In spite of a drop in the number of visitors, this year's edition of Ispo Munich show got good marks, thanks in part to a good snow season, a new layout of the trade show and exciting new initiatives like the new Ispo Digitize area in Hall A4 with an Adidas Digital Showroom, Sportmas' Retail Lab and the digital solutions of a couple of other firms.

As the organizers had expected, the number of daily passages through the turnstiles reached a level of more than 84,000, but that was down from 86,841 one year ago. Many important visitors apparently came only on the second or third day of the show, possibly because of the partial overlap of dates with Ispo Beijing and the Outdoor Retailer & Snow Show in Denver, which reportedly went well, too.

The dates of the three shows will not overlap next year, as Ispo Beijng will move to a different exhibition center and Outdoor Retailer will have more flexibility in the choice of dates at its new venue in Denver than it did when it first applied for a time slot.

The visitors came from 120 countries, and their mix was more international than a year ago, with the highest increases recorded - in order - from Austria, Japan, Turkey, the Czech Republic, the U.K. and the U.S.

The number of companies exhibiting at the world's largest sporting goods fair went up by 2 percent to 2,801, holding good promise for the planned expansion of the fairgrounds in 2019. There are indications that some companies that have left the show may come back – not necessarily to take orders for new products.

Anyway, Tobi Gröber, who manages Ispo and other fairs by Messe München, pointed out at a “digital symposium” organized with Adidas that Ispo's business model has changed from “selling square meters” to “creating valuable connections” and contributing to accelerating the global evolution of the sports sector.

Under Gröber's management, Ispo has been transforming itself into a 365-day network with internet-based services such as Ispo Open Innovation and with the conferences organized by the Ispo Academy, most recently in emerging markets like India and Brazil as well. The newest initiative is Ispo's partnership with Tmall, which we have already reported about.

Since January 2016, the ispo.com platform has reached out to more than 7.5 million unique visitors for a total of over 20 million page impressions, with most of the traffic coming from Germany, the U.S., Austria, Italy and Switzerland. The community around Ispo Open Innovation has grown to over 40,000 registered consumer experts. The traffic on ispo.com has generated over 1.5 million user profiles for businesses and consumers, and it has led to over 70 million impressions in the social media. Its online reach has outperformed that of other German-based fairs like OutDoor and Eurobike in Friedrichshafen or Premium in Berlin.

To further accelerate its digital transformation and that of the industry, Ispo has introduced a new, growth-oriented Ispo Digitize concept. As well as showing new digital solutions at Ispo Munich and Ispo Beijing, it will involve a new, annual Digital Summit for the sports industry. The first convention will be held in Munich next June 28-29.

It will be fueled in part by the results of a free online “Digital Readiness Check,” to which all the members of the sports industry are invited all-year-round, covering issues like strategy & vision, corporate leadership and culture, internal and external collaboration, workflows, the consumer experience, marketing and communications, sales, big data analytics and cyber security.

More on the digitalization of the industry and the trade in Sporting Goods Intelligence Europe