Fitness Clubs Should Catch Some Baseball Fever

Members will pay good money for a product or service that provides them value.

Another Opening Day in Kansas City came and went on Monday, and for the first time in four years, my feet don't hurt.

While stepping away from my day job covering the fitness club industry, I served as a docent in the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame. I worked three straight Opening Days at Kauffman Stadium, and with the ballpark open early to a sold-out crowd those days, I spent a good seven to eight hours standing on concrete. Not good for the feet, even with good shoes.

I only worked a handful of games each of the past three years, mostly on weekends. The goal was to share my baseball and Royals knowledge with patrons, but mostly it was "Don't touch that" or "It's OK to touch that" or "There are no bathrooms here—you'll have to go out onto the concourse."

The real goal of mine when I started in 2010 was to work the All-Star Game, which Kansas City hosted last year. I worked all three days during All-Star week at The K, including the game itself. I only saw a half-inning of the game (pictured above), but that was fine with me.

I was expecting to see fans from all over the country during that week, and to a certain extent, I did. But here's what surprised me, and here's where the fitness industry can learn a thing or two: The majority of fans who spent hundreds of dollars on tickets to the Futures Game or the Home Run Derby or the All-Star Game were average Joe families from Kansas City. They weren't all high-rollers who could comfortably afford these tickets. These people, from my perspective, circled that week on their calendars three years in advance and made sure they did everything they could to get those tickets, regardless of the price. The last time the All-Star Game came to Kansas City was almost 40 years ago, and it will probably be another 40 years before it returns. Kansas City baseball fans, with young sons and daughters in tow, weren't going to miss this chance.

The point is this: People will spend top dollar on something they want. Club operators, if you provide a product or service that people will want and that people will need, they will spare no expense. A lot of people are walking around with smartphones and iPads with service plans they probably can't afford, yet they have them because they make them feel good. A lot of people spend top dollar on concert tickets and season tickets to their favorite team because this is what they value. For better or for worse, going to concerts and being a season-ticket holder gives them a certain status in society, in their mind.

Club operators need to find that value and make people want to join, want to be a member, want to achieve a certain status in their community. That's why industry shows continue to hire business experts for their keynotes who wax poetically about the successes of Apple and Southwest Airlines and Harley-Davidson, as I mentioned in a blog post last week. Those companies know how to provide value to their customers. And people have a need to obtain value at any price.

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