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Sports & Fitness

Web Marketing Works Out

1 Jan, 2011 By: Jackie Jones Response

As health and fitness continues to dominate the DRTV space, marketers find increased success by expanding into online and digital platforms.


Coming Out on Top

As digital becomes more prominent across all markets, the more successful health and fitness marketers, such as Beachbody — whose product P90X was ranked No. 1 in the IMS Top 50 Infomercials of 2010 — are following suit.

The company, which has more than $400 million in annual sales, has transformed its site into not just a point of purchase for consumers, but also an online community.

“I think you’re certainly seeing more orders taken online than ever before, and so along with that ordering process comes enhanced Web environments. (Beachbody is) doing an amazing job providing support for customers and creating a place for people to learn about health and fitness,” Savage says. “Because of the vast product lines they offer, they’ve been able to build a supportive Web environment, encouraging people to share their stories and be proud of the results they’ve achieved with Beachbody products.”

In this way, Web becomes a complementary platform to TV campaigns within the customer experience, Savage says.

“Other marketers are doing that too now with blogs or other interactive environments encouraging customer to ask questions and share results,” he says. “It helps people take more ownership of the brand.”

On, consumers can purchase hit products such as P90X, Insanity and Hip Hop Abs, and can also read others’ success stories, watch videos, interact through E-newsletters, chat rooms and message boards, and join exclusive groups such as the Team Beachbody Club. Santa Monica, Calif.-based Beachbody has also expanded its support system through additional online tools on, which includes a network of thousands of independent coach distributors and fitness communities.

Product innovation and integration of digital and online platforms are key components to the success of marketers such as Beachbody, according to Savage.

“This business always rewards innovation. Beachbody and their brands made hard workouts trendy, fashionable and exciting — they made it fun, and with fitness, that’s innovative,” Savage says. “The more innovation we see with product design and system results, the more rewarded this industry will be. It’s exciting because the DR industry is on the front end of all these new campaigns. People are always looking for better ways to be healthy, and they want to try new products through DR.”

Strategize Proactively with Search

A top-notch product or service in the health-and-fitness space doesn’t matter if people can’t easily find your Web site, and that’s why marketers need to also focus on the importance of search in their advertising strategies, according to BusinessOnLine Director of Marketing Brian Fisher, who cites his company’s work with the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as a successful case study in doing just that.

San Diego, Calif.-based BusinessOnLine has worked with ACE for more than three years, providing search engine optimization (SEO), usability and analytics services. The interactive marketing company also helped ACE market its personal trainer certification materials and continuing education courses through the paid search channel (PPC) in the last couple of years.

“We were able to generate a significant amount of traffic through our SEO strategies, and therefore, were skeptical of the additional returns of a PPC campaign,” says Rachelle Deal, vice president of marketing at ACE. “Once we entered the PPC arena however, the increase in ROI generated from these campaigns and impact on our revenue could not be ignored. We have since dedicated a significant portion of our budget to a PPC program.”

ACE’s target audience can be broken down into two categories: general consumers who are fitness enthusiasts and professional trainers, according to Meg Sedwick, senior account manager for BusinessOnLine.

“We’ve focused primarily on increasing revenue in the B2B (business-to-business) realm, i.e. personal trainer certifications,” she says. “This entails capturing the interest of people who want to become a fitness professional; to do that, the key is being highly ranked in the search engines when people are researching for how to get started. It’s been very successful.”

Search contributes to a significant amount of the fitness authority’s site traffic, Sedwick says.

“Search engines drive about half of ACE’s traffic. If you think about it, a lot of people use search engines to find what they’re looking for. The personal training category is no exception — whether it’s products, advice or tools like a BMI (body mass index) calculator,” she says.

ACE saw significant success in its 2010 fiscal year third quarter, with PPC traffic increasing by nearly 76 percent despite spending 5 percent less than the previous year. The average cost-per-click also decreased by 46 percent and the total cost-per-conversion decreased 6 percent, according to BusinessOnLine.

“This is really just another way of using DR in the online space,” Fisher says. “There are always people actively searching for something online, and search engines and paid search is how ACE has approached targeting this audience. That was the most effective use of their dollars, and they capture people who are actively searching, vs. targeting consumers with banner displays, which can be a more passive approach.”

Online is becoming increasingly important to health and fitness marketers in addition to DRTV because of its all-encompassing reach, Sedwick says.

“It’s where people are, and it’s how people find information. There’s no way you can avoid it. There’s always going to be different touch points for people. Whether or not they’ve been led down the path first through TV advertisements and then came and searched for a product or service online, search will always be a component of that no matter what point consumers are at,” she adds.

As with any vertical market, it’s crucial for health-and-fitness brands to know their target audience, and especially know where they are more likely to get their information, Fisher says.

“Most folks are actively spending a lot of time online and it’s becoming comparable to the TV-watching time of consumers. It’s rapidly converging and I’m sure online media usage in the near future will be much more than the time consumers spend in front of the TV,” he says. “It makes sense to go where your customers are going, and the fact that you can be in control of the search is why companies like ACE are allocating their dollars to more search and online marketing, and even mobile to some degree.”

Fisher adds that mobile is sure to capture more marketers’ budgets in the future, as it lends itself perfectly to the lifestyles of consumers in this space.

“If you’re a consumer in the health-and-fitness market, you’re likely an active person and you’re not spending tons of time in front of the TV, so targeting on-the-go platforms makes a lot of sense,” Fisher says.

The health-and-fitness audience is also the type that lends itself to social media marketing, according to Sedwick. It’s why companies like ACE — as well as Beachbody and — have begun dedicating resources to social-networking sites, blogs and interactive Web elements.

“The audience for health and fitness is very social, so social has been and will continue to be of growing importance to the marketing mix,” Sedwick says.

Mass Appeal

Amid the ever-growing popularity of new technology, it’s important to incorporate a push for retail within brands’ online advertising as well.

“The reality is there is only a certain percentage of consumers who will buy off TV. DR has made great strides to get people to pick up the phone or go online, but there are still Americans that are just as happy to go to Wal-Mart or Bed Bath & Beyond and pick up a product there to take it home,” says Savage, who cites Total Gym and Ab Circle Pro as big winners in retail. “There’s so much spending behind these products that retailers are happy to have them. They know there are significant advertising budgets behind these products that will drive foot traffic, and because they’re on TV they have a certain appeal. It helps drive sales for sure.”

To find further success in retail, marketers in the health-and-fitness space must also focus on branding, which long-form is an excellent avenue for, Ackad advises.

“Branding is what makes certain marketers stand out. DRTV plays an important role in cementing them as a household name,” Ackad says. “With DR, you’re showing a product to the masses and there’s a natural effect: If you air enough and create a good image for yourself, people will know your name. For those who do go into retail, the products are then something people have already seen or heard of.”

The need for health-and-fitness products remains strong, and long-form continues to be one of the best platforms in which brands can connect effectively with their customers.

“Long-form is the perfect place for heath and fitness. There are always stories to tell in this space and those stories are what will provide the emotional connection to the audience,” Ackad says. “You have to explain why your product stands out and you have to have the time to do that. If you want to have the audience emotionally connect with you as a brand — and emotion has a lot to do with consumers who are overweight or out of shape — a half-hour allows you to do that.”

Mobile marketing is sure to come into play for health and fitness marketers.

“(Mobile is) going to become bigger; you’re going to see a lot more PR and branding, and you’re going to see the other verticals come into play more. Marketers need to squeeze every dollar out of every campaign,” she says. “I think that will be a big tactic for years to come: making sure all the verticals are being used.”

For marketers who have always performed strong in the DRTV space, it’s clear that television, digital and retail can be mutually beneficial for this vertical market, as well.

“It’s a fact that the health-and-fitness industry has a huge mass appeal for people, and at any given point, regardless of the economic environment, people want to better themselves,” Ackad says. “Direct response is the key to connecting with that mass audience. If you can position yourself and your product to stand out in a category, you’re going to have success. It’s that mass appeal aspect of DR that makes health-and-fitness such a successful market.” ■

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