With a goal to do what few fitness equipment manufacturers have managed, Star Trac has announced an aggressive campaign that will go directly to consumers in marketing, promoting and selling its brand and products.
"The goal is to build the brand," said Scott Eyler, director of consumer sales and marketing since May 2006. "We are going to aggressively market the brand, and we'll drive people to the website."
In the last week, a new companion website (www.startracusa.com) has been launched, which has a flashier and more consumer-oriented design that shows products, descriptions and prices with the ability to purchase a piece on the spot. Its tag is, "Commercial quality fitness equipment, now delivered direct to your home." A statement on the site noted, "Shopping on line at StarTrac USA means you'll save time driving around from store to store. You'll also save time haggling over price. You'll save money because you're buying directly from StarTrac with no middleman margins." The corporate website (www.startrac.com) still exists for a representation of the company, its history, news and products, all oriented toward the industry.
Eyler stressed the goal is not to undermine its currently limited dealer network.
"We don't want to circumvent our dealers," he said. "We just want to build the brand awareness."
The company's plans, unveiled in July 2006, to roll out a complete retail line of equipment in the first quarter of 2007 have been postponed until later in 2007 due to delays in the development process, Eyler said. (Click here to see a SNEWS® story, "Star Trac to go after consumer market, new division headed by Scott Eyler.")
Both the direct-to-consumer brand awareness campaign and the retail launch next year go hand-in-hand, he explained. First, you have to build the brand and then you can find dealers who will then have an easier time selling that brand because consumers may have then heard of it. The web launch will be followed by print ads, direct mail and other email and web campaigns. Part of the project includes select distribution at brick-and-mortar outlets, such as a license for use of its name on certain pieces sold at Costco, and selling its indoor cycling bikes at specialty retailers and bike shops.
"Is Star Trac a known brand? Absolutely not. Is anybody out there a known brand? Absolutely not," said Eyler, acknowledging exceptions among certain populations such as Lifecycle, Nautilus and Universal. "We'd be naïve in thinking our name alone will carry us."
Still, he maintained, the name is a viable one, especially because of the number of clubs the equipment is in and the enthusiasts who use Star Trac equipment at those clubs. He said focus groups have shown the company that although users may not be able to name a brand they use when asked, they can identify it when shown a picture or logo.
He said their sales staff will also be able to direct consumers interested in purchasing a piece to an area club if they want to use it first or just try it out.
"The goal is to build the brand," he said, "and I don't believe any company is building a brand right now."
SNEWS® View: We've heard other equipment companies state they want to build their brands, but few have truly managed to connect the dots between brand-building, consumer awareness, web sales and retail partners. We believe it is possible to do, but it will take a long-term effort that includes print and even grassroots campaigns, as well as a lot of care and nurturing of dealers and retailers. We all have certainly experienced shopping for large and expensive products online (TVs, computers, even cars) and sometimes we still end up in the store for the final outlay of the credit card, either to touch and feel the product or perhaps just for the reassuring human touch involved. We'll be interested to see where this campaign goes and how it interacts with a retail network that Star Trac will likely look next year to build slowly.