Dozens and dozens of people who bought Vision Fitness aerobic equipment late last year have shed pounds, lowered cholesterol levels, and said they found a new burst of energy when they took on the company's Sprint 8 Challenge fitness contest.
"I have gone down TWO pants sizes!" wrote grand prizewinner Maura Anders, of East Northport, N.Y., in her contest essay. "I did the Sprint 8 program anywhere from three to five days a week. At the end of the six weeks, I had lost 20 pounds and was feeling great. I had A LOT more energy."
As the overall winner, Anders won 50,000 airline miles and reimbursement of the price of the X6200HRT elliptical she bought from Action Fitness in Hauppauge, N.Y. Anders' husband, Norman, was a second-place winner who earned an Apple iPod Nano, making it a get-fit family affair for the Anders' household.
To participate in the Sprint 8 Challenge, customers were required to purchase a piece that included the Sprint 8 programming (treadmills, bikes or ellipticals) in November or December, enter the contest by submitting before and after photos, state their goal at the start, do the workout at least three to four times a week for six weeks, then write an essay about how they changed, documenting their results, from weight loss to lower blood pressure, submitting the entire package by the end of February 2007.
"The Sprint 8 Challenge was to help motivate consumers to get fit, especially over the holidays. We wanted to differentiate ourselves from the competition by touting our Sprint 8 program," Christa Walter, Vision Fitness' retail brand manager, told SNEWS®. "Many of our retailers and consumers alike who have done the program have gotten such great results that we really wanted to promote it and offer a fitness challenge to the consumer."
Vision Fitness provided its dealer network with various POP materials, including posters, counter displays, window clings, product hangtags and entry booklets, and left it up to retailers to tell customers about the special promotion.
Murray Grittner, who co-owns Fitness Warehouse in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, with his wife Muriel, told SNEWS® the contest gave them one more tool to show people when they were selling Vision equipment, which has always been a good-selling brand for them. The Grittners had a first- and second-place winner.
"Once customers were in the store and looking at a piece of equipment, it gave you another reason to move them to that next level," Murray Grittner said. "What we found on most of the sales throughout the challenge itself was it would take them away from a simple console where they do all the changes themselves into the deluxe console where that challenge was available to them."
A group of people from Vision Fitness, including Sprint 8 creator Phil Campbell, judged the entries. Walter said weight loss was a significant factor with a lot of participants reportedly losing from five to 20 pounds. Additionally, Walter said there were reports of huge drops in cholesterol (particularly the LDL or bad cholesterol), improved heart rates and better cardio capabilities after the challenge, as well as a feeling of having more energy and better muscle tone.
According to Walter, retailers reported that many customers upgraded to a product with the Sprint 8 program so they could participate in the challenge, making the contest a real winner for Vision retailers also. That was the case with Leisure Fitness in Rockville, Md., which had one first-place winner.
Store manager Chip Labbe -- who said he's lost 20 pounds himself since January using the Sprint 8 program to prepare for his upcoming wedding -- said Leisure Fitness' winner specifically upgraded to a model with the training program because of the challenge.
"The challenge is 100 percent what made him buy that machine because he was already over committed on his budget," Labbe told SNEWS® the customer said. "It was phenomenal that he won. He lost 20 pounds and, from what I hear, his cholesterol dropped dramatically. He got exactly what he wanted out of it."
He added that customers were enthusiastic about the promotion, and estimated that 50 percent to 60 percent left with the intention of filling out the entry form and sending it in.
Grand prizewinner Anders told Vision Fitness in her essay that she weighed 257 pounds, was tired all the time and had little energy when she started the program. She wrote that after doing the program, "I was not tired and not looking to take a nap during the day. There was a significant decrease in my triglycerides. My HDL increased. My co-workers made many remarks on how great I was looking and that I had more pep in my step….
"I am very happy with my Vision Fitness elliptical," Anders concluded, "and will continue using it three to four times per week."
Vision Fitness also awarded 10 first-place winners who received reimbursement for their product; 15 second-place winners earned an Apple iPod Nano; and 50 third-place winners received a copy of the book "Ready, Set, Go! Synergy Fitness," written by Campbell, the creator of the program.
Even before the Sprint 8 Challenge, Labbe of Leisure Fitness has been a big proponent of the training program, telling SNEWS® that 90 percent of the Vision products his store sells have the Sprint 8 program.
"A lot of our customers are just flat-out uneducated," he said. "Specialty retail stores are destination stores. Customers come in here for a reason. Our job is to educate them as to why they came in. They come in knowing nothing and don't know where to start -- just that they want to be healthier. I feel like it's our job to point them in the right direction. The Sprint 8 is a no-brainer."
Both Labbe and Grittner told SNEWS® they would like to see the Sprint 8 Challenge return next year. Grittner even suggested that Vision Fitness promote it nationally with an ad campaign.
Walter told SNEWS® that the company is considering a challenge for its retailers next fall to inspire them to share their experiences with customers of how the program has impacted their lives.
Top 20 winners, what they bought and the stores where they bought the equipment are:
Action Fitness in Hauppauge, N.Y. -- Maura Anders, East Northport – X6200HRT
• Mortl's Sports Center in Iron Mountain, Mich. -- Carol Mitchell, Iron Mountain – T9500 Premier
• A&L Get Active in Brandon, MB, Canada -- Chris Rouire, Brandon – X6100
• All About Fitness in Overland Park, Kan. -- Daniel Edwards, Shawnee – T9450 Deluxe
• Leisure Fitness in Rockville, Md. -- David Borkowski, Bethesda -- X6200HRT
• G&G Fitness in Pittsburgh, Penn. -- Janet Rockwell, Pittsburgh – T9250 Deluxe
• Fitness Warehouse in Regina, SK, Canada -- Lois Ponto, Regina – R2200
• Akfit in Sudbury, ON, Canada -- Lynda Last, Hanmer – X6200
• Home Fitness in Tulsa, Okla. -- Rick Black, Bartlesville – X6200HRT
• Fitness Specialist in Lubbock, Texas -- Russ Pinkerton, Levelland – X6200HRT
• American Cycle & Fitness in Walled Lake, Mich. -- Thomas Beever, Clarkston -- R2250HRT
• American Cycle & Fitness in Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. -- Christina Quaine, Grosse Pointe Woods -- T9500 Premier
• Arizona Health in Tuscon, Ariz. -- Gordon Kari, Tucson – T9450 Premier
• G&G Fitness in Fairlawn, Ohio -- Harriet Feick, Copley – T9250 Deluxe
• Big Sky Cyclery in Helena, Mont. -- Jeanette Winslow, East Helena – X6100
• Copeland Sports in Chico, Calif. -- Jim Cragle, Chico – T9250 Deluxe
• The Exercise Store in Erie, Penn. -- Joe Jacobs, Erie – T9600 Deluxe
• Fitness Source in Newmarket, ON, Canada -- Linda Pauer, Sutton -- X6100
• Fitness Warehouse in Regina, ON, Canada -- Michelle Falkenstein, Regin – X6100
• Action Fitness in Hauppauge, N.Y. -- Norman Anders, East Northport -- X6200HRT
SNEWS® View: This sounds as if it's been an outstanding promotion that brought the winners nice prizes but also a gift of the start of a fitness program -- we only hope they can continue since most studies have found that six weeks isn't enough to truly develop a habit. Nevertheless, it's a great step in the right direction, both for the public and for the retailers who participated. We're sure those customers are big fans of those stores now and will also pass that vital grassroots word about what a great place it is. So the stores will not only gain repeat customers and fans in the winners, but will also very likely gain additional area customers.
We really liked this concept of a fitness contest since our industry should really be not just about selling a piece of steel, plastic and electronics but about trying to educate and instill a lifestyle. SNEWS® also really likes the idea of a contest among the retailers themselves since many could also perhaps use a little -- how do we say it? -- motivation to be more regular exercisers themselves. Now about that nationally promoted contest as retailer Grittner suggested. This is an expensive proposition for one manufacturer. But think of this: If a group of manufacturers could work together -- don't faint now -- to promote a contest nationally, pooling budgets and all being responsible for donating "x" amount in prizes based on company size. We're talking not only the big cardio equipment folks but also the smaller accessory folks. This could be an impactful national promotion and offer an impressive list of attractive prizes that would then affect more than a few dozen consumers, but could actually affect hundreds or even thousands. This may sound like wishful thinking but … why not?