FORT KENT, Maine — Sponsorship visibility is everything at the IBU World Cup Biathlon in Fort Kent this week.
Just ask George Dumond, event festival chief.
After his committee spent several days and $6,000 building a specialized ramp and platform for major sponsor automaker BMW to display a brand-new BMW X-Drive, at the last minute they were told the display was being relocated.
“We had to move it across the stadium toward the lodge because they needed a better camera angle,” Dumond said. “We ended up setting up a whole new ramp for them.”
From stickers on rifle stocks to banners along the course, it’s all about product placement to maximize television exposure to the estimated 120 million European biathlon fans viewing the competition on live television.
Earlier in the week skiers with the Maine Winter Sports Center skied a mock race so broadcast production teams could ensure their cameras caught not only the athletes, but also sponsors’ banners as they panned the course.
On Thursday before the event’s first race — the men’s 10K sprint — got under way, still photographers and the German television view reached an eleventh-hour truce over where the photographers could stand to best photograph athletes on the firing range and not be in the way of the television cameras.
Volunteers checking equipment before the races were looking at more than rifles, cartridge clips and skis.
Each athlete’s rifle was required to have a very specific sticker advertising sponsor German heating system manufacturer Viessmann placed on both sides of the stock.
If the Viessmann sticker was missing or not of the specified size, volunteers had plenty on hand to slap on the rifles before the athletes took to the course.
“These sponsors help pay a big part of this race,” Dumond said. “We are happy to do what they need to have done.”
Hooked on biathlon
Lanny Kraus fully admits to being hooked on biathlon.
He’s been that way ever since seeing his first race back in 1976 at the Innsbruck Winter Olympic Games.
“I love biathlon and have since the first time I saw it,” he said Thursday afternoon. “It’s the most exciting and colorful sport out there.”
Kraus was in Fort Kent volunteering as a race timer — something he has done dozens of times over the last 30-plus years at races all over the country.
“I really follow the sport, and anytime the World Cup races are in the United States I try to attend,” he said. “And I’ll keep on doing that as long as I can.”
Kraus was in Presque Isle last week volunteering during World Cup competition at the Nordic Heritage Center and was in Aroostook County for the World Junior Cups several years ago.
“The spirit of these communities is really amazing,” he said. “The people are just fantastic.”
Kraus admitted his friends back home in South Carolina can’t quite understand his passion for the sport.
“In South Carolina biathlon is anything that combines two things, like knitting and rowing,” he said. “I do my best to educate them.”