Feature Article - September/October 2017

Something Fun for Everyone

What's New in Rec & Sporting Goods Incentives?

By Emily Tipping

Last year, the Incentive Research Foundation conducted an in-depth study that examined people's preferences in how they received rewards, as well as which rewards they liked best. And while you might think there were some predictable demographic trends, what the study seemed to turn up was this: People vary. And everyone is unique.

The things that motivate us the most as individuals motivate us the most because they suit us. As individuals. And it seems that there's no other category that highlights this as starkly as the recreation and sporting goods market.

Just about everyone has a favorite pastime or two, or three, that fall into this category. But take a group of 10 people, and you most likely will find 10 unique ways of engaging with the world through recreation and sports. One person might love to play golf and enjoys tailgating. Another might be an avid hiker and birdwatcher. And another might love to play a game of hoops with the kids before taking off for a bike ride along a local trail.

One of the reasons why rec and sporting goods maintain continuous appeal as rewards and incentives is just this: There really is something for everyone.

And what's interesting is, this has become more true over time. Especially when you consider athletic gear, the target audience has expanded vastly in the past decade or two.

"It used to be, the target market was limited to much younger people," said Dennis Borst, president and COO of Patriot Marketing Group. "But in the 21st century, everyone, even your grandma, has a pair of athletic shoes.

"What makes it so appealing," he added, "is that is has a broad base appeal to all generations, young and old. …If you want exercise gear, if you want fan gear—there's something there for everybody."

"When you're talking outdoors, it's all about fun!" said Warren Weaver, director of national sales, Zane's Inc. "In today's increasingly hectic lifestyle, the ability to disconnect and enjoy the outdoors is a huge benefit that people really crave. Making sports and recreation part of your assortment allows your customers and employees the ability to get that vehicle to transport them out of the daily grind and into the world of fun."

"Any award that promotes a healthy lifestyle and encourages award winners to get outside and unwind is a powerful motivator," said Chad Glamann, marketing manager, Top Brands Inc. "The physical benefits associated with sporting goods is already well known, but the emotional and mental boosts associated with spending time outdoors cannot be overlooked. Giving award winners products that enable them to get outside, unplug and destress is very enticing."

What's more, you're providing gear, whether entry-level or a step up, that people often won't spend money on until they have to. Whether it's golf clubs or camping gear, backpacks for hiking or a brand-new cooler to take to the game, many people aspire to have something better than what they've got.

Many items in this part of the market can be expensive, which makes them a great fit for inspiring performance. "On the loyalty and incentive side," said Scott Kooken, president, Links Unlimited, "if you have a possibility of not using your own money to get one of these products, it's a big motivation. It's something you're going to use, especially if you're an avid fan. Camping, golf, tennis—none of those sports or recreational activities are cheap. The aspirational side is a good fit for any type of incentive or loyalty program."