SPORT - INTERVIEW
Saturday, September 15, 2018
Jorg Verhoeven - Photo by Jon Glassberg
SPORT - INTERVIEW
by Meryem Aksoy
Jorg Verhoeven has started climbing at the age of 12 and has been climbing at national and international competitions since the age of 14. Jorge became Youth World Champion two times in 2002 and 2004. He crowned his 16-year of Worldcup career with winning the 2008 Worldcup Lead overall victory. In addition to the competition career, he has very important achievements in rock climbing. Yes, a medal is not taken as a result, but successfully climbing in 9a route is like winning a medal. And now he focuses both on the competition career and aims to realize 'project 9b' on rock climbing. And he has always known the importance of sponsorship in his whole career. I had the opportunity to interview Jorg Verhoeven about the importance of individual sponsorship in competition and rock climbing.
Jorg, what does climbing means for you?
Climbing is my life. It has taught me a lot, also for everyday life. It brings me a great joy in living and a constant motivation to achieve my goals.
You have been climbing since you were 12 years old. How did you discover the climbing passion that takes you to the rocks? Who or what encouraged you?
Upon my first contact with the sport, I knew very soon (basically right away) that I had found what I was looking for. It just felt right! I guess this is a very basic feeling; you know that what you're doing brings you joy, and makes you long for more. It's almost like an addiction, but without the downsides...
Could you tell us about yourself?
I grew up in the Netherlands, where the only climbing is in gyms. I had always been drawn to the mountains, so it felt logic to me to move to the Alps when I was 18 and had just graduated. Since then I became a professional sportsman, climbing in competition, but also outside in the mountains.
Jorg Verhoeven - Photo by H. Wilhelm
You have a lot of national and international success in your competition career. Could you tell us about your achievements in your competition climbing career?
I started my competition career early already, at the age of 14, becoming Youth World Champion at age 16 and 18. I've been climbing in the Worldcup season for 16 years now. My biggest performance was winning the overall Worldcup in 2008, but I'm also happy I could compete on a high level for so many years. I will retire from competitions next year, looking back on a magnificent time!
Out of competition season, you are very active in outdoor climbing. What was your biggest rock climbing achievements in your career? What are your favorite routes?
I've always been very interested in many different aspects of the sport. I never excelled in one discipline, but was often good at several. Currently, I'm trying to do very hard sportclimbing (project 9b), while at the same time working on hard bigwall climbing and trad climbing. To freeclimb El Capitan (by 4 different routes now) was an amazing experience for me.
Besides this successful career, you are a Master Student of Material and Nanosciences. How do you balance your life between climbing and education?
I've always needed something besides climbing, maybe to keep my normal life in balance. This resulted in a Masters in Earth Sciences, and I will finish my studies in Material Sciences next year. I love science! It can be quite tricky to find enough time for studies though, especially since I've been travelling around the world for extended periods in the past. I always feel like I rather have too much to do, than too little...
Jorg Verhoeven - Photo by Jon Glassberg
Could you tell us about your PROJECT 9B?
It's a very interesting project I started last year that I'm putting a lot of energy into! At age 33, I'm not the youngest anymore to perform at a high-end level, so I wanted to see, whether I can still do very hard sportclimbing (9b is a grade that few climbers have reached). I didn't set a time limit for this project, and this fall I will go into my second year of efforts. As always, I'm positive about success :)
What do you feel when you reached the top?
Joy of course, but It's very much like success in competition: the 5 minutes of fame is soon over. For me, the process is much more important than the outcome. This way I can still be happy about what I do, even when success is not always there. Succeeding in a project always gets me motivated for the next projects.
What are the basic problems that climbers have been living during their competition and rock climbing career?
Both competition and rock climbers have very high costs for travel and lodging. These costs can partially or fully be compensated by cooperations with climbing or non-climbing related firms. If a climber has no form of sponsoring whatsoever, an additional cost is the necessary material, which can be quite costly for some disciplines like bigwall climbing or mountaineering.
How could climbers solve these problems? What is the permanent solution?
In addition to the answer above: There are several ways of how sportsmen and brands can work together, where contributions from both sides can vary. With outdoor brands nowadays, a more 'active' athlete role, where the sportsmen function as brand ambassadors, is more often seen than the 'classic' sponsoring, where the use of name is rewarded by a monetary contribution.
What is the best way to attract sponsors' attention?
An athlete should look at the benefits it can present to a brand. Being known in- or outside the sports community is helpful, but not always enough to be interesting to a brand. Most brands want ambassadors that both fit into the image they want to present, and are active and visible in doing so.
What contributions do sponsor brands provide climbers?
This ranges from a provider-based (material contribution) to a sponsor-based (material and financial contribution) collaboration.
What do sponsors expect and demand from climbers?
Brand exclusivity is of course expected, but also activity as an athlete towards brand promotion is often part of the deal. This could mean logo-carrying, social media ads, trade show presence, photoshoots etc. Brands want their athletes to be convinced by the products/brand, and to show this towards the community.
In your career, when did you first attract sponsors' attention? How did you do this?
At the age of 16. A brand noticed me as a competition climber, and approached me. Ever since I was either approached by brands or approached brands myself.
Could you tell us about your sponsors? What are the brands that you collaborate with?
I collaborate with three main brands: La Sportiva: an Italian climbing/outdoor shoe producer; Marmot: a US outdoor clothing brand; Petzl: a French climbing/caving hardwear producer. I also work together with several smaller brands that function as a provider.
How many different platforms do you represent your sponsors throughout the year?
In all platforms, where I'm active: competition, training, online (social media, press, website), trade shows, festivals, events etc.
What are your expectations from your sponsors?
Very much like the expectations I explained before: Brand exclusivity and promotion
Katharina Saurwein and Jorg Verhoeven - Photo by Jon Glassberg
What are you paying attention to when a new brand contacted you about sponsorship? What are the main factors that affect the beginning and continuity of successful sponsorship?
Deciding what brands you want to work with is not an easy decision. I was looking for brands that I can wholeheartedly support, and go in line with my own ideas. This way I can stay as authentic as possible. It's of course also a question of whether the brand contribution is enough. These two points need to be in balance. I decided not to work with the brand that offers the most, but with the ones, I feel happy with.
Do you accept offers for one-off catalog shootings or campaign-based work even if it is not long-term sponsorship?
If the brand would be in line with what I stand for, yes, why not.
Do you have any advice for climbers who want to pursue a professional career?
Don't think that performance is going to get you rich :)
What do you think about social media? How did it affect the popularity of rock climbing?
It affected the sport very heavily in the past 10 years. It opened up a way for pro athletes to reach out to the community, which I think is great.
How can our readers follow you?
via social media (Instagram: jorgverhoeven; Facebook: jorgverhoeven85) or via my project-based website (project-9b.com)
What is next for you?
Many projects to come! They are literally piling up... Canada, Yosemite, Madagascar are just a few that are coming up in the near future.
Thank you Jorg for this enjoyable interview.
Photos Provided by :
No : 1, 3 and 4 by Jon Glassberg of Louder Than Eleven (www.lt11.com)
Instagram : @louderthan11
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/user/LouderThan11
No : 2 by H.Wilhelm