The leisure industry has spent the last 20 years running seasonal membership promotions that are price-led, discounted themes for short periods of time.  Does your annual planner include Shape up for Summer, Spring into Fitness, 12 Days of Xmas…?  These campaigns will have mixed successes and operated at the right time of year with the right staff focus and marketing activity can be very successful.  However, the modern consumer is getting savvy to marketing promotions that are short in length and don’t offer long term value.

Large companies are changing the way they promote their products and services too.  Tesco’s Food Love Stories campaign focuses on recipe and nutrition advice rather than the products they sell in store (they just happen to sell all the ingredients for their recommended recipes).  The effect of the low-cost supermarkets such as Lidl and Aldi has forced Tesco to re-evaluate their marketing and focus not on price, because ultimately they can’t win that battle, but on their position as an expert on food.

So what makes you different to the competition?  How should your brand personality be represented in your next campaign?  Can you focus on your customer’s outcomes and goals rather than your prices and your facilities?

Campaigns should run for 3-6 months if not longer when proving successful.  Look how Compare the Market has spun a meerkat campaign for the last few years, or how This Girl Can in our own industry has become hugely successful in inspiring young women to take up physical activity.  A campaign can have multiple promotions and offers running within that one campaign, ranging from membership sales drives to customer retention incentives.  The days of running one offer for one single audience have gone and marketing, management and frontline teams have to learn to operate multiple promotions at the same time.

Case Study: Leeds City Council’s “We Are Family” Campaign

Launched in January 2017, the We Are Family campaign was designed around the council’s brand values and wide offering for local families.  Alliance Leisure adopted a multi-channel marketing approach to the campaign, utilising both offline and digital channels.

Tim Quirke, marketing manager for Active Leeds, says: “The campaign theme has been very well received by the community, hitting home the message that what differentiates us from low cost operators is the sense of community and belonging.  We Are Family is all about promoting a supportive, caring, inclusive environment where we all pull together to maximise the potential of each and every individual.”

“For each campaign we use online advertising on channels such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to target customers in the local community served by each leisure centre.  We also use search advertising on Google Adwords and YouTube to promote the campaign messages in addition to sending specific email and SMS messages to previous members or casual users of each centre.  Coupled with other more traditional channels, this strategy ensures we target individuals located around each leisure centres and maximise the return on investment,” explains Paul Woodford, Director of Marketing and Partnership at Alliance Leisure.

The We are Family campaign has been used to promote junior memberships, student access, casual conversions, annual offers and the introduction of new membership categories.  Has it been successful?  Well, over three-quarters of a million people living in Leeds have been exposed to some form of online message since January generating more than 4,000 leads for the leisure centres.   Membership has grown from 17,500 at the start of the campaign to the current membership of 19,500 with sales up by more than 60 per cent some months.

So if you’re about to start planning 2018’s promotions, stop and take a moment to think about your campaign strategy.  Promotions and offers can be decided closer to the time based on the ongoing performance of the business, but your campaign themes can be designed now.

For help with your campaign strategy for 2018 give me call on 07909988532 or email

John Leaver Head of Alliance Digital As Head of Alliance Digital, John is the go-to expert for all things digital and marketing.  With a passion for technology, gadgets and marketing John delivers exceptional insight into a quickly-changing and often confusing world of digital media channels. @JohnLeaver M: 07909988532