RealTime IT News

Health Club Marketing: They Lose, You Win

This article courtesy of ChannelSeven.com.

"It's beyond banner, it's rich media, it's content sponsorships"
Adam Handelsman, Netpulse

Face it, working out is boring with a capital "B". Watching your "calorie burned" counter move at a maddeningly slow pace or lip reading television with no sound only serves to remind you that not only are you exhausted, but this is time during which, while your body is firming up, your brain is atrophying.

Thanks to modern technology, advertisers and marketers can now reach these pliable minds just as they're seeking a diversion from the monotony. Slowly, but surely, a new generation of workout equipment is appearing in health clubs across the country -- one that will let gymgoers click through their workouts as they watch TV, listen to music, or access the Internet. It's a new type of network -- one which reaches a captive audience that may be difficult to reach through traditional media.

Advertising in the Zone
One of the players installing these systems, E-Zone Networks, Inc. has two products it's selling. The Model 1 has a five-inch screen, and provides a choice of television channels, as well as the ability to listen to CDs or tapes. The Model 2 touts a 12-inch screen and the ability to hyperlink to Web sites. So far, the E-Zone Network machines are installed in more than 300 clubs, with a total of 10,000 access terminals. These clubs include Town Sports International, Club One, America Club Systems, YMCA, Gold's Gym, and AC Fitness.

Of course, gymgoers are paying for this service with their attention. To receive the headphones, users must fill out an exhaustive survey about their demographic characteristics and interests. Then, when they plug in to use the service, they are treated to two minutes of targeted advertisements. Advertisers benefit by reaching this highly-desirable demographic at a time when they're not distracted, and by getting stats on viewership. "It's accountable because you get a report at the end of exactly how many people watched your commercial," said Skip Vose, executive vice president for media sales at E-Zone.

The product not only provides great ad space, it is also popular with club members. According to a study conducted by Dr. Jane Annesi, previously sedentary adults men and women utilizing E-Zone machines received superior fitness results to members who simply watched television, listened to music or did neither. The good news for health clubs is that members were nearly twice as like to stay with a fitness regime that included interactive equipment.

James Dudley, fitness manager for Aquae Sulis Spa in Las Vegas, Nevada believes that his members are working out longer and enjoying their time at the spa more thanks to the E-Zone apparatus. The machines are not directly connected to the cardiovascular equipment, they are mounted on a bar extending over a row of machines. The club member simply plugs in headphones, chooses what type of entertainment she prefers, and begins her workout. Cordless headphones allow members to move from the treadmill right to the free weights while still being entertained.

Taking the Pulse of Exercisers
The other player in this arena is Netpulse, whose chief executive, Tom Proulx, was one of the founders of personal finance software player, Intuit. While Netpulse's concept is similar to that of E-Zone, the configuration is drastically different. Netpulse actually builds its equipment into the specific machines that the health club chooses, adding a 15-inch flat screen that is powered by a high-speed broadband Internet connection. Its affiliates include Bally Total Fitness, CRUNCH, YMCA, Gold's Gyms, New York Health & Racquet Clubs, Sport & Health, Powerhouse Gyms, and Western Athletic Clubs.