Interview with Adidas Marketing Manager on the 2018 Sickline Race Cancellation
The 2018 edition of the adidas Sickline Race will not take place! The title sponsor since its creation, adidas has decided to no longer sponsor this event. The shocking news started to spread in the past weeks, and it is now unfortunately official. Axel Burkhardt, who has been the Global Sports Marketing Director for the Outdoor Division at adidas for the 27 past years agreed to talk about the official reasons behind this decision, and what the future could look like for adidas’ involvement in kayaking.
Kayak Session: Axel, the kayaking world is still in shock. Can you confirm that the adidas Sickline Race will not take place this year?
Axel Burkhardt: Yes, that is correct.
Kayak Session: Can you share the reasons behind adidas pulling out?
Axel Burkhardt: “Pulling out” is probably the wrong notation. We own the rights of the Sickline Extreme Kayak World Championship together with Planet Talk, who organizes the event for us. Adidas Terrex is currently in the process of strategic realignment. Therefore, after ten years we decided to pause the event to reflect on our engagement, which is not an uncommon procedure for a large company like adidas.
Kayak Session: It seems crazy to even think that there won’t be a Sickline race this year, especially given that it has become the biggest race of the year in extreme kayaking, receiving an insane amount of media exposure (TV, print, web, social media)…It almost feels like a huge waste of the investment of the past decade.
Axel Burkhardt: Yes, the adidas Sickline World Championship has been extremely successful regarding media exposure. Including 2017, we’ve seen a total of 12,500 hours of TV broadcast in 190 countries, which has been one reason for supporting this event for the past decade. However, just like any other global player in the sports industry, we have to continually monitor the market, analyze our target groups, check new media, question our actions and consider new or alternative ways to promote our athletes and sports.
Kayak Session: Being a paddler yourself, you put a lot of time and energy into this project. Does this decision leave a bittersweet feeling, or do you walk away, so to speak, feeling that adidas did its time and the job, and it is time to pass the torch?
Axel Burkhardt: Again, we’ve only pressed the pause button, so we are not walking away just yet.
Kayak Session: Is Sickline a good marketing investment according to you? In other words, will it be easy for the organizers to find a new title sponsor?
Axel Burkhardt: We are more than just a title sponsor of the event. Together with the organizer Planet Talk, we are the joint rights holders of the adidas Sickline Extreme Kayak World Championship. And we’ve adjourned the event for now. Other companies have done the same in the past – RedBull paused the Air Race, the District Ride, and the Rampage for a few years. Such a break gives you the opportunity to reflect on the event concept and develop it further.
Kayak Session: Along with Olaf Obsommer, you created a race like no other. One that managed for the first time to gather whitewater kayakers of all kind – Slalom athletes, extreme paddlers, Freestyle riders – in one event. Sickline is a race kayakers dream of winning. What has been the biggest reward for you over the years?
Axel Burkhardt: For me personally, looking into the happy faces of kayakers who traveled around the world to participate in the adidas Sickline. And seeing the impact, the event has had on the kayaking community, ranging from more professional race preparation to the development of new boats.
Kayak Session: If you had one image from the past ten years, one moment to keep, what would it be?
Axel Burkhardt: Seeing Sam Sutton race on the Wellerbrücke Rapids.
Kayak Session: Do you see adidas coming back on the river banks anytime soon?
Axel Burkhardt: The decision of when and how we return depends on the outcome of our strategic realignment, which involves many stakeholders with different agendas and priorities.
Kayak Session: adidas has been investing in kayaking for the past ten years, according to our estimations, nearly three Million Euros. Few companies have ever done that- if any. We want you to know that the entire kayaking community- athletes, manufacturers, and media- is grateful for this support and that no one took your efforts for granted. We all hope to see you back soon!
Axel Burkhardt: Thank you, we’ve had a blast along the way and will be back in some way. Watch this space!
Thank you for your time, Axel. Good luck with everything.