February 2018

Drayton's Wayne Mabbott shares a personal account of a day in the life at ISPO Munich, 2018

"For four days every January or February Munich becomes the capital city of Planet Sport. And there’s nowhere else I’d rather be"

Drayton Senior Partner, Wayne Mabbott, shares his recent visit to the world’s largest multi-segment trade show for the sports business, ISPO.

The first time I went to ISPO was as a Product Manager with Adidas. Loathe as I am to admit it that was over twenty years ago. So, we – IPSO and I – are old friends. In the intervening years things have moved on. I now have a family and young children. As for the trade show…well, it seemed a huge event to me back then but now it’s a behemoth. The annual exhibition spans more than 180, 000 square metres across 16 different halls and is attended by 85,000 visitors from 120 countries.

For a professional in the Footwear & Apparel sector a walk down the central pathway of the Rhein-Main-Halle feels like being in brand heaven. Look to the right and you can see Peak Performance, Patagonia and Helly Hansen. To the left Kari Traa, Arc’Teryx and Vaude. As a specialist recruiter it’s even more fun. Everyone I’m interested in meeting and talking to comes to ISPO.

There are colleagues here from my days as a Category Manger at Adidas and Ellesse – as well as people I feel I know well but, in fact, have only met virtually via conference calls and Skype. It’s great to be able to put a physical face to either someone I know as potential candidate for a key MD role, or a client who I have a longstanding relationship with. Mark Zuckerberg might not agree with me but, in my view, one real-world chat over a coffee or a beer beats a thousand posts, likes, or e-mails when it comes down to creating genuine business relationships based on mutual trust.

So, what’s the news from this year’s ISPO, I hear you ask ? What were those animated conservations over a bratwurst and a glass of Pils all about?

My main take-out was a seeming industry-wide consensus around the importance of both being present at the show and branding. The pace of modern technology means that specific product benefits around performance are incredibly difficult to maintain so the brand story – that indefinable certain something which makes one brand stand out amongst a sea of competitors has now assumed an almost mythic strategic importance. And, walking around the halls, I could see several examples of companies who seemed masters of that often elusive art. Osprey and Odlo being just two of the most notable ones. Both producing exceptionally-designed stands which stood out from the crowd and cleverly positioned them as having a unique ideology and ethos.

So, according to ISPO, the Footwear and Apparel sector 2018 is as much about branding and visible presence, as it is about product. As for 2019? Well, just as I intend to, you’ll have to go to Munich next February to find out.