Norway’s professional cross-country skiers have been racing through the season with ads plastered all over their uniforms, including one for a Russia vodka maker that’s a main sponsor of the international ski federation FIS. The ads did not please Norway’s strict public health directorate, which the local ski association claimed Tuesday has “threatened” it into removing from any display at this week’s Holmenkollen Ski Festival.
Norway bans any advertising for alcoholic beverages. The Russian vodka maker has advertised earlier in Norway, not least at World Cup events at Holmenkollen and in Lillehammer last year, without the authorities reacting. This year they did, after local media wrote about how skiers including Petter Northug and Marit Bjørgen were crossing the finish line at the recent World Championships in Sweden emblazoned with the vodka-maker’s ad on their chests. The ads may have caught attention because Northug himself was involved in a drunk-driving scandal last year, so it was a bit ironic to watch him ski in Sweden wearing ads for water made by a vodka maker.
The health directorate’s decision to “call the federation’s attention to Norwegian law” was “a bit strange,” commented Terje Lund, events chief at Norway’s ski federation, to state broadcaster NRK. But the health directorate “has made a threat and will get things their way,” he said. That means the ski federation has had to “buy out” the ads from FIS, paying the international ski federation for them. The local federation managed to resell the ad space, so Lund told NRK that they expect to break even in the end.