Organized to the Dot
The word "pro" is shortened from the word "professional". Which meansthat a pro rider is an athlete practicing a profession in the snowboarding business. It also means that with business side of things, the whole ballgame from a regular rail punisher to a pro rail punisher changes quite a bit. Suddenly you are a PR representative of the brands you ride for - dealing with the press, TV, filmmakers.You are on the road 250 days a year - dealing with airlines, VISA authorities, travel agencies. You attend tradeshows, sales meetings, premiers - dealing with managers, industry professionals, fans. Basically you're a walking brand of yourself and your sponsors. It can all be a bit overwhelming but there is help at hand. One of those people to bring organization into a busy pro riders' life is Kristoffer Hansson who runs an action sports management company called Dotinc Ltd (.INC) based in London. Let's hear what Kristoffer has to say about his work and the athletes he represents.
1. Hi Kristoffer! Like for your riders, winter must be a busy time for you. How many days do you spend on the road on an average season?
I don't even come close to the riders that I represent. They are on the road 200-250 days a year, but I try to be at most of the important events were both the riders and the "industry" are present. I think that it's important to meet up with the industry, network and hear what's going on to be able to give my clients the best service. Since the riders that I represent are predominately snowboarders, I'm going to most of the TTR 6-star events. Now I'm in Aspen for the Winter X Games and next week I'm going SIA in Las Vegas and then straight to US Open in Freeskiing at Copper Mtn, so there is a bit of traveling involved. In a near future I'll start working with a few new summer athletes so I guess there will be some more summer events added to my itinerary.
2. I bet that "an average day at the office" doesn't even exist inyour profession, but please tell us of what kinda elements your work consists of?
Haha, both yes and no. If you deduct all the travels, my job is a pretty average office job. Recently MTV UK wanted to do a version of "the model agency" with .INC and my sister company KAOS Ltd. When they got here and realized that our work consists of mailing, mailing, mailing and some phone calls or iChat. We never heard from them again…
3. It takes a rider to truly understand a rider, so I'd imagine that you have some kind of background in snowboarding?
I've been snowboarding for over 16 years. Since I grew up in southern Sweden, all my time was spent on to find how to be able to find money to snowboard more. I lived for snowboarding and my obsession ended up in me reading everything, all the magazines, catalogues, videos and TV-shows from all over the world. My friends used to call me catalogue-face, since I knew everything about snowboarding – haha.
I used to go up to Stryn and Folgefonna in the summers and later on I spent my seasons in Chamonix and Åre. Åre was good since I was able to start my studies at Mid University of Sweden.
4. Was establishing your own business a natural decision right away ordid you start up with an existing action sports management agency or similar, built up the experience and then went ahead with it?
Not at all! I ended up study a master degree studies in financial economics and a minor in marketing, I was all set to start to climb the traditional career ladder. But my friend Jakob Wilhelmsson started to make money of snowboarding and kept asking me for advice about everything that involved contracts and financial stuff. We had a lot of discussions about the action sport industry and I told him that he should hook up with a management company that could help him out. He was skeptical since the only management companies dedicated action sports where based in the US and he didn't trust them to do good work for him on a European level.
I gave it a good thought and three months later I called Jakob and Hampus and presented the idea of a management company. Later on that year I started working with Markku Koski and Kjersti Buaas as well.
5. You represent riders like Hampus Mosesson, Chris Sörman and Johan Olofsson. How do representing new comers and established legends differ?
Johan, Hampus and Chris are good examples of riders that are at three totally different stages of their career.
Johan has done it all, even quit snowboarding - haha. We are the same age and I looked up to him a lot and followed his career since day one. He knows what he wants and is really interested in giving input on all the companies that he's working with. So with Johan it's all about finding him a spot in the industry again with sponsors that are the perfect match. He doesn't care about hype, he just wants the equipment to work and to work with people that he likes. So helping Johan to hook up with a company like The North Face was really cool. He's given the opportunity to get in to the heli again and film full time again. He is also the spokesperson of Nissan's freeriding program in Europe. It has been really easy to help him out getting coverage again, it seems like the entire industry has been waiting for a comeback.
Hampus is at the top of his career and got everything going at the moment. With a rider like Hampus you face a lot of challenges and opportunities. He has been around for a long time, even though he is still young (25). When you have traveled around for many years it's harder to get motivated and you face a time where you need to find new motivation in your riding to continue to push it. The relationship with your exciting sponsors is like at any work, either you find new motivation and challenges with your exciting employer, or you move on. Hampus found that motivation at Quiksilver, who also decided to help Hampus realize his dream project (Action Horse), I also helped Hampus partner up with his friend Todd Richards and become a part owner of Omatic snowboards, which is a new and interesting chapter in his career.
Chris is at a stage in his career that is the hardest. He is young and hasn't made it all the way yet, he's super talented and has so many options to choose between. He is on the Burton team who has one of the toughest and strongest teams in the world. The competition at his level is super hard since everyone is pretty much equally as good and knows almost every trick in the book. So apart from working on his progression as a snowboarder, he has to be more professional and profile himself to stand out from the rest.
6. How closely do you work with your riders' team managers? There must be quite a bit of crossing over in your line of work and theirs, e.g. with media coverage?
It differs a lot. I would say that it is 50-50 at the moment. The management services in the action sport industry are still young and some team managers don't want to hear from you until it is time negotiate the new contract again, which is a shame. The team managers' main job is to organize the team riders so the sponsor get them most out of their investment. If a rider has a lot of sponsors and team managers, there can be many different wills. I try to work with the riders to sort out their plans and priorities, to give both the company and the rider an added value. So most of the time I work parallel to the regular team manager, but I try to involve them as much as possible.
7. Is there a lot of competition in the management business these days?
The market for management services is limited in Europe. At the moment there are two other pan European management companies, apart from .INC. Together we represents most of the European talents. Personally, I think that it is just enough to take care of the European market. We also face some competition from the US management companies that are starting to focus more and more on Europe.
8. You said that you prefer to work "in the dark", not taking away from the image that snowboarding is still just for fun and leaving the business stuff aside. Is it becoming more and more difficult these days as the big sponsors are visibly involved and prize money in contests grow by the minute?
For me everything in snowboarding is about the rider, not about the suits. The consumers, the Onboard readers, should focus on the fun in snowboarding. So my job should not be high profile, I should work in the dark.
I don't really think that it is harder to focus on the fun in snowboarding due to the prize money though. 8-10 years ago the Air & Style had $250k and an Audi in price money, so the golden years is gone now. Back in the golden days I saw the big money as an acceptance of snowboarding and that mainstream sponsors appreciated what the big names where doing.
Today it's a bit different. Events like the X Games and the Olympic games turn many snowboarders into household names, which makes them more interesting for mainstream companies. So now guys like me work hard to make the mainstream companies understand how we (snowboarders) think, so they just don't milk our culture and leave for the next big thing.
9. From your riders' achievements, what has been the most heart warming for you? A contest result, film part, sponsorship deal? You can mention a few if you want.
Doing deals, seeing how riders come out with smashing parts and being at contests is always fun, you feel like a proud parent – haha.
There are many achievements and it's hard to pick favorites, but Hampus' victory at the Air & Style was super cool.
When I landed at Münich airport Hampus called me and said that I better turn around and go home right away since he broke his arm the night before when he was trying to impress on a girl, super drunk. I was soo bummed since it was a big deal and we had cool build up to the event. I was down in Münich with Anders Neuman from Transition Magazine that did a 72h story about Hampus and now everything was ruined. Hampus played around with me for a while before he admitted that he just fucked around. He can be really convincing and he loves to take the piss out of me!
Same day Hampus started to ride really good and started to do 540s with double shiftys at the training, which was something that we never had seen before. The longer we where at the event we started to realize that Hampus had something big in his plans and when the event started he just exploded. He knocked out guys like Andreas Wiig and Nicolas Müller and finally Mathieu Crepel, I was super stoked. It was a long day and the interviews, press conferences and people that wanted to celebrate him never stopped.
I was also super stoked on Markku's and Kjersti's bronze medals in Turino. The medals where unexpected, even though I claimed to everyone that they would make it to the podium. Especially Kjersti's was heart warming since she wanted that medal so bad and she broke her ankle just before Christmas 2005. When she dropped into the pipe in Turino she had only been on snow for 10 days!
10. And finally, what makes your work rock?
Definitely competitions held in a good resort so I get the opportunity to shred during office hours! Last week at BEO in Laax me and Eric (Dragon & Bataleon team manager) had an amazing day in the sunshine riding powder.
Well, gang -- I hope you enjoyed taking a sneak peak into Kristoffer's world as much as I did. I'm sure that MTV UK would have gotten some juicy issues to cover if they had taken a deeper look... But maybe it's better that "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" -- so to say. Next up is Chad Mihalick from Malakye.com -- stay tuned for that chat in the next month.