SGMA media event in LA worthwhile despite low numbers, exhibitors hope

With fewer than a dozen media deciding to drop by, the second SGMA TrendCast media event on May 18 to showcase manufacturers in a more intimate setting than sprawling trade shows left exhibitors hoping the contacts, albeit few, would still be beneficial.
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With fewer than a dozen media deciding to drop by, the second SGMA TrendCast media event on May 18 to showcase manufacturers in a more intimate setting than sprawling trade shows left exhibitors hoping the contacts, albeit few, would still be beneficial.

"We think this is the kind of thing the SGMA members can benefit from," said Colleen Logan, vice president of marketing for TrendCast exhibitor Icon Health & Fitness. "It's a real focus on talking to the media. It's the personal one-on-one connection that allows you later to have an efficient email communication."

The concept of an editorial expo won rave reviews after the premiere SGMA event in New York in November 2004 (See SNEWS® story, Dec. 3, 2005, "SGMA media soiree showcases fitness products in NY: Pass the sushi and cocktails"). Based on that success, which drew more than four dozen members of the media to late afternoon happy hour with sushi and a carving station with 14 exhibitors, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association planned two more this year: The just-completed Southern California event and another in New York on June 16. All were in partnership with True North Brand Group, which owns the concept and debuted it several years ago to showcase its own clients.

Whether it was the mid-day/mid-week timing (11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on a Wednesday), the traffic snarls Los Angeles is known for (it took a SNEWS® reporter an hour to drive 17 miles from the airport to the downtown location), or the conflict of the E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo down the street, only 20 journalists signed on for this event and only 11 showed. That left a dozen brands, including fitness specialists Octane, Trixter's X-Bike and Icon, doing a little thumb-twiddling between media raps and having plenty of trays of crustless tuna canapes, deep-fried quesadilla pieces and garlicky bruschetta to munch on.

But that also meant lots of personal time without interruptions for the truly interested, including local TV stations and newspapers such as the Orange County Register, as well as representatives from national magazines such as Muscle & Fitness, Shape, LA Sports & Fitness, Ingenue and Natural Health.

"It's been worth our while," said Steve Poulin, marketing manager for Swix Sports, a winter sports specialist that showed its brand-new line of technical base layer apparel and its new poles designed for Nordic walking (a bit like fitness walking with poles and a European craze). Poulin said he'd talked to about 10 or 12 journalists.

"If I get three or four people to write about Nordic walking, I'm ahead," Poulin said.

Octane Fitness' Tim Porth agreed: "The volume wasn't huge, but the quality was good."

He said that his small company couldn't begin to make even the small number of contacts it did at a comparable price if it tried a similar tour on its own.

In addition to a smattering of exhibitors stationed around a small ballroom swathed in dark oak pillars and 1960s Oriental carpets at the Los Angeles Athletic Club, the event featured SGMA Vice President Gregg Hartley doing a short talk on the state of the sporting goods and fitness industries, stepping in for SGMA President Tom Cove who couldn't attend due to family conflicts at the last moment. In it, Hartley pointed out the growth in the fitness market and how it seems to be doing better than many sporting goods segments. Still, price pressures, slower growth and industry consolidation will continue to confront the industry this year, he said.

Among newer fitness equipment shown, Icon had several pieces in a public forum for the first time. They are arriving for sale at Sears this month, Logan said. They included: a ViewPoint Treadmill that has a clear 10.2-inch flat screen TV, built-in fans, a lifetime motor warranty, with a suggested retail of $2,500; a new ab trainer by the ProForm brand called a CoreMaster (retail $200) that looks a bit like someone took a flat-incline-decline bench and replaced the seat cushion with what looks like a caterpillar's back -- a row of circles connect with a flexible "spine" that moves the way a user moves; and an Incline Trainer that cranks up to a 50 percent incline and goes up to 12 mph and still folds for space-saving storage (retail $2,300).

Octane showed its elliptical trainer, and Trixter showed its X-Bike with the moving handlebars to simulate mountain biking. Other products included Prince tennis rackets, lightweight hiking shoes and boots by Treksta, and LandRoller skates, as well as Brave Soldier skin care products.

The going published rate for exhibitors to take part (although we know some got in for sweet deals) was $3,500 for both Los Angeles and New York City, or $1,500 for just LA or $2,500 for just New York City.

The next TrendCast will be on Thursday, June 16, at the Marriott Marquis hotel in Time Square in New York City. To participate, companies should contact Mark Tedeschi (True North Brand Group) at 781-740-4050 or Mark@truenorthpr.com, or Mike May (SGMA) at 561-840-1165 or mmsgma@aol.com. Media interested in attending TrendCast in New York should contact Helen Henrichs at 781-740-4050 or Helen@truenorthpr.com.

SNEWS® View: The attendance may have been minimal, in fact, well, paltry, but it allowed the media who did attend to spend huge chunks of time with a few exhibitors of their choice. Based on our conversations with the media, we think the companies there may wind up with newspaper columns, TV clips and -- in a month to six months -- pieces in magazines. SGMA, however, should make sure it keeps media fed and watered. A buffet lunch doesn't mean a few passed trays of tiny tuna bites and deep-fried meat things. We know of more than a few journalists there who were ravenous and eager to leave because of the lack of something to satisfy the growling tiger within. In fact, we heard the same from a few exhibitors! But the lack of decent food aside, if this event had any more than 15 or 20 exhibitors, it would be too large. We hope New York, since it's a media mecca, will attract a few more journalists (we can't wait to hear about their sushi and carving station).

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