Keeping Members Entertained

Has your club taken advantage of the latest entertainment systems on the market? If not, you're missing out on an opportunity to make exercise fun and retain members in the process.

Let's face it - many people don't like to exercise, but most know that they need to engage in some form of physical activity to maintain optimal health. Many companies are now making the fitness/programming staff's job easier by combining exercise and entertainment systems.

Today's entertainment systems can provide many options for your members, allowing them to vary their personal preference easily between television, music (e.g., CDs and MP3), DVD and Internet surfing. Some systems even install combination monitors on individual pieces of cardio equipment.

Most clubs can afford to take advantage of many, if not all, of the options available, since many entertainment system companies offer clubs opportunities for revenue generation through advertising programs and retail sales opportunities. This helps offset the price of the equipment in some cases. A few companies will even supply the equipment free of charge. They get their money by showing advertising on the systems that your members watch.

For your members, the benefits of entertainment systems include:

- Making exercise time pass quickly

- Providing members with fun entertainment that meets their individual needs

- Making good use of time during a workout session (e.g., time-pressed members can watch the news or check on their stocks)

- Receiving personalized fitness/health information and/or coaching, as some systems allow users to watch instructional exercise videos

For the club operator, these systems can attract members. Many members like to have the latest equipment on the market, and many people like to be distracted in order to get through a workout.

This equipment can really enhance the sales tour. It shows the prospective member that you are aware that exercise programs should allow members to personalize their experience at the club on each visit. It also shows that working out can be fun, free of monotony and even educational - dispelling some of the myths that the average prospect has about exercising.

If members can personalize their club experience, they will probably be more likely to come to the club for a workout. One day a person might catch up with Oprah, check his/her e-mail or stock portfolio, plan a party, buy a gift or browse a bookstore - all things that the member might have decided to do outside the club, before this opportunity became available.

Having numerous entertainment options means that members don't have to sacrifice some of their errands or favorite activities in order to fit exercise into their schedules. Many companies even encourage members by offering special programs that allow members to earn frequent flyer miles, vacation getaways and sports ap-parel at no cost to the club.

Many members cite lack of time and motivation to get to the club as reasons for discontinuing their membership. Entertainment systems can refute these excuses. By introducing the features and benefits to your clients properly, you give them the opportunity to make the club visit the activity that they don't sacrifice in their hectic day.


Members Who Love Entertainment Systems

Baby boomers: Most baby boomers will watch their favorite show without having to confess that they like it (e.g., Jerry Springer, soap operas). They also check the stocks, and can catch up with the Wall Street Journal online. One mom at the Pacific Athletic Club even planned her entire kid's birthday party while she worked out!

Generation X'ers: They can check out the latest music over the Web, e-mail their friends, etc.

Younger members: Younger members love getting on equipment that looks high-tech, choosing the program of their choice at whim, and not being subjected to predetermined adult favorites.

Seniors: You may need to help them overcome the initial intimidation factor.


Members Who Avoid Entertainment Systems

Elite or self-motivated exercisers: They may not watch television, but many like to work out to their favorite CD.

The intimidated: The equipment does look high-tech, and no one wants to look foolish, especially when they're new to your facility. You can alleviate this by trying the five promotional ideas listed.


Five Ways to Promote Entertainment

1) Highlight the equipment on club tours. Give it exposure in the club newsletter and bulletin boards.

2) Display the promotional material offered by the manufacturer. These often advertise ways for members to earn prizes by working out on the equipment.

3) Have a staff person introduce the equipment to members at peak times. This helps counter the intimidation factor, and reassures members that the equipment is easy to use.

4) Feature the product and benefits on your Web site.

5) Get the club "regulars" on the equipment. It will attract other members interest.