After examining IHRSA's industry image campaign, we couldn't help but wonder: If given the resources, how would clubs chose to promote the industry?
To get an answer, we e-mailed an informal survey to some of our readers. We asked them how they would put together a campaign for the fitness industry if they had $350,000 to spend. We also asked them to offer some suggestions to IHRSA and Ketchum.
For the most part, readers stood behind IHRSA and Ketchum's decision to target Generation Y (i.e., the echo boomers). Lee Roberts, owner of New Image Health & Fitness in Fulton, N.Y., wrote, "If IHRSA can help turn the youth of today into lifetime health club members - through partnerships with schools, health care providers, government leaders and even manufacturers of equipment - not only will the health club industry see sustained rapid growth, but the quality of life for our entire country will be improved."
Chris Green, owner of Wooster Total Fitness in Wooster, Ohio, also felt that the campaign should target youngsters. "I would advertise on MTV with commercials featuring some of the younger singers. These singers are attractive and seem to want to show off their bodies. I am sure they exercise to maintain their physiques."
Respect Your Elders Still, not every respondent wanted the campaign to focus on young people. Chris Browder, aerobic director of Meltzer's Fitness and Aerobic Center in Shelbyville, Ind., would spend the money on seniors: "They are the most loyal to their fitness program and facility - they rarely miss a workout! I also respect them for the very reason that health and fitness is a priority to them....
"They are also a population I find that brings in their friends, neighbors and families because they believe in what they are doing and want to share it with their loved ones. When younger generations come and go, join, quit, and rejoin, you find that the senior market is the backbone to any fitness center."
While Will Estell, vice president of Corporate Wellness Associates, agreed that the senior market is a "gold mine" for health clubs, he pointed out that baby boomers have already responded to the fitness message. Therefore, it makes sense that IHRSA's campaign is targeting a younger population.
"It is a proven fact that those 16-32 year olds have far more disposable income than their older counterparts who actually need and care more about involvement in a regular fitness or wellness program," he wrote. "In other words IHRSA is doing just what any sane company would do in any ad campaign. They are going after the group with the most untapped money. Not just money - but money that is more easily available for making a `right now-today' decision to join a fitness club."
Rather than concentrate solely on an age group, Jan Rubins of Lifecenter plus Health and Fitness in Hudson, Ohio, would go after the whole family: "You then have the opportunity to market to several markets within the family, such as males, females, children, employees.... If you take into account their extended family, you could utilize seniors and those with medical issues and others. And since time is always a major issue for anyone who works out, promoting the family makes perfect sense because they can do things together...."
Manuel T. Carabel, president of MTC Fitness in Matawan, N.J., concurred that the family should be the focal point of a promotion campaign - with one suggestion. "If IHRSA can relate to the public that fitness and staying healthy can be fun but won't break your wallet," he wrote, "then I could definitely see a growth amongst families and others."
Exercise...Or Else Carabel might have wanted the campaign to be fun, but Derek Barton, the director of PR/advertising/promotions for Gold's Gym International, had a different idea. "I would produce a campaign that said something like, `It's hard to experience life when you're dead.'...," he wrote. "The promotion would explain that without being fit and healthy, it would be hard to enjoy what life has to offer."
Tim Clagg, owner of Valley's Gym in Visalia, Calif., also shared some advice on what the campaign should include: "I would start by erasing the negatives we have. #1 Not everyone who comes to the gym is a body beautiful. #2 Not everyone is looking for a date.
"I would also go after the [companies] that make false claims regarding home gym equipment and supplements (for example, take this shake and lose weight, etc.)."
Mark Carbone, exercise scientist with Joint Effort Physical Therapy in New York City, believes that the industry should market fitness with "real-life stories in advertisements," avoiding celebrity endorsements. "No one can relate to the `buffs' in most fitness/gym ads because they never see what the person looked like before they started. Many shove the idea of getting fit because they only have the stars to look up to. They are well aware the amount of time professionals put in to train their bodies, but the average Joe doesn't have time!"
Furthermore, the average Joe who feels that exercise will interfere with his routine needs to know about the social aspects of a club, according to Nate Crosby, coordinator of sports training at Impulse Training and Assessment Inc. in Greentown, Ohio.
"As many gyms know, long-term clientele comes from creating an atmosphere and activities that allow for the development of social aspects...," Crosby wrote. "For many people this is the only chance to get out of their normal routine and socialize with others like them - which is often just as rewarding as the exercise itself...."
As for where the campaign should be advertised, Al Ferrara, owner of Gold's Gym Miami, Coral Gables and Hollywood, Fla., pointed out that $350,000 can't sustain a large campaign, so aim for the biggest exposure possible. "My suggestion is to run a 15-second ad in the Super Bowl (game or post-game). It continues to be the only program where watching the commercials is actually a part of the event."
One of our favorite suggestions was also the shortest. It came from J. Hammett, owner and operator of PowerhousePlatinum in Atlanta, who knew exactly which group to draw into clubs. "Women only," Hammett wrote. "Men follow."
Hard to argue with that.
Let's cut right to the heart of the matter: Exercise significantly reduces the risk of heart disease. Now, your members are probably aware of the fact that exercise is good for them, but they may not know how good. Since the news media bombards them daily with different (and sometimes contradictory) scientific studies - from the benefits of green tea to the negative effects of caffeine - the truth gets filtered out.
Here's where you come in. Use our handy list of the Top 10 Ways Exercise Can Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease (courtesy of ACE and Club Industry) as both a reminder of the benefits of exercise and an excellent tool for promoting your club's fitness services. Print out copies, pass them out to your members, and reap the benefits of a happier, healthier customer.
Your heart's not in a black-and-white version? No problem. For a full-color version of the Top 10 list, visit www.clubindustry.com.