SPORT - INTERVIEW
Tuesday, October 2, 2018
SPORT - INTERVIEW
by Meryem Aksoy
Eva-Maria Brem has discovered her passion for skiing before the age of 3, and she gave signals for her future achievements at her early ages with her talent. She lived two serious and long injury periods but she turned back to the tracks successfully. On the race day, even if she cannot make a performance to win, she knows that she has to fight at the highest level she can. In this way, she became the second female athlete who completed 18 Giant Slalom World Cup events at the Top 10 in a row, and she was on the podium in 11 of them throughout the 2014-2016 period. I asked Eva-Maria Brem about her career and the importance of individual sponsorship in winter sports.
Eva-Maria, you have been skiing since you were 2 years and 3 months, how did you get your first skis and step into your successful career? Who encouraged you?
I got my first pair of Skies in December 1990 two days after Christmas. I was hoping to get one for Christmas but the Christkindl (we call Santa like that in Austria) maybe thought that I was too young and so I didn’t get any skis for Christmas. I cried and begged my dad to buy me some skis over the entire holidays and in the end he bought me my skis. I just wanted to go skiing like my six years elder brother always did.
Eva-Maria Brem - Photo by Holzer Tobias
I would like to learn more about your life, could you tell us about yourself?
I was born and raised in Tyrol, Austria. My dad is a teacher and soccer coach and my mum is a housewife and the heart of our family. I was a very lucky child and spent most the time of my childhood outdoors. I remember only being home for eating and sleeping. All the time left I spent skiing in winter and playing in the woods in summer. I think that’s why I am so connected with nature. Being in outdoors and spending time in the mountains is my source of power and it calms my mind. At the early age of 15, I took a big step and left home to have the chance to become a professional ski racer. I was in a boarding school called Skigymnasium Stams and graduated there successfully. As long as I remember I always wanted to become a professional ski racer, but it was also important for me to create something besides that as a future. I graduated from school, did a vocational training (customs police) and just some time ago I started studying management in sports. My lifestyle is based on hard work and spending time in nature and with my beloved ones. If you want something, you have to work for it and that’s what I do.
Could you tell us about your ski career? Why did you prefer giant slalom?
My skiing career was always connected with a lot of hard work. I was very talented in my early ages and everybody thought that this career will be a safe thing. But I had to get over two very bad injuries, which are the cause why I prefer giant slalom now. I always wanted to compete in every discipline, but due to my injuries, I had to focus on a certain discipline. I broke my lower leg twice (in 2010 and in 2016). This injury is very bad for a ski racer, and it took me about 2 years after each injury being able to compete again without any pain. So, right now I focus on giant slalom. It was a feeling just like coming home when I was winning the Overall giant slalom World Cup back in 2016. I was the best in this discipline over the entire season and I want to come back to this.
You have won a lot of national and international championships in your career, besides becoming Austria's Sportswoman of the Year 2016. Could you tell us about your achievements in your career?
From March 2014 until October 2016 I have always been in the Top 10 in a Giant Slalom World Cup Event. 18 events in a row, 11 times on the podium. There was only one women skier in Giant Slalom who achieved that before. That is beside the victories and podiums and the giant slalom Overall World Cup win my biggest achievement, because it stands for my quality as a ski racer to perform constantly. In such a long time, you don’t always have the perfect day, sometimes you are sick, sometimes you choose the wrong skies, but you always have to make the best out of every race day. It is crucial what you make out of one of your bad days. Because if you have a good day and you are in shape than it is "easy" to show a good performance. Becoming Austrian's Sportswoman of the Year was something special, because it is not a race- it's a sports journalist's voting. And I still love thinking back to this moment.
Eva-Maria Brem - Courtesy of Technogym
Many of the athletes live very serious problems after coming back from injuries. How did you manage your two serious injury periods and returned better? What was your motivation?
The problem is, that if you are a professional athlete and you get injured, then this is some kind of life crisis. You can’t do your work, and your day, month, year changes from one day to another with getting injured. If you are a professional ski racer you have about 10 years to do your job. And if you get injured you lose time. In my case I can say, I lost all in all about 4 years of my professional career due to injuries. It was not like, that I wasn’t skiing for 4 years, but I wasn’t able to perform on my highest level in this time and this is a very hard thing. Knowing your time in the job is limited, the time when you can chase your dreams you were working for your whole life so far. But I always kept going because I knew I only have this one chance to do it. Maybe there are some painful years, but coming back is totally worth it. It's a huge challenge for your mindset to keep the patience and work on your comeback. Coming back just simply makes you a better sportswoman and a better person. But I always questioned myself- is it worth it? And the answer always was, yes I wanna go through all this because I want to be competing again.
Eva-Maria, what does skiing means for you?
Skiing for me means definitely some kind of self-expression and freedom. It’s a really hard job with a lot of pieces you have to bring together: your mind, your body, your skies, boots, and all the other things like sponsors, press, … It’s more than a full-time job and to be successful you have to give it your all. Trying to bring all these pieces together is a work that is never done, you can always do better in some fields.
Eva-Maria Brem - Photo by Holzer Tobias
What are the basic problems that skiers have been living during their career?
In my opinion, the basic problem is, that you have to be on top for a long time to really make some economic benefits. One win isn’t enough. If you win a race, people and sponsors recognize you and you have to confirm your achievement with every new race coming up. And then it comes the time, when you get interesting for sponsors and you are in some kind of a dilemma - let’s call it a nice dilemma ;-). You should keep your performance high and also find the time to make your sponsors and the press happy. Which is a little bit of a balancing act between the sportswomen in you and the knowledge you have only some years in your job as a professional athlete where you are able to make some money.
How could skiers solve these problems? What is the permanent solution?
It would be great to have some talented sports managers in Austria who could help athletes focusing on their "real work". Maybe that’s the reason why I started my education in sports management.
Eva-Maria Brem - © ServusTV / Neumayr / Leo
What is the best way to attract sponsors' attention?
The best way is being successful. But nowadays it also needs more. For a ski racer, it’s difficult to show your personality. In Austria, we are part of a big federation and we wear helmets with our individual sponsor, but besides that, we are all wearing the same clothes, racing suits,… Social Media brought the athletes the benefit to show a little bit more behind the scenes, your personality, your lifestyle and things like that. And that is beside all the success an important fact for sponsors. They wanna know who they will be working with. And of course, it is like everywhere else you have to know the right people or somebody you are working with has to know the right people and kicks off the idea of a sponsoring partnership.
What contributions do sponsor brands provide skiers?
That depends very much on the sponsor. For example, the ski factory provides beside money, a technician who is with me in training and on all the races. The goal of a ski factory is to have of course successful athletes who win races, but also athletes are also involved in the development of new skies and boots, which is an important factor of the future success and sales figures from the factory.
What do sponsors expect and demand from skiers?
There is a differentiate between Team and individual sponsors. The Team sponsors are visible on our team clothes like jackets and racing suits. So it’s important for us as athletes to wear the team clothes on race and training days and on public performances. Participating in events from team sponsors are also wished and mandatory.
With an individual sponsor, it depends on the wishes of the sponsor and of course on the readiness of the athlete. Possibilities are multiple from helmet sponsor, social media contents, TV or print advertisement, as a special guest for their events,…
As an athlete, you are limited in your selection of individual sponsor because your individual sponsor is not allowed to be in competition with the team sponsors.
Could you tell us about your sponsors? What are the brands that you collaborate with?
I’m collaborating with FISCHER (skis and boots), KOMPERDELL (ski poles), UVEX (helmet and goggles), SONAX (my head sponsor on the helmet, caps), TECHNOGYM, ALPBACHER BERGBAHNEN, and AUDI right now. I’m very proud of every collaboration because all of them are longterm sponsors who stuck with me when I was injured and I stuck with them because I know of the value of a long-term partnership, based on trust and having the same goals. It’s possible to make some "fast money" with some short-term deals and partners, but these collaborations often doesn’t mean YOU as a personality or athlete and I don’t like working with those kinds of people, who are there when you are successful and let you drop when you are injured or something similar.
How many different platforms do you represent your sponsors throughout the year?
I represent my sponsors on all of these platforms, but in which extent and frequency depend on our contract and of course on my race and training schedule.
What are your expectations from your sponsors?
Honesty, fairness and an open way of communication.
What are you paying attention to when a new brand contacted you about sponsorship?
What the brand stands for- If it fits my values. And if it fits I am a fan of a personal meeting to talk about all of the rest. Do we have the same goals? Conception?...
What are the main factors that affect the beginning and continuity of successful sponsorship collaboration?
The contact is the first step. This can happen directly or over third. But after that, I think it is very important to have a personal connection to the sponsor. Because YOU and the SPONSOR are working together. It’s not the sponsor and your manager or your federation. Of course, they help to do things quickly when needed. It is also important for both sides to give a collaboration the chance to grow with the time. Often collaboration gets canceled too easily and fast. Looking back in time it often would have been better for both sides to give it chance and to be sure about the chances of this certain collaborations.
Do you have any advice for skiers who want to pursue a professional career?
I think it’s like everywhere else. Keep working hard all the time will pay off. Nothing is handed to you in life, besides some talent. If you are gifted with talent - start working.
What do you think about social media? How did it affect the popularity of Giant Slalom?
Social Media is a great way you to show your personality besides all the TV or newspaper opinions about you. But I’m also a critical user of it. I recognize the development with all the influencer advertisings and you can see that there is a big mainstream content on social media. It’s a very nice tool and it makes fun, but I point out to use it with understanding.
How can our readers follow you?
They can follow me on Facebook and Instagram and they can be 100% sure that every content is coming from me in person. That’s the reason why I don’t post so much, but if they can be sure it is me sitting behind my phone or laptop and reaching out to them.
What is next for you?
Right now I’m in full preparation for the upcoming season starting at the end of October.
Thank you Eva-Maria for this enjoyable interview.