Hitting the gym helps brand-building

Many a health club frequenter bemoans sugar. The sweet stuff is the enemy; and those who like to stay in shape know how to avoid it. In fact, fitness freaks are experts on all things healthy - and their opinion is gold.

Many a health club frequenter bemoans sugar. The sweet stuff is the enemy; and those who like to stay in shape know how to avoid it. In fact, fitness freaks are experts on all things healthy – and their opinion is gold.

At least, that’s the attitude Equal brand sweeteners took when it approached Toronto’s event marketing company Consolidated Marketing Group (CMG) to poll the health-conscious about their thoughts on sweeteners.

CMG went to Ontario health and fitness clubs during the first week of February to the first week of March, set up displays in the front entrances, gave out sample packets to take home and discovered that Equal is indeed tops in the world of sugar substitutes.

‘This was a very focused program, we wanted to get the pulse of what women were thinking,’ says Toro Bustamente, CMG’s MD.

Equal’s core demo is women aged 18 to 34. In major chains like Mississauga, Ont.-based Premier Fitness, women filled out a ballot that asked them if they purchased sugar replacements: 66% said yes. Other questions included which brands were bought. Equal was first at 36%, followed by Sugar Twin, Sweet & Low and Splenda. (Sugar was still up there, though, at 19%.) When asked if they would purchase Equal again, 50% said yes, while 24% said probably.

Respondents who gave their addresses were added to the ‘Club Equal’ database for future promotions; 390 women joined, and were entered into a draw for two tickets to the Caribbean.

‘Instead of setting up in a general shopping place where there’s lots of clutter, we found places where people are more willing to offer an opinion,’ Bustamente says. ‘If you make it relevant, people are more apt to engage you.’

Health club sampling is quickly becoming popular. Members are mostly like-minded and are a captive audience, much like movie theatre viewers.

A recent study conducted by the Promotion Marketing Association Product Sampling and Demonstration Council in New York found that 25% of gym-goers received an in-house sample last year, and 68% said they were excited about getting the sample. Those samples led to 71% of all participants to purchase the product.

Bustamente says targeting places where prospective demographics can be found is a common practice for CMG. The company has completed similar promotions for Quaker rice cakes in health clubs; it has sampled hot chocolate at the bottom of ski hills and has promoted dental gum at entrances of drugstore chains.

While CMG’s vision is to search out captive respondents, Bustamente’s next location could be a little too captive.

‘In the fall, we want to try sampling in taxi cabs – it gives you an intimate moment with the consumer,’ he says, noting that on average, 18- to 49-year-old men and women spend 10 to 15 minutes per ride. ‘Let’s say you didn’t have time for breakfast this morning and you get in your cab and the driver offers you a fruit bar and a coupon. We look at diverse ways like this for people to sample where a product can be most effective.’