A rare event took place in the fitness world last week in Woodland Hills, Calif. -- manufacturers and media mingled over products, sushi and fruit tarts -- and there wasn't a trade show hall in sight. Hosted by Stanwood and Partners Public Relations, the media pow-wow brought its clients SportsArt America and Game Ready Accelerated Recovery Systems in front of a small group of local Los Angeles media to showcase their latest products and hopefully entice attending writers and editors to include them in upcoming editorial features.
It was a small showing -- eight writers and editors came through the door from 3 to 6 p.m. -- but Scott Logan, sales and marketing director for SportsArt, said, "We were real happy with the amount of quality time we were able to spend with each publication and freelance writer. It was definitely worth it, and we plan on exploring similar venues in the future."
Stanwood has been doing events like these for its mainly outdoor and bike clients over the years to build relationships with journalists who may not attend a trade show or other events where its clients display their products. Frequently, Stanwood hosts media shindigs at its home base in Jackson, Wyo. But in this case it took a different tactic and brought the wares right to the source. Originally, the event was for SportsArt, but another Stanwood client, Game Ready, a cold therapy and compression system to speed healing from sport injuries, participated because the target audience was the same -- health and fitness media.
"We believe the best pitch involves seeing our clients' products firsthand and creating an intimate setting for plenty of Q&A," said Lori Crabtree, an account executive for Stanwood. "Obviously, SportsArt's products cannot be carted around a city like Los Angeles for a desk-side media tour," so setting up at the Woodland Hills Hilton was the ideal choice.
Other PR agencies do the same kind of thing, but mostly in New York, where so many media are located. But fitness equipment companies have rarely been involved in such events, partly because they don't often hire agencies that have these kinds of connections.
For the Stanwood event, it also helped that the Hilton is located within a few blocks of Weider Publications (OK, not exactly a coincidence), which sent over three editors from Muscle & Fitness and its new Shape fitness and exercise editor in chief, Leslie Ryan. In addition to SNEWSÂ®, other media included Bike, LA Sports & Fitness and a freelance writer who covers various magazines like Men's Journal, Outside, National Geographic Adventure and Men's Fitness.
When asked if they got the hoped-for response, Crabtree said, "Absolutely, we made some great contacts at this event. Meeting the brand spankin' new health/fitness editor in chief from Shape (just two weeks on the job) was fantastic."
Logan at SportsArt said he now devotes a percentage of the company's marketing and advertising budget to events like this. And the costs of the L.A. event were minimal compared to what it spends for a trade show.
"For a company of our size, it's very difficult to do enough national advertising to really have an impact," he said. "Rather than throwing a bunch of money at a national ad campaign that may not have enough repetition to gain any benefit, we just divert some of those funds to PR. We feel on dollars invested, PR can be a much better payoff than advertising."
Another event is planned in about a week in New York City, targeting a broader range of journalists and publications -- health/fitness, travel, outdoor, general interest for women/men, gear guides and gift guides, SportsArt will be there, along with a larger group of outdoor and health companies. New York-based media are more dialed in about attending media tours, Crabtree said, and Stanwood and its clients have bigger expectations for it. "In the end, the goal is the same -- build relationships and educate media on the features and benefits of our clients' products," Crabtree said.
Logan's company will be featured in New York, and he said he would continue to do these types of media tours.
"The primary benefit is that it gets us face time with a number of publications that may not have heard of us before," he said. "Since we haven't,Â in the past, had the types of budgets available to us that some of our larger competitors have had, we need to accelerate the curve as far as getting in front of these people. And we're willing to look outside the norm to do that."
SNEWSÂ® View: These kinds of events are not new, but for the fitness industry they are. We applaud SportsArt for taking on a mainstream PR agency and participating in events like this which can expose the company -- and, frankly, the broader fitness industry -- to media nationwide. No one can beat the face-to-face time and the hands-on experience you can get away from a nutty trade show floor.