Co-marketing in fitness centres, why it is worthwhile

Promotions, exclusive offers and co-marketing are widely used formulas in most product sectors to attract new customers and increase sales. Beyond the canonical periods of summer and winter sales, events dedicated to offerings of products and services at very advantageous conditions are multiplying. Just think of Black Friday or Cyber ​​Monday, two of the events coming from the United States that kick off the unrestrained purchases of Christmas shopping.

Shopping days

Web sales channels have revolutionized sales dynamics thanks to an important reduction in costs for different product categories, including services. For products we think of Amazon, which publishes new daily offers with often with zero shipping costs. For services we can instead think of Booking or Air BnB: two companies with different business models that have the common objective of proposing hotels or private homes at exclusive terms.

The new strategy in fitness centres

In recent years, even the fitness world has adapted to these strategies, generating great successes, but also some unpleasant situations as it often happens with important changes. It is undoubtedly indisputable that the new needs of the consumer need a revolution both in terms of marketing and communication and of commerce. Non-optimal planning, lackluster development and failure to monitor these phases do not allow the wellness operator to take advantage of these powerful, effective and lethal tools.

Extreme couponing

For example, let's think of the boom in purchasing groups a few years ago. I refer to those B2C portals that guaranteed (and still guarantee, but with lower traffic flows) goods and services at extremely convenient prices. An "Annual subscription in a fitness centre at £ 270 instead of £ 650" is a clear example. Assumed the extreme convenience on the part of the purchaser to make the purchase, what assessments should the fitness centre in question make? Bearing in mind that the fees retained by these portals normally range between 42 and 50%, it is clear that the structure makes no profit from using the aforementioned sales channel; indeed, it probably does not even cover living costs.
Should buying groups be pilloried? No, but they should be used very carefully and only in very specific cases, such as with the launch of a new structure, or a particular service that you want to make known, or even the revival of an activity that seems to have lost the vivacity it once had. But it is clear that we are talking about a marketing tool, not a sales channel, which must be used sparingly.

What is co-marketing?

Many will therefore be wondering what other valid channels could be used. I see 2 great macro-categories: the first one includes all those forms of advertising that require an economic contribution. From leaflets to Facebook ADS, from the local daily listing to Google ADW.
The second one instead includes the so-called "co-marketing". First of all, it is useful to fully understand the meaning of this term and its value in terms of marketing strategy.

"The term co-marketing - Wikipedia reports - also called marketing partnership, commercial partnering or more specifically co-branding, defines a collaboration between actors of any kind (individuals, bodies, companies, etc.) in the form of a joint investment agreement concerning one or more marketing variables.

Co-marketing includes collaborative activities with the aim of obtaining benefits in the approach to one’s own reference market by using different marketing initiatives [...].

Such initiatives can be circumscribed over time: in this case they can be defined as tactical actions. However, they can also foresee developments over time because they present decisive effects for the partners' core business and for their long-term strategy: In this case they can be defined as strategic operations".

Therefore, co-marketing occurs when several companies join forces for a specific purpose / project, having assessed that they would not have succeeded alone, or would have probably had several problems. Depending on the product sector, company philosophy and objectives, each co-marketing agreement has its own characteristics often not replicable by other companies.

A bridging balm

Let’s remember two well-known companies (Kleenex and Ricola) that in April 2017 launched a co-marketing campaign to support KleenexBalsam handkerchiefs.  Revolving around the topic of balsamic, Kleenex found in Ricola, a leading company in the field of balsamic herbal candies, the ideal partner. The mechanics were very simple and immediate: by purchasing a KleenexBalsam package in a Tigotà sales point, the consumer immediately received a pack containing 3 sachets of Ricola candies of different tastes, including the new Ricola Herb-Caramel
It is evident from the example this type of activity brings a huge advantage to both brands that otherwise could not have obtained, if not with higher investments.

Now at least 2 questions become spontaneous: how do you decline this formula in the fitness industry? Could a local reality like a fitness centre ever join nationwide large brands?

Case History: Grandi Salumifici Italiani

I respond to both with the following example: during the summer of 2017 the prestigious Italian company Grandi Salumifici Italiani (henceforth GSI) which launched a mixed competition to encourage sales of its line of healthy products, labeled with the brand "Liberamente - Casa Modena". As in the previous case, this mechanism was also simple and quick to execute: with the purchase of two products in promotion and the upload of both your personal data and the receipt certifying the purchase, you had the right to an entry into a centre fitness of your city or a treatment of your choice in a beauty centre. All free of charge for the end consumer. But it did not end there: the luckiest ones were awarded with a wellness weekend for two people in a location of their choice and five annual passes to a gym.

Wellness as a drive for experiential marketing

This is a classic example in which the two counterparts (large retailers and local companies) create a partnership that brings advantages to both their core businesses. In fact, the large retailer encourages the sale of its products, promising safe gifts and lotteries. The wellness reality instead allows the consumer to live a unique experience, while at the same time making the exclusivity of their service recognized without any marketing expense. Going upstream, we analyze what the roles were in the previous example:

  • GSI: organization of a nationwide campaign on a well-defined target and focused to a healthy lifestyle;
  • Wellness centres: free of charge or favourable conditions for services that characterize their core business.
The common factor outlined above is the opportunity of both parties to concentrate on their core business, avoiding on the one hand (GSI) the need to engage directly with professionals to provide services to customers, and on the other hand (wellness centres) the need to invest money in external communications to attract new users.
Another aspect that allowed the success of this operation was the presence of two intermediate operators, which supported company and centres behind-the-scenes. On the one hand, a communication agency specializing in lottery events designed the mechanics and managed the relations with the Ministry for regulation practices. On the other hand, a structured network involved its own independent structures to guarantee a widespread service throughout the territory with remote assistance, in order to resolve doubts and critical issues of those entitled to the prize.

Unquestionable advantages for fitness centers

The exciting element of the entire process described above is embodied in the fact that each wellness centre had exclusively the task of doing its job: providing wellness services to new users, pampering them and building their loyalty. Nothing more.

It goes without saying that co-marketing brings clear benefits to wellness professionals. The necessary and sufficient condition is that all the actors involved, from the agency to the company, are serious and specialized realities in their sector. Otherwise, even if only one gear did not work well and in synch with the rest of the machine, no one could speak of a successful case.

Yes to co-marketing, with selected partners.

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