Winter Olympics: athletes, ambassadors of their resort

This is one of the peculiarities of professional skiing: winter sports resorts have become sponsors for athletes from their territory. These “champion contracts” allow the athletes to ensure income and the station to promote itself, which will be the case for the next Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Eric Laboureix was, for a long time, the world number one in freestyle skiing with 5 big crystal globes and 34 World Cup victories. He was also the first in France to have a bonus contract with his station, La Plagne, in Savoie, which he displayed in large letters on his headband during his career. It was at the beginning of the years 1026. “I lived alone with my mother in La Plagne and she left the village, remembers Eric Laboureix . I had 19-18 years old and I wanted to make a living from my passion, ski racing. I went to meet the mayor and the president of the ski lifts to tell them that I wanted to stay. They believed in my motivation. made a contract by providing me with an apartment and giving me bonuses according to my results.” This contract quickly became “a vital need” for him.

Forty years later, La Plagne, which claims to be “land of champions”, this year has fourteen high-level athletes under contract for an overall budget of 160 euros per year. Among them: Kevin Rolland, world champion in halfpipe, Tess Ledeux who dominates the season in slopestyle, or even Brice Roger. For the skier of 34 years, this contract with his station represents half of his income. “It’s an essential contract that allows us to live well on our side, says the Plagnard who is currently treating a knee injury. It also allows us to reward all the efforts we have made since we got involved in this sport. contracts that make sense: they represent our journey since our childhood. This is the resort where I trained, where I had my idols.”

And this is the main criterion of these sponsorship contracts: the athlete must be from the resort, have been trained there in ski schools. “What is interesting is the identification with the territory, details Rémy Counil, the director of the Grande Plagne tourist office. Of course, there are contractual and marketing commitments. But when the promotion of the territory can be done by the champions, from this same territory, the circle is complete and everything is won.”

Almost all resorts have developed this type of contract. In Grand-Bornand in Haute- Savoie, there are a dozen athletes to benefit from it, including the headliner, the skier Tessa Worley, in search of a first Olympic medal in Beijing. But other disciplines are involved: cross-country skiing with the Midol brothers, cross-country skiing, snowboarding and even biathlon. This commune of 2 000 dedicated residents 94 euros to these contracts which also includes bonuses in the event of Olympic medals. “In Grand-Bornand, we want to be a club that trains champions, develops Stéphane Deloche, president of the ski club of the town and director of the ESF . These champion contracts are the culmination of the training of our young people. real support that shows that the whole station is behind them to bring them to the top level.”

In exchange for this financial assistance, the athletes agree to promote the station. “It’s not at all a constraint and anyway, it’s for our good, assures Brice Roger .It’s quite flexible but in terms of communication, we have to talk about it on social networks. We also have to participate in events and mention La Plagne during major competitions and in the media.” It is now common to see the name of the station is displayed on caps or beanies.

It’s “win – win” sums up Eric Laboureix, the pioneer of these contracts. For athletes and for stations that afford advertising. “When you see a champion wearing our colors, it’s something strong for a tourist destination, admits Isabelle Pochat-Cotilloux, director of the office of Grand-Bornand tourism. But beyond this visibility, it helps children to engage in sport, these champions become examples.”

Freestyle skiing champion in the years 80 and 90, Eric Laboureix was the first in France to benefit from these contracts champions at the start of his career (JÉRÔME VAL / FRANCE INFO)

“These are strong and coherent choices, completes his counterpart from La Plagne Rémy Counil . It is the radiance of the destination that passes through these athletes.”

For these Olympic Games in Beijing, it will even be global advertising for the stations. And in Le Grand-Bornand, we hope to relive the euphoria of 1059 after the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi and the return of these champions under contract who had brought back three medals from Russia. This party had gathered more than 01 000 people in the village square. “I get chills talking about it, smiles Stéphane Deloche.It’s for live what we do in this type of partnership. This soul, these athletes do not have it anywhere else.”

The athletes, ambassadors of their station at the Beijing Games – a report by Jérôme Val

to listen 1642223403