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In the United States, 10 million individuals already suffer from osteoporosis and 18 million more have low bone mass, placeing them at increased risk for the disease.

Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become fragile and are more likely to break. In the United States today, 10 million individuals already have osteoporosis and 18 million more have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for the disease. Eighty percent of those with the disease are women. Even more staggering, one in two women and one in eight men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime. Unfortunately, though, many people do not know they have or even are at risk for osteoporosis because bone loss occurs without symptoms. This is why osteoporosis is often called the “silent disease.”

Given the number of people in the United States who are affected by the disease, a tremendous marketing opportunity exists for health club operators willing to take a little extra time and effort to program to this niche. One such marketing campaign that has enjoyed a high level of success with attracting specific populations is an awareness event.

What Is an Awareness Event?

Unlike a marketing activity that asks the consumer to buy (like February's Heart-Healthy Exercise campaign), an awareness event is designed to accomplish two primary goals. The first of the goals is to capture a large number of prospects' names and numbers in the hopes that future marketing can convert them into paying members. Secondly, the goal is to gain positive exposure by providing valuable information to your community at no cost.

These goals are accomplished by offering individuals a free educational event that is designed to help them learn more about a disease/special condition. More importantly, the program gives them information and strategies to help alleviate and or prevent the disease. Of course, one such strategy for treatment and prevention of most diseases, including osteoporosis, is regular exercise.

Whom Should You Target?

An osteoporosis awareness event is for any community member who would like to receive prevention and treatment information on the disease. Because the event is free, there is no barrier to entry. Furthermore, the event will attract many participants if marketed correctly.

Caution: As crazy as it sounds, your club must be prepared for a high response rate to awareness events. One club anticipated that it would have 35 to 50 responses after advertising a similar event in the local newspaper. The club was overwhelmed with more than 200 responses. Fortunately, because the event required registration for a seat, the club was able to move the event to a local hotel to accommodate the response.

When Should You Have the Event?

Although you could run an osteoporosis awareness event at any time of the year, the National Osteoporosis Foundation launches an annual prevention campaign in May. Because of the media exposure that will coincide with that month, it makes sense to schedule the event then. Further, this will give your club enough time to organize all the details of running such a program.

What Should the Event Include?

Many club operators welcome the thought of having an awareness event that will result in positive exposure and many new potential members at the club. Fortunately, although it certainly will take some time and effort, awareness events are relatively simple to put together.

As a bare minimum you need to have the following:

  • A staff member who is comfortable with making a presentation using Power Point. (To receive a free Power Point presentation for an osteoporosis awareness event, contact Communication Consultants at (800) 725-6147.)

  • A location that will hold at least 50 people. (You can put a limit on the number of attendees in order to have it at your club. Alternately, you can either rent a space at a hotel or, when possible, get the hotel to donate space in exchange for credit and exposure.)

  • An LCD projector and screen for the event. (These can be rented easily.)

  • A handout of the presentation for participants, which summarizes the points of the program. (This is included with the free Power Point presentation mentioned above.)

In addition you can have:

  • Guest speakers.

  • Refreshments.

  • A local hospital or clinic offering bone-density testing, either for free or at a nominal cost.

  • Local clinics and shelters, which can provide information about their osteoporosis-related services.

  • Local assisted-living facilities, which can provide information about their services to participants. (You may charge them a table fee, if need be.)

Where Should You Promote the Event?

Like any good campaign, your marketing should be done in three areas: external, internal and community outreach.

Because an awareness event does not always get an immediate purchasing response, your external marketing needs to be selected carefully and strategically. The least expensive way to reach many people through a traditional form of external marketing is with an insert in a local newspaper. These are preferred over an ad because they have a tendency to be kept long after a newspaper has been thrown away. Further, they often fall out of the newspaper when a reader opens or just even picks up the paper. (For a sample ad, see page 44.)

Your internal marketing should include posters and or flyers throughout the club. It should also be included in a member newsletter when possible.

Your community outreach should consist of a strong press-release sequence throughout the month (see sample press release, right). Secondly, flyers and posters (if possible) should be brought to doctors' offices, clinics, assisted-living homes and other places that attract older individuals who are in a higher-risk category for osteoporosis. (See page 45 for a sample flyer.)

Finally, you should directly invite the media, as well as any local celebrity personalities, to the event.

Combined, these marketing efforts will draw the maximum number of people to your event.

A 16-year veteran of the club industry, Casey Conrad is president of Communication Consultants, a Wakefield, R.I.-based company that provides sales and communications seminars. She has also launched a national chain called Healthy Inspirations, Weight Loss & Lifestyle Centers. For more information about osteoporosis awareness events, contact Conrad at (800) 725-6147.


Sample Press Release

Use this template to create a press release to promote your osteoporosis awareness event to the local media.

ABC CLUB

Contact: Club manager
Club name
Club phone number [include area code]

28 Million Americans Are at Risk!
Learn How to Live With/Prevent Osteoporosis
Local Club Providing Free Osteoporosis Awareness Event

For Immediate Release

[Club Town Name] — Every 20 seconds, osteoporosis causes a facture. That's why the National Osteoporosis Foundation is launching a new prevention campaign in May. In conjunction with this event, [name of club] is sponsoring a free osteoporosis awareness event that will be held [time/date of event], at [location of event]. All community members, friends and family are invited to attend.

The program will consist of [insert all info on lectures, activities, times, expectations, and costs for any services that will be available for nominal fees].

Osteoporosis, a major public threat for more than 28 million Americans, is a disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to break. In the United States today, 10 million individuals already have osteoporosis, and 18 million more have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for the disease. Eighty percent of those with the disease are women. One in two women and one in eight men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.

Even more staggering than the numbers of individuals affected by osteoporosis are the consequences. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, an average of 41 percent of hip-fracture patients age 50 and over leave the hospital to enter a nursing home. Half will be unable to walk without assistance. Sadly, an average of 24 percent of hip-fracture patients age 50 and over die in the year following the injury.

As one might suspect, the cost of osteoporosis-related fractures are staggering. The estimated national direct expenditures were $13.8 billion in 1995, or $38 million per day. The costs can only continue to rise as the American population continues to age.

Unfortunately, many people do not know they have or even are at risk for osteoporosis because bone loss occurs without symptoms. This is why osteoporosis is often called the “silent disease.”

The good news is that although there is no cure for the disease, with increased awareness and education, osteoporosis can be highly preventable and treatable. And, no matter how old you are, it's never too late to begin taking steps to increase your bone strength. Even if you can't attend this free event, begin taking the appropriate actions for better bone health today. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, four simple steps to bone health can help prevent fractures and preserve independence. 1.) Eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. 2.) Perform weight-bearing exercises. 3.) Refrain from smoking and excessive alcohol use. 4.) Have a bone-density test and take preventive medications when appropriate.

Due to space limitations, reservations to attend the osteoporosis awareness event are required. Individuals interested in attending the event should contact the club's fitness director [name of fitness director] by calling [club phone number] today.

[Name of club] has been serving the [town] community for over [number of years in business]. It is the area's leader in [fill in with blurb about the club, making sure to just state facts; do NOT be sales oriented in any way]. The club's number is [club number, including area code].