It is pretty much the dream of every human being able to do what they love for a living. After all, who REALLY wants to be miserable Monday to Friday 9-5? But hey, in these trying times very few of us can claim to be living the proverbial dream… and do you know what? That’s just fine; so long as for at least one day a year you can strap in and experience the second best feeling in the world…snowboarding! You can spend the other 364 dreaming about tracking fresh lines or sunny park laps with the homies from behind your desk.
Knut Eliassen is an ex pro snowboarder who now holds the position of team and marketing manager for Nitro Snowboards - talk about living the dream! We caught up with him to talk about what exactly his job entails.
Who are you?! And what is your relationship with Nitro?
My name is Knut Eliassen. I am originally from Minneapolis, Minnnesota, US - but have been travelling around the US and Scandinavia for the last 15 years. I moved to Norway for the last three years of High School, because my dad was Norwegian. I was into snowboarding when I lived in the US, but my interest really sparked when I moved to Norway, probably because the community and country is so much smaller than in the US, so I was able to meet and ride together with some of the legends - Terje, JP Solberg, Daniel Frank etc… I starting snowboarding a lot and eventually I started to get sponsored and one of my first sponsors was Nitro Snowboards in 2002. After riding for Nitro as a Team rider for years, I was living in Salt Lake City, I was offered the job to be the US Team Manager and Marketing Manager - so I obviously said yes to that opportunity. Then for the last 6 years I have been working in the Marketing Department of Nitro together with Andi Aurhammer and Rene Iven. I am now living back in Norway, and am currently the International Marketing Manager with a focus on North America and TM. It is an amazing company to work for and I am so lucky to be surrounded by amazing people, team riders, and snowboarding every day of my life.
The position of Team Manager is pretty much a dream job for many. Can you tell us how that position came about for you and what exactly the job entails?
Team Manager or Marketing Position within snowboarding is a dream job - 100%. If you see the answer above I basically describe how the job came about - I was a team rider for years, went to university in the off-season, met a lot of people over the years, and was basically lucky enough to be in the right spot in my life at the right time, when the TM position for Nitro Snowboards opened up. Being a TM is a dream job, but its a lot of work, but the work isn’t bad because you are working within snowboarding. Whenever someone works within an industry that they are passionate about, they will always work harder than what is expected of them because they want to improve the industry, and give back to those who represent their passion - for me this is snowboarding 100%. I put in long long hours, but it's because I don’t see it as work - I see it as part of my life. So I am so grateful for that. My job consists of a the following (short version):
Team Manager: Negotiating contracts, finding talented and unique individuals, maintaining relationships with team riders and industry people, coordinating team shoots, photos, videos, team movies, contests, etc…
Social Media Manager (Nitro / L1): Creating content, finding content, creating campaigns, and posting on all of our social media outlets 2-5 times a day - to provide our followers and snowboard fans with quality imagery, videos, and inspiration to get up and go snowboarding (because it’s the best!)
Catalog Production: Organizing yearly shoots to create our Catalogs for Nitro Hardgoods, Nitro Outerwear, L1 Premium Goods Outerwear.
Product Reviews: Creating product review videos of all of our product categories to give people a first-hand look at what each of our unique products can offer them to have more fun and stay out longer on the mountain
Marketing: Creating marketing strategies specifically adapted to each channel or silo - to help motivate people to go out and snowboard. I feel our industry as a whole need to work together to show people how fun and “reality escaping” snowboarding is no matter what your skill level is, social status, family status, or age.
Analyze: Continuously monitor and analyse our target audience to help us create marketing efforts and products that meet the consumers’ needs (snowboarders).
Assist Creative Direction: Assist in creative efforts from marketing initiatives to product together with everyone else at NITRO.
Communication: Continue to develop and maintain relationships within the snowboarding industry and try to help grow our favorite thing to do - Snowboarding.
There is a lot more, especially when it comes to the day to day tasks, but these are some of the main points.
Working for Nitro is amazing because we are such a tight group of employees from product development, to art direction, to sales, to customer service that we all have an open door and communicate and assist each other every day - so it is very rewarding and fun to be a part of all the different aspects that go into making a snowboard product.
Nitro has gone through a pretty significant re-branding / re-build over the past few years, if you don’t mind me saying so. Can you comment on this and what challenges you faced from a Team and Marketing perspective?
Nitro has gone through some rebranding over the last few years, but I feel this has been a pretty natural transition as well. People change overtime, and so do brands - they are continuously evolving. There were not too many challenges that came up during this transition on the marketing and team side - all the team riders were on board with our first movie HYPED! from the beginning. We just wanted to bring the team riders together and have a good time snowboarding together, and I knew that if the team guys are having fun we would get amazing “natural” footage - which inspires people to go snowboarding. We want to let everyone know that even the best snowboarders in the world - like to snowboard on the same stuff that everyone else does - they are riding more than just the big 30-meter park jump, or backcountry jump, or AK line, or triple kink street rail. We all snowboard for the same reason - because it’s fun, especially with friends. After we made HYPED! we just started to slowly start focusing more on this aspect… I am really proud of Nitro´s heritage, all those who made it what it has been over the years and what it is now. I am proud to call myself a Nitro kid.
Boom was a massive success, and the presence of Markus and Torgeir and Sven on the contest scene is pretty dominating. From a marketing / branding perspective how do you find the balance between appealing to the wider snowboard market on a whole?
I am so proud of how our last three Nitro movies (Hyped!, The Bad Seeds, and BOOM!) have turned out and I feel they really portray the values, good times, and family vibe that NITRO is and stands for.
But finding a balance between core and mainstream - that is a fine line! It really is, because if you only appeal to the mainstream, then you alienate the passionate snowboarders (which I consider myself). These are the guys and girls that are really driving snowboarding and dedicating so much time and effort to their local snowboard community, which is so so important especially during these “INSTA-NO-FACE-TO-FACE” times. My strategy is to focus on the “REAL" fun and inclusive side of snowboarding that can be shown through our team riders (some of the best in the world), our products, and our graphics. When creating or thinking of new ideas, strategies, product concepts, video projects, or anything I try to ask myself what would the "Young trying to be cool Knut” and our team riders think of this…. I think that is important. It is also important as someone making marketing and branding decisions for a brand to be out and involved in the snowboarding community and snowboard as much as possible to stay in touch with what is going on and what is relevant.
The team is pretty young with Markus only 17… Is there something in the water in Norway?!!!! What do you look for in a young rider and how do you work with them to develop their raw talent and I guess help nurture them through some of their formative years on a personal level?
Hahah…. I am pretty sure there is something in the water in Norway - there are so so so many amazing Norwegian and Scandinavian snowboarders (legends, current, and up and comers) it is insane. Marcus is for sure one of the most talented and addicted snowboarders I have ever met! Total boss (I wish I was him - he is that good). Basically what I look for in a rider is a humble, passionate, addicted (addicted to snowboarding), and positive energy person - that is the best combination for a future in snowboarding. I try to tell all the younger riders who we start working with to just snowboard as much as possible for as long as you can and try to learn a new trick or scare yourself every time you go snowboarding and don´t take the day for granted - but most importantly just enjoy the turns and time with your homies!
What can we expect from Nitro in the 17/18 season?
For the 17/18 season we are working on a documentary about NITRO SNOWBOARDS - a movie that showcases the history, the team, the passion, and the reason for why the owners started Nitro 28 years ago and why they continue to pursue the snowboard dream today together with our current team riders. It will be the first time we have ever done anything like this and I am so excited about it, because Nitro has some amazing history and the family vibe of the company is an inspiration to me and I feel it will be to a lot of others out there. Nitro is founded by snowboarders and run by snowboarders - passionate snowboarders who see the value of sharing the feeling you get from snowboarding with as many people as possible through products, videos, camps, marketing, and innovation. I am just stoked to be a part of it.
Our team riders are also doing a lot of their own projects that will be amazing to see as well.
Words by Lewis McLean