As the free bar flowed and hors d'oeuvres were passed, nearly 50 New York-based media representatives swirled around the Gotham Room at the Marriott Marquis Times Square on Dec. 1 trying out boxing bags, treadmills, rowing machines and heart rate monitors.
The SGMA TrendCast event gave urban print and broadcast media types the chance to look, feel and touch products that the SGMA and the 14 manufacturers there hope will result in stories about their products and the industry in general. The event also kicks off what the association hopes will be a series of several others in other metropolitan areas in spring 2005 to help manufacturers make contact with journalists.
"We'd much rather have 10 good conversations than simply meet and greet 100 people," said Adam Geisler, director of marketing for Everlast. "It's great to talk to editors and get feedback about how we're doing in the market."
The busiest exhibitors were those with areas staffed by exuberant employees offering big toys to play with, including Everlast's boxing bag, Apex's foot measuring machine, Icon's ProForm CrossXover machine, and Concept 2's newest teched-out rowing machine. The popularity of Concept 2's exhibit was bolstered by Olympic and national rowing champions, plus energetic 63-year-old indoor-rowing champ and record holder Barbara Pike. One media representative was even chased down across the floor by Liz Dickinson, president of Mio, and dragged back to the Mio table since the journalist hadn't been there yet.
"We were consistently busy and had a small number of high-quality conversations and made a small number of high-quality contacts," said Bill Patton, marketing director of Concept 2. "The scale was not so big as to be overwhelming and not so small as to be not worth the effort."
Exhibitors, which seem to include a preponderance of fitness-oriented companies, included Mio Heart Rate Watches, Icon Fitness, Keys Fitness, Princeton Tec, Danskin, Dermatone, Concept 2, Everlast, Sports Sensors, Pro Performance, Apex Foot Health, The Super Show, DMI Sports, INCHworm and Bushnell Optics.
"TrendCast is big enough to be legitimate, but small enough to be workable for the media, so overall the accessibility and value for vendors is as good as it gets," said Mike May, SGMA spokesman. "This is truly an editorial expo," and there's plenty of time for the media to talk to everyone on their list."
Media representatives keeping the open bar busy and snarfing on sushi, carved turkey and pasta were from the likes of Bicycling, Brandweek, CosmoGIRL!, Diet & Exercise, ESPN The Magazine, Fitness, Forbes FYI, Good Housekeeping, Health, Jane, Men’s Fitness, Men's Journal, Popular Science, Self, Wall Street Journal, Woman's Day, TV station WPIX, and eight free-lance writers/editors.
Although one media representative told SNEWS® he didn't like the flow of alcohol at these events and that the product selection was tiny, he said the contacts are useful and he still usually walks away with story or product ideas. Others were more complimentary.
"I thought that it was a very manageable, well-organized show," said Lori Seto, a free-lancer for Health Magazine. "I definitely got some good story idea leads to pursue and made valuable PR contacts. The trends lecture was very interesting, and inspired some big picture ideas about fitness coverage, which naturally opens the door to including some of the new products I saw."
In addition to the cruising and schmoozing part, incoming SGMA President Tom Cove did a presentation on the latest sports and fitness participation trends. Although strategically located next to the bar, SNEWS® was told the volume in the room and the attraction of product to play with overpowered Cove's talk, which no more than 20 journalists sat in on.
"America is moving from team sports to more of an individual fitness and lifestyle mentality," Cove told the group. "An aging demographic has the money, time and inclination to be fit. Built-in home gyms are booming, health club memberships are up, and incentive-based tools such as heart rate monitors are driving new product sales."
The event was not so intensely attended that vendors didn’t have time to wander around and check out the competition, either, in the low-key happy-hour atmosphere.
"What really attracted us to this show was the limited guest list. People can physically get around to each of the vendors instead of it being a crowded free for all," said David Williams, Keys Fitness senior vice president of sales and marketing. "Having a face-to-face conversation cements the networking opportunity much more completely than just a phone call or email. Plus, we had the time to exchange ideas and ask what we can do to help them do their job."
According to the SGMA, the hope is to hold a series of similar events in other regions in spring 2005, for example, in Los Angeles, Denver or Chicago. They would be used to introduce new products in large but manageable groups to local and regional media representatives who may not get to the national trade shows.
"New York is a hub for media," May said, "but Los Angeles also has a concentration of fitness and outdoor recreation outlets, so we're considering doing something there in the future."
Plus, the event helps promote fitness and fitness products in general.
"Whatever we can do to help promote the industry," Keys Fitness' Williams said, "promotes us, as well.”
SNEWS® View: Since it's difficult to get all the consumer media that does or may cover fitness-oriented products to come to shows such as The Super Show or Health & Fitness Business, such traveling road shows can help take the products to them. And can result in additional coverage for the industry. Of course, it's still an expense for the exhibitor, but if done on a small enough scale -- tapping local retailers for products perhaps -- it is likely worth it. A presentation like Cove's, however, can help set the stage for trends and spark more story ideas in the heads of attending journalists; rather than being shunted off to the side of the bar sans microphone, we think all action should stop for 10-15 minutes for the talk and the raffle. We hear some prizes like rowing machines even went unclaimed due to the lack of focus! But that was a small matter that can be easily remedied in upcoming events that we hope will happen because of the broad media contact and extra industry promotion.