Client Case Lecture: Vasaloppet - Changing the customer offering in response to the corona pandemic

John Gibe


During 2020, the Corona Pandemic was an unexpected event affecting the world, Sweden and Vasaloppet. Consequences were severe at the point of writing this summary, only time will tell the final social and economic effects.
Due to lead-times and participants’ need to plan for the summer, Vasaloppet was expected to have a clearer view on what the summer offering 2020 would look like. Should Vasaloppet cancel like some other races and events had already done, move the event from mid August to later during the year, or offer a complementary approch through e.g., digital services? Vasaloppet reached out to its innovation partner IBM for assistance in the decision process.
The project had two full working weeks before presenting a recommendation to Vasaloppet’s board. During this time, the project organized a workshop with participants representing four participant personas, as well as a three major sponsors, to understand how participants and partners look upon the situation, what their planning horizons look like, and what kind of options they might value if the Vassaloppet would create an alternative offering for the Summer 2020. The workshop utilized assets and skills developed with the participants during Enterprise Design Thinking processes during previous years. Participants attribute great value to being ”on-site” in the Vasaloppet Arena in the Dalarna region. Their preferences and experience with digital training tools vary significantly, and they also expressed a strong preference for being able to make their own choices, should Vasaloppet not be able to organize traditional races during 2020. The need for robust and continuous communications was very clearly expressed and the participants also emphasized that they trust Vasaloppet to make the best decision.
In addition to Participants and Sponsors, two of Vasaloppet’s closest constituencies, there are of course also employees, thousands of volonteers, regional businesses, audience/media and owners to take into consideration in decision-making and communication.
Three members of the project team were charged with developing one strategy each for the summer offering over several iterations and with regular coaching. Clarification of goals (Customer satisfaction, long-term brand and relationships, and given that: minimized short-term financial damage) and outlining the decision-making-process was part of the task. Each strategy was evaluated followed by a choice, recommendation, and decision by the board.
The selected strategy will give customers very attractive options to choose from, including but not limited to an option to participate in races wherever the participant is, augmented by reporting, coaching, and inspiration both prior to and during race days. Vasaloppet will utilize many of its strengths in social media, Vasaloppet TV (developed with IBM during 2017 and 2018), communications and know-how about cycling, running and the arena to build a rich experience.
Next steps for Vasaloppet includes development of a communication plan, detailing of strategy execution, and working out what an adapted Summer week on site in Dalarna could look like, if deemed possible given the development of the pandemic during May 2020.


Photo of John Gibe

John is a client-facing management consultant at IBM with a background in strategy and digital research, contributing process skills such as opportunity- and issue framing, interviewing, workshop facilitation, analysis, presentation, IBM design thinking. His main content skills include:
- Strategic management & Marketing
- Digital
- Decision-making, economic analysis & executive communication
- Operating models including KPIs, governance and business processes
- Research and Innovation
- Reviews and Due diligence
- Citizenship and Engagement

John designs, sells and delivers team engagements to clients on behalf of IBM. During his 20+ years at the intersection of strategy and technology he has written about B2C e-commerce (1999), B2B electronic marketplaces (2001), and collaborative B2B in buyer-supplier relationships (2007) from a value- and capability perspective. He is a regular contributor to the award winning IBM Sweden THINK Blog. Together with professor Thomas Kalling at Lund University, he published "Business Models and Strategy" (2019).

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