July 02, 2010 – North Americans are well accustomed to seeing point-guards on the cover of sports magazines and armor-clag linemen posing with cheerleaders. What’s not so common on this side of the Atlantic is seeing endurance athletes peering over the rim of designer sunglasses from the cover of a men’s magazine. Call it cultural differences, but Norway’s Vi Menn Magazine likes nothing better than having one of their country’s biggest starts living the good life on their high-gloss pages. Alex Øystå is the Editor-in-Chief and Vice-President of Vi Menn, one of Petter Northug’s sponsors and the key supporter behind the upcoming Vegas showdown between Northug and rival Marcus Hellner. Øystå graciously took some time to answer a few questions about his publication and their plans for the World Series of Poker with Northug and Hellner.
How long has Vi Menn been a sponsor of Petter Northug?
Alex Øystå: For one season (2009/2010)
Has he been a good spokesperson for your publication and what are some of the benefits you’ve seen?
AO: Yes, Petter fits very well with the profile of Vi Menn. He is fearless, extreme and very committed to achieve his (high) goals. The motto for Vi Menn is “Let men be men”. He’s had a positive affect on readers, advertisers and very much internally at the magazine. Remember, cross-country skiing is one of the most popular events in Norway with more than half the population glued to the TV on competition days. I don’t think even Superbowl compares…
Can you give us a brief description of Vi Menn including your circulation and target audience?
AO: Vi Menn (est. 1951, two years before Playboy) has a weekly circulation of 80,000 and is the largest weekly for men in Northern Europe and, per capita, probably in the world. It includes 7 sub-brands (Boating, Cars, Science and History, Football etc). With 520,000 readers each month (1.2 million for all brands) it means that 25% of the male population in Norway is connected to Vi Menn on a weekly basis. Vi Menn targets rural and adventure-seeking males and makes fun of men using grooming products… if you know what I mean.
How did the idea of a poker showdown at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and rollerski race in Vegas come about?
AO: Petter plays poker as a hobby and wanted to do the WSOP. We thought that winter sports on wheels is probably the ONLY thing Vegas has NOT experienced, so we thought it could be fun to try and show people there what kind of athletes Nordic skiers are all about.
Has Northug ever competed in a major tournament?
AO: He placed 250th out of 848 players in the European Poker Tour in April.
Does Hellner have any experience playing poker – we hear that a number of Swedes have played at the WSOP?
AO: Not sure, but I do not think he’s an experienced player.
How do you think Vegas will react to a rollerski race in their streets as they’ve never seen anything like this – have you received any feedback so far?
AO: As we’ll stage this race relatively early on Monday, July 5th (by the Palms Hotel), I do not anticipate any crowd. But the few that will see it will have a memory of lifetime.
Northug and Hellner have a bit of a reputation as party boys – should we be expecting some wild nights in Vegas?
AO: These guys have a hard training regimen once or twice a day, 7 days a week, except for a few weeks in April, so there will some rolleskiing and cycling in the desert combined with trips to the gym each day. Their nightlife will probably suffer due to this.
Is this adventure part of a Vi Menn strategy to break into the American magazine market…?
AO: Our goal is world domination, so I strongly advise you to sell your stocks in Men’s Health and Playboy.
The Vegas Showdown takes place this weekend, July 3-6. Stay tuned for results from the WSOP and reaction to the rollerski race from the streets of Vegas.