Earlier this week, OneWay Sport announced that it had signed Finnish skier Sami Jauhojärvi to compete on its brand-new skis for the coming year. OneWay has been around since 2004 when it began making carbon-fiber poles, but only introduced a complete line of cross-country equipment to its product lineup in 2012.
As with any sporting goods brand, sponsoring a highly visible athlete is a big step in both establishing the company and integrating a new product into the market. We already know they make a good pole, and with OneWay’s neon yellow featured prominently on France’s and Canada’s race suits this past season, visibility was hardly an issue. But signing Jauhojärvi to their new products establishes that the World Cup skier is confident in the quality of their skis.
“Sami is the first one and of course very important because … he is the number one [skier] in Finland,” said OneWay CEO and President Andreas Bennert. “It’s a big thing for us as a Finnish brand for the domestic market.”
After doing some on-snow testing up until last Friday in Rovaniemi, Jauhojärvi said he came to the decision to make the switch from Fischer to OneWay’s equipment.
“[OneWay] is the most active and innovative brand in developing our cross country sports,” he said, adding that he also fully believes in the company’s efforts to develop youth skiing in Finalnd. OneWay is the main sponsor of Hopeasompa, Finland’s junior championships.
Jauhojärvi is also partnering with OneWay for personal reasons. The 31-year-old views it as the “last chance in my career to get some change in the routines, to get some new motivation with some new equipment.”
OneWay hopes that Jauhojärvi is the first of several skiers to represent its skis and boots next season. According to Bennert, a few more World Cup athletes are currently in the process of testing the equipment.
The signing of its first major athlete would be a big step forward under any circumstances, but it is especially good news for OneWay in light of its recent setback from the injunctions from Fischer Sports in Finnish and German courts. Fischer claimed that OneWay’s use of yellow and black in its products was unfair competition and violated trademark rights, but the courts eventually dismissed each case. Now OneWay is seeking compensation for what it sees as a significant loss of pre-season sales during the six weeks of the injunction’s duration, which began in mid-March.
That was a crucial time for their new skis and boots, said Bennert, because it coincided directly with the European trade shows where retailers decide what to buy for the coming season.
“Yellow is a brand color for us; about 50% [of our products] are yellow with other color details,” said Bennert. “By taking out all these products our range was looking pretty poor… We were not able to present our full package, and have been limited to sell textiles, poles, and so on.”
The injunction did not apply in the U.S. and Canada, but Bennert said Fischer notified North American retailers of the injunction. Fischer declined to make any comment on the case, as OneWay is still in the process of seeking compensation.
Now that OneWay’s name is in the clear, Bennert is looking to keep growing the relatively young company. In his mind, what sets OneWay apart from more established ski companies is a modern approach to marketing and its 100% focus on the nordic sports.
OneWay’s marketing campaigns are certainly unlike those seen anywhere else in the nordic world. One of its mid-level skis, for example, features a woman in a bathing suit on the top sheet. The vibrant ski imagery throughout the OneWay catalogue would fit right in a Warren Miller film.
“This is exactly what the consumer would like to have today,” said Bennert. “A lot of nordic brands make good, solid, well-known products, but the brand is very traditional. We have a big change in the generation of cross-country skiing, in all the countries nowadays, and these people are demanding more than just a product.”
OneWay may now be back on track in Europe, but its footing in the US market is a bit less certain. When the company made the announcement a year ago that it would begin its own ski line in 2012, it began working with a new distributor, Quality Bicycle Products in Minnesota.
Bennert said that QBP couldn’t keep up with OneWay’s needs this past winter, forcing them to find something new for 2012.
“We sold 30,000 pairs of poles last winter, and this winter with QBP we went down to 1,000 pairs, which was very bad for us,” said Bennert.
At the moment, OneWay is in the process of finding a new distributor, and Bennert hopes that over the course of the summer he will have found a good match for the company’s needs.
“It’s definitely irritating the market, but it’s something that you cannot solve in a day.”
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.