping competition in the context of the sports marketing field? In Slovenia TV viewing figures are always on the high end – what about TV viewing figures, spectators etc. in other countries?
To be honest: with regard to the marketing possibilities, Ski Jumping is a "niche" sport when it comes to talk about support from industry, tourismn or as a mass sport. Therefore, the only occasion to collect money is hosting of international and televised events. But here the Ski Jumping family was able to create a so called "media product" over the last decades. Nowadays, in many countries ski jumping ranges with regard to the Tv exposure within the top level. And the potential we detect in some of our membership countries (i.e. RUS, KAZ) is tremendious
How is the prize money for the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup events developing in the last years and what are the prospects for the future? Four Hills tournament last year offered 1 million CHF for the winner of “grand slam” (all four competitions) - that was something new in terms of prize money and very special for the athletes.
As I mentioned before, we have to generate the whole budget through hosting of events. There must always be the right balance between serving all participants and protagonists with what they deserve (price money) and the development we ask our organiser for in various field (infrastructure of the venue)
There have been actually only 14 countries competing at FIS Ski Jumping World Cup Men Team in the last season: Austria, Norway, Germany, Slovenia, Japan, Poland, Czech Republic, Russia, Switzerland, Finland, Italy, Bulgaria, France and Canada; with only 2 countries outside the Europe (Japan, Canada). How would you position this sport on the world map of the sports industry?
Of course geographically and regionally limited as a typical sign of a winter sport. But we do see a great progress in some countries which are on the border now to the international field. Especially the introduction of the Ladies Ski Jumping has pushed some of our developing countries to enter the international family. We could welcome in Courchevel this summer more than 20 nations and especially the Mixed team event has the potential for at least another 5 countries apart from them you mentioned above.
We have read that your plans are to expand or return to additional countries with the construction of new large hill jumping facilities is in the final phases in Almaty (KAZ), Erzurum (TUR) and Sochi (RUS). Have there been any other marketing initiatives (campaigns, actions) planned to promote this sport globally?
We do it step by step, of course, we do have in our focus the western hemisphere as well with USA and CAN. We hope that the Ladies events will push there this development.
Last year Slovenia successfully hosted the first FIS Ski Jumping World Cup Ladies event in Ljubno, which turned into a nice event with lots of people showing up and also received quite big public awareness through media. What was your experience from Ljubno and what are the expectations for the future?
Ljubno has from the very beginning been a supporter for Ladies Ski Jumping. Even the current infrastructure is a limiting factor, we (the organiser, the national ski association and FIS) agreed on a long term strategy in order to give the local recourses a chance to utilize the potential of the region in upcoming years.
Do you think that FIS Ski Jumping World Cup Ladies has potential to develop into a popular sport? How do you see it's development?
Of course, as I mentioned before, ski jumping is not a mass sport. But I am fairly convinced that together with our female athletes and the organiser we will be able to use and develop our potential which is a unique sport with high attraction and sportive value.
Could we see Ski Jumping inside the city centres in the future? I am thinking about something similar as the Audi FIS Ski World Cup at Munich Olympic Park. Setting the transferable ski jump somewhere inside the city, would definitely attract more visitors and brought ski jumping closer to the people ...
First of all: we are in Cities: Oberstdorf, GaPa, Innsbruck, Almaty, Oslo, Lahti, Trondheim, etc.,
That means we are not building new facilities in poor nature, we do search for the near vicinity to the population. But on the other hand, we would like to stay authentic, that means to perform our beloved sport in healthy environment which is shown by beautiful winter landscape with snow, sun, mountains etc.
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