The year 2006, my first contact with Jizerska 50. My friend Petra took me to see financier Jan Klenor – a visionary who saw a potential in the race – and Martin Koucký from Skiklub. They suggested I do marketing for the event.
We quickly reached an agreement because I liked their vision and I knew it was just the job for our team. I immediately started meeting the partners and thinking how to turn Jizerská into the largest skiing event to which the president, ministers and the biggest world skiing stars would come.
During “my” first edition of the race, we lured one thousand more people to the start than the year before and we felt good about it. At least we had something to show to the locals. Not that they started to trust us – people from Prague – but we made an impression.
However, it was also the first time I realised that doing “business” with “Padesátka” was mainly doing “business” with the weather. There was no snow and a week before the event I started to think about the possibility that the race to which we had devoted a year of work, might have to be called off. And so it was.
On the day of the start we met at the stadium in Bedřichov and to keep the contract we wrote on a used envelope: “All three parties have agreed that Jizerská is called off.” There was no other option, since there were crocuses already in bloom at the stadium.
In short, it was a dry training and I had to persuade our partners who had put their money in the event they would have to wait another year, that we’ll enter the history of the race with a flourish of trumpets.
In 2008 the snow was there. Together with Czech TV we wanted to provide the viewers with something new – unusual footage from the trail, broadcasting the camera signal from the snowmobiles that take the camera deep into the mountains along the trail. At the time it was quite unusual.
It’s easy with a five-kilometre circuit, but with fifty it seems impossible. Czech TV came up with a complicated solution. It suggested we hire a copter and transfer the signal from the mobiles straight to the TV channel. The cost? A quarter of a million Czech crowns. It was a lot, but TV is key for marketing. Let’s do it!
During the test on Saturday, the engines of the large helicopter were roaring in all of Bedřichov, but minutes before the start on Sunday, the bad news came. The chopper couldn’t go up because of the fog. The investment was lost! The snowmobiles with cameras set out in vain. We broadcast live only from the stadium.
For the following years we had a plane which, unlike the helicopter, can fly above clouds at 30,000 feet in any situation. In 2013, combining a plane, a helicopter and fantastic weather we pulled off a live broadcast made up of fantastic footage. The president of the Liberec Region Martin Půta told me afterwards: “This is the most beautiful advertising for the whole region.”
Encouraged by the success we decided on a creative invitation card the following year. The envelopes with an invitation to all participants also contained artificial snow and the idiomatic slogan: “Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” We were sure it would work. And it did. A day after we sent out the invitations we got a call from TV Nova. Fire brigades around the country were busy with strange powder in envelopes sent to our contestants. They had one operation after another.
At the time the media were full of the stories of anthrax sent in post. We hadn’t realised this risk. But we soon realised the probable cost of all the false alarms. The idea of foreign TV channels calling me the following day was really making me uneasy.
In the end no one wanted anything from us, because it really was just artificial snow. Plus we got pretty good publicity, since TV Nova mentioned it twice in their main news programme.
However, it must have been the year of the shortened trail that proved to be the biggest challenge. Fortunately, it turned out the makeshift four-kilometre circuit which was run several times had a lot of nice and positive things to offer too.
In spite of the weather and thanks to the efforts of the organisational team around Martin Koucký and the lads from Progres, the race took place, the audiences in the stadium had elite skiers at arm’s reach every few minutes and the participants thanked us that even though they hadn’t believed it, they enjoyed the race and the atmosphere. And that’s our goal! All the problems welded us together and now the Prague guys from RAUL are part of the Jizerská squad! We’re one team and Jizerská is growing with us.
From three thousand to seven thousand participants, from three weekend races to seven at which Czech TV participates broadcasting the Jizerská race in a four-hour live programme, including hobby skiers crossing the finish line. That’s what I call good business - when everyone is happy and we at Raul really enjoy it.