New President's Council tackles fitness promo step-by-step

Starting oh-so-slowly with a corporate fitness campaign, the new President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports is using posters and ads that don't mince words and could someday make it in front of the public in efforts to promote fitness -- if money is found.
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Starting oh-so-slowly with a corporate fitness campaign, the new President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports is using posters and ads that don't mince words and could someday make it in front of the public in efforts to promote fitness -- if money is found.

This month kicks off a corporate promotion of the President's Challenge awards -- the same ones you probably recall from the past, but modernized and now with Internet access. Corporations are encouraged to use the guide to help employees make a commitment to an active lifestyle doing whatever activity they choose. With a commitment come rewards, such as certificates, patches and even medals.

The promotional materials being used for the program were developed by Hanson Dodge Design and were used in early summer in a test corporate fitness program at Trek Bike (Trek President John Burke is a member of the council). The materials are what draw attention to the program and easily earmark it as new and different, not boring and humdrum.

"We wanted to grab the attention of our audiences," Hanson Dodge account supervisor Sally Siegel told SNEWS. "We know that there is an obesity problem in America -- that's not new. Americans have been hearing the facts and benefits of fitness and activity for years, and it's still not registering. So this creative is about grabbing people's attention and having them recognize themselves in the images and messaging…and hopefully taking the first step to fitness."

But let's pause for a moment and take a look at one promotional design. (If you're reading this in the PDF or from a printed-out digest, you'll have to go online to see the design. You won't want to miss it!) This was originally a concept by Hanson Dodge to show the council what it could do even on a larger public scale. This ain't no hand-holding, please-pretty-please-get-moving campaign, instead it shows what none of us really want to see -- a fat guy sitting smack in the middle of a squishy ol' couch obviously watching TV football (note the football in one hand and the remote in the other) with a coffee table spread with junk food. Reads the caption: "The couch isn't going anywhere. Are you?" Makes you squirm in your seat a little? Ain't that nice. But so did the anti-smoking ads that began running in California a couple of decades back. And they have had a HUGE impact on the dropping rate of smoking in the Golden State. (We wrote about that in our GearTrends Fitness magazine this summer, now available online at www.geartrends.com.)

"From the start of our work with the President's Challenge, our goal was to communicate that fitness and activity is important for all Americans. From the website to ad concepts, we simplified the fitness and activity messaging with a straightforward approach that everyone can connect to," Siegel said. "We all know we should get off that couch and take a walk, but the ad concept encourages and motivates the consumer to start today."

And that it did in its test at the Trek Bike offices. According to surveys afterward, the posters and fliers posted in hallways and in the cafeteria helped get people moving, Siegel said.

Another poster available also doesn't mince words and, in fact, is just words -- big bold ones you can't blink and miss: "Guilt isn't the only thing you'll lose." Again, forget about results and easy and begging. This hits to the core -- it's about guilt.

"We are asking Americans to add fitness and activity into their already busy lives," Siegel added, "and we didn't want them to spend time reading lots and lots of information. When we were developing the creative we realized that everyone knows they should be more active -- the trick was motivating these audiences to take the first step."

Now, the posters and ads are available to companies, offices, schools and communities to use in promotional efforts as a part of the President's Challenge (www.presidentschallenge.org), said Christine Spain, council director. But the challenge is self-sustaining and receives no federal funding, she added, so the council (www.fitness.gov) works with interested organizations and companies to create programs, media information, public service announcements, and other things to promote the availability of this resource.

SNEWS View: We wish that every single fitness (and outdoor) manufacturer, no matter how big or small, would contact the council and get their copies of these to start spreading the word in their own offices and communities. Although Trek President John Burke tends to pass the kudos to others, we have heard he has been instrumental in pushing this forward and in offering his time and that of his company to help develop and to test programs and materials.

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