Feature Article - September/October 2014

Fire Up the Fun

Recreation & Sporting Goods to Motivate & Reward

By Emily Tipping

At a time when so many people feel like their lives are on an upward spiral of busy-ness and tension, it should come as no surprise that so many of the hobbies and sports we enjoy most offer an opportunity to get active, to get together and to get away from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind. Some of the most common motivations for participating in sports and recreational activities—especially when those activities take place outdoors—include getting exercise and keeping fit, enjoying time with family and friends, observing scenic beauty and getting in touch with nature, experiencing a bit of excitement and adventure, and just getting away from the demands of the day. Whether it's a pleasant morning at the golf course, an afternoon spent paddling down a river, a hike along a scenic route or a camping trip for the whole family, everyone has their favorite way to just get away from it all.

In fact, a record number of Americans—142.6 million—participated in at least one outdoor activity in 2013, collectively enjoying 12.1 billion outdoor outings. Among people of all ages, some of the most popular activities continued to be running, biking, fishing, camping and hiking. Adults reported similar favorite outdoor pursuits. Some activities, like participation in racing and water sports such as stand up paddling and kayaking, have seen an increase in participation in the past several years.

With so many people so motivated to move and have fun, it's easy to give your incentive and rewards program an extra boost. How? By making recreation and sporting goods part of the award lineup.

"Our daily lives have become so overwhelming with work, kids, school, that the times when we can 'get away' become really cherished," said Warren Weaver, director of sales for Zane's Inc. in Branford Conn. "And things like bikes, kayaks and camping equipment are the tools that give us that brief opportunity to escape. Therefore, we place a great value on these items, and they become a terrific tool to say 'thank you,' 'job well done,' or 'your effort means a lot to us.'"

Paul Cernohous, national account manager for The Coleman Company Inc. in Golden, Colo., agreed, citing recreation and sporting goods ability to promote an active lifestyle, support downtime and relaxation, and foster togetherness with family and friends as significant reasons why these types of products are so popular in incentive and reward programs.

"Rec and sporting goods make an effective incentive award because they are meant to be used and shared," added Norma Jean Knollenberg, CPIM, owner and CEO of Top Brands Inc. in Oshkosh, Wis. "You can take your family camping, fishing or cycling, and everybody can get enjoyment out of the award. The feeling of accomplishment and recognition that the award-winner experienced when they first received their award item can be renewed every time they use that award with family and friends."

Christopher Cavallari, national sales manager, Licensed Products, Special Markets, Wilson Sporting Goods Co. in Chicago added that two things really drive the success of recreation and sporting goods as incentive awards: health care costs and excitement. "Are you more excited to get a set of golf clubs that you can hit right after work, or a digital picture frame? I have nothing against digital picture frames, but would be much more excited to try something new and see how it performs," he explained.

"As much as technology has taken over everything we do, we still need that time to break away," Weaver added. "Recreational products offer us that option. Also, the population as a whole is much more focused on healthy lifestyles."