Feature Article - September/October 2011

Ready, Set, Go!

Rec & Sporting Goods Connect Rewards to Fun & Fitness

By Emily Tipping

While TV-watching as a recreational activity may rank high on many Americans' list (considering that the average American adult currently watches several hours of television daily), there's a lot to be said for those other high-ranking recreational pursuits. You know the ones. They get you up off the couch, away from the screen (mostly) and often into the great outdoors.

When it comes to recreation and sports—outside of couch-surfing that is—participation saw slight declines through the onset of the recession, but the numbers are beginning to stabilize.

According to The Outdoor Foundation 2011 Outdoor Recreation Participation Top-line Report, the rate of participation in outdoor recreation in the United States remained solid in 2010, at the same level seen in 2008. Christine Fanning, executive director of the foundation, called outdoor recreation "an essential part of the American lifestyle and culture." She added that "Ö given the health, economic and environmental challenges facing this country, it's more important than ever that we continue to inspire generations of outdoor enthusiasts."

Sports and recreation—whether indoors or out—have long provided inspiration, both from professional athletes doing outstanding things and from the casual participant striving to better themselves. So it makes sense to tie your incentive and reward mix in with so many positive feelings and connotations. Now more than ever, as screen time eats up ever-larger portions of our work and play, you can motivate people to do their best by providing them a reward that will get them moving, or just having fun.

"In addition to the health benefits, sports are a great pastime that never goes out of style," said Brian Rivolta, vice president of Strategic Partnerships at Incentive Concepts, located in the Greater St. Louis area. "In the virtual world we live in, where communication is dominated by text, e-mail and IM, and people spend hours playing video games, it's nice to be able to fall back on simple activities that everyone can enjoy together."

Warren Weaver, director of National Sales with Zane's Inc. in Branford, Conn., added, "This category represents fun and wellness—both of which seem to be important to people nowadays. In slower economic times, people look to recreational activities as an escape. Including these items in programs is a great way to round out the day-to-day electronics and watches, and adds a sense of fun and well-being to the program." (And who doesn't love a new bike?)