One for All, And All for Fun
A Look at Recreation & Sporting Goods Incentives
"It always rains on tents. Rainstorms will travel thousands of miles, against prevailing winds for the opportunity to rain on a tent." So said author and columnist Dave Barry. But despite the many thing—like bad weather—that can happen to put a damper on fun times spent outdoors, we still love to engage in outdoor recreation and sports. There's just something about a hike in the woods, a nice long bike ride, the stars seen through the top of a tent and a hole in one that keeps enthusiasts coming back for more.
And, if you're running incentives and rewards programs, trying to motivate and engage employees, customers, sales reps, channel partners and other team members, you'd be wise to make recreation and sporting goods part of your reward mix.
Because you'd be hard pressed to find any program participant who doesn't love a little fun and leisure time.
In fact, according to The Outdoor Foundation's "2013 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report," nearly half—49.4 percent—of all Americans were involved in outdoor activities in 2012. The number of participants is the highest recorded by the report, with nearly 142 million people enjoying outdoor recreation, an increase of 800,000 since 2011.
For this issue, Premium Incentive Products has gathered up some of the most popular recreation and sporting goods merchandise you might want to consider for your program.
The Gifts of Leisure & Wellness
What is it about recreation and sporting goods that makes them so attractive and rewarding?
"One of the great things about these products is they offer a relief from our daily lives—getting outside and having some fun," said Warren Weaver, director of national sales for Zane's Cycles Inc. "If you get a desk clock, you're just going to bring that to work. Recreation and sporting goods, you use in extracurricular activities. It's a feel-good thing. When you're using these items, it's usually for something enjoyable. For the most part, you're going out for a leisure activity."
But recreation and sporting goods don't only offer people a way to get outside and have some fun. They also can provide a great support for people working toward wellness-related goals. Perhaps for that reason, you can often find this type of merchandise used to motivate and reward participants in wellness programs.
"We see a lot of these items used with health and wellness programs," Weaver said.
"Sporting goods promote not only a competitive atmosphere, but also good health," added Chris Cavallari, national sales manager, Special Markets, Wilson Sporting Goods Co.
"People are becoming more active," said Norma Jean Knollenberg, owner and CEO of Top Brands Inc., "and combined with a push toward wellness among companies, that makes recreation and sporting merchandise an ideal fit for almost any program. As the health and wellness push continues to stay strong, many individuals are becoming more active, and merchandise such as bikes, tents, hiking poles and fishing equipment promote active lifestyles."
Nearly half—49.4 percent—of all Americans were involved in outdoor activities in 2012.
—The Outdoor Foundation's
Even better, when people get active in the sport or activity of their choice, they're not the only ones who get to reap the benefits. "Healthy employees benefit companies with lower insurance premiums, so including this type of merchandise benefits the corporation as well as the participant," Knollenberg said.
"Health and wellness have been the most exciting trends in the industry," Cavallari said. "Fighting childhood obesity and getting adults more active is an important topic of conversation with key clients. Having healthier employees and possibly lowering the cost of medical care is a winning scenario."
Weaver explained that for many companies working on wellness, rewards are given to employees for engaging in specific health-plan-related activities, such as taking health risk assessments. "They do the kinds of things just to try to keep tabs on people and get them to do the things that, unfortunately, are difficult to get them to do," he explained.
"Many wellness programs that reward participants incorporate merchandise in this category, as it's almost all geared toward keeping people active—which means a healthier workforce," Knollenberg said. "Pedometers are a common item in such programs, but there are other items directly connected to exercise and fitness that would work well."
The points awarded for such programs and activities tend to be on a lower scale—not necessarily enough for something like a bicycle or a kayak, but more for accessory-type items, which are just as necessary to participants in such activities. "We see a lot of things like bike accessory items: helmets, pumps and pairs of bike gloves," Weaver said.
"Sports and recreations—whether indoors or out—have long provided inspiration, both from professional athletes doing outstanding things and from the casual participant striving to better themselves," Knollenberg added. "So it makes sense to tie the 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, people can be motivated to do their best by providing them a reward that will get them moving or just having fun."
From Amateurs to Athletes
While wellness programs are a natural fit for recreation and sporting goods, there's no need to limit your use of these engaging products. Fitness and wellness are a common goal for people from every demographic, and you'll find that offering products to help them achieve their personal goals will motivate them to achieve for your organization as well.
"Because physical fitness and wellness is so popular right now," Knollenberg said, "fitness-related items can be part of just about any program."
You can even reach outside of recreation and sporting goods to provide further motivation for wellness enthusiasts.
"Some fitness-related products fit higher price points, and not every participant is able to reach levels to redeem from the higher-ticketed items," Knollenberg said, "so items like healthy cooking cookbooks, kitchen scales, like Escali from Top Brands, that not only weight the food but also offer nutrition tracking and bathroom scales that measure body fat, body water and muscle mass fit perfectly in the lower levels. Items can be bundled together to fit a variety of price points."
Cavallari said Wilson has been placing more training equipment into wellness programs over the past three years. "Previously we had more success with custom product with a company logo, but it seems like more of our customers have focused on wellness programs where product does not need a company logo," he said. "A good example of this would include our multi-sport net and pitching machines. Many people do not want to go out and buy these, but if they can earn points to get them, it's worth it."
Other options that suit wellness programs well might include pedometers and various technologies to help people keep track of their workouts, whether it's a walk around the block, a bike trip with the kids or a marathon. Indeed, Weaver said there has been a surge of interest in such options as bike computers or accessories for smartphones.
"I think people are getting into figuring out the data behind their ride," he explained. "How far they went, how many calories they burned. Apps like MapMyRide or MapMyRun have made an interesting addition to people's rides. You can see your top heart rate, calories burned, your speed—and now you're challenged to meet all these goals you set in your mind."
Of course, you can't forget the importance of workout apparel and the right pair of shoes. In this case, you can let participants pick for themselves by providing gift cards so they can get just the right fit.
An athletic specialty retailer such as Foot Locker can offer a broad selection of footwear and apparel to your audience. The Foot Locker Gift Card is available in a traditional plastic format, as well as a virtual e-card format in either U.S. or Canadian dollars. Cards can be redeemed in store at 2,000 U.S. locations or more than 150 Canadian locations, as well as online. The cards never expire, and there are never fees applied for non-use.
For champion performers, you can go with the Nike Gift Card, giving them the opportunity to shop Nike's complete collection of performance footwear, apparel and equipment. They also have the option of customizing their gear at NikeID.com. Nike Gift Cards are redeemable at NikeTown, NikeFactoryStores,
NikeWomen, NikeClearanceStores and NikeStore locations in the United States and Puerto Rico. They can also be used online at NikeStore.com and NikeID.com.
For fitness enthusiasts, provide exercise equipment. With the Bowflex SelectTech Dumbells, available through Rymax Marketing Services, you can save both space and time in your workout. A unique weight system lets the user adjust each dumbbell from 5 pounds to 52.5 pounds quickly, easily and safely. Simply rotate the dial to the desired weight, and the integrated tumblers automatically fasten at the intended place. In essence, this unique system condenses 30 separate barbells down to just two for a one-of-a-kind lifting experience.
Items that can support your participants in their favorite sport are another great option. Whether they're avid golfers or just want to help their kid build some soccer skills, they'll be eager to earn sporting goods.
Goalrilla Gamemaker Goals, available from Incentive Concepts, feature the authentic look and playability of a traditional soccer goal, while easily traveling from home to field to park or anywhere you want to play. Fortified by BaroForce technology, the soft, flexible PVC tubes are air-pressurized, creating a rigid goal structure that provides performance similar to a conventional goal, but is pliable enough to be completely safe in the event of goal-post-related collisions or goal-tipping incidents. The goals are available in five sizes to suit any player's needs.
There are plenty of other sports that you can help your participants gear up for, as well. And don't overlook all the ways items can be customized or personalized to meet the individual player's needs. Wilson, for example, offers "a custom baseball glove…where you can choose over 300 ways to customize your glove," Cavallari said.
Golfers are always looking for something to improve their game. With the Mack Daddy 2 Chrome Wedge from Callaway, available through Rymax Marketing Services Inc., you can embrace a Tour-tested design that provides more spin and versatility from any angle. These wedges provide even better control on the course thanks to a laser-milled micro groove surface. The club's chrome finish produces a smoky, muted look that helps reduce glare. Inspired by their most popular wedge on the professional circuit, each piece is available with custom sole grinds for enhanced performance.
Wilson's Premium Stand Bag features a 9-inch by 8-inch exclusive top, five-way top and two full length dividers. It has a built-in TPR handle, and the base stays flat to the ground. It has plenty of storage with eight pockets, one full-length garment pocket, one valuables pocket with waterproof zipper, two external pockets, one large ball pocket, one GPS/range finder sleeve and one insulated beverage sleeve. Extra features include a four-point attachment double strap, umbrella holder, large towel ring/glove holder and rain hood.
More often than not, of course, program participants will be redeeming points for smaller-scale items, and in this case, it's important to include a range of price points in your program. Golf balls and other accessories can provide a way to offer something to everyone.
"For Wilson, we have a few items that have been doing very well," Cavallari said. "Our new Wilson Staff Duo golf ball has been leading the charge. Our overall golf sales have increased substantially over the last year thanks to the success of this ball."
Wheels and Water
Biking is a highly popular sport, and as Weaver said, the people who love to bike are using their bikes more often. Here, there are many options, from bikes made just to get around town to touring bikes designed for a long trek.
"In bikes, road bikes are still a very big business," Weaver said, but added that this was more relevant for retail than the incentive market due to the high price point--$4,000 to $5,000—of such items.
"A couple of categories that are doing well include dual sport bikes, which are picking up steam," Weaver said. "This is for the person who walks in the shop and says they mostly ride on the road, but they also ride on a trail sometimes. They want a bike to use in both places. It has a smooth ridge on the center of the tire for the road, and pretty decent knobby and wider-profile tire for off-road. It's not great on either one—not the best of either category. But people find it appealing because it answers the need for those two modes."
Another category doing well, Weaver said, is "29ers, in mountain bikes. The standard mountain bike wheel is 26 inches, so the 29-inch is a much bigger wheel. It's really caught on like wildfire."
The bigger tires provide a nice ride—and a new experience for avid mountain bikers. "It rolls better on off-road surfaces," Weaver said. "If there's a gully in the path, rocks, tree limbs—it rolls over those things much better. It takes a little longer to wind up, but once you're going you're cooking. It's also a refresher—29ers have breathed new life into that category. For the guys always wanting to ride off-road, it gives them something different about that trail that they ride every day."
For an easy ride, check out the Trek DS 8.1, available through Zane's. You'll be amazed at the places you can go. It sports a lightweight Gold Series aluminum frame, with multi-surface Bontrager tires wrapped around big, 700c wheels, so any route you want to take is yours. And hills are no worries with 21-speed Shimano drivetrain and safe, responsive brakes at your disposal. If you can only have one bike, the Trek DS 8.1 fits the bill.
Cruiser bicycles are also seeing more use, Knollenberg said. "Huffy is one of America's preferred brands for bicycles, providing fun, reliable quality and lasting memories," she said. "Cruiser bicycles are currently trending—piquing the interest of teens, adults and recreational riders. Huffy holds 43 percent of the Cruiser market, and their Cruiser sales now make up approximately 30 percent of all adult bike sales."
Water sports are also popular, and Weaver said kayaks and stand-up paddleboards have been popular over the past year. "You see a lot more people on the waterways doing kayaking," he said.
The OldTown Heron 9 Kayak, available through Zane's is part of the new Heron series—a result of many decades of building recreational kayaks. With a compact, sporty design, the Heron is an easy-to-paddle kayak that can track well, yet maneuver with ease. It's perfect for beginning paddlers who are seeking a stable, lightweight kayak that was designed for having fun on the water.
For fishing enthusiasts, the American Angler Delta Series 6-piece fillet knife kit, available from Jan Foreman, will be a great choice. Included in the kit are a 9-inch medium flex fillet knife, a 6-inch curved fillet knife, a 4-inch heavy-duty bait knife/line cutter, a vinyl-coated fillet glove, and a knife and hook sharpener.
Pitch a Tent
According to the "American Camper Report" produced by the Outdoor Foundation in partnership with Coleman and KOA, camping participation is growing. In 2011, the report says, 42.5 million Americans—or 14.9 percent of the U.S. population over age 6—went camping. The rate is up from 39.9 million (14.1 percent) in 2010.
The increase in camping participation was partially driven by weather issues, higher gas prices and the state of the economy. But in addition to this, the idea of camping has expanded its appeal.
From 2010 to 2011, lifestyle/travel packs and bags, as well as tents and shelters, saw double-digit increases in sales, with sales of lifestyle/travel packs and bags increasing by 18.4 percent, and tents and shelters increasing by 13.7 percent, according to the "American Camper Report. Sleeping bags saw the third highest increase, at 9.7 percent. Tents were named the most essential piece of camping gear to take on an outing, and battery lighting was especially popular among campers older than 45.
"Some of the most innovative items from our Wenzel camping line are quickly moving their way to the top," Knollenberg said. "The Vortex AirPitch tent revolutionized camping by taking the traditional fiberglass tent poles and replacing them with inflatable AirPoles, providing a no-assembly-required tent that inflates in less than a minute. Simply use the included dual-action manual pump, and your tent is ready in no time. When the trip is over, the tent deflates in seconds, so you can get back on the road quickly."
Air mattresses are also popular items for campers who love a little comfort. "Another must-have for a night away from home," Knollenberg said, "is the Serta Raised Queen Airbed with integrated NeverFlat pump. For a better night's sleep, set your Serta airbed to a desired firmness (plush, medium, firm) and the innovative NeverFlat pump system will continuously monitor air pressure, automatically engaging a silent secondary pump to maintain your comfort settings without waking you."
For those who want to relax in comfort at the campsite, the Coleman Broadband Quad Chair is a great choice. It features a breathable mesh seat for ultimate cooling, and is durable with a strong steel frame with heavy-duty polyester fabric and breathable mesh. It is also practical, with its built-in mesh cup holder and built-in pocket on the back.
And when all you want is to know what the heck was that noise over in the trees, a light is just the thing you need. From Brinkmann, the new Q-Beam Compact LED Rechargeable Spotlight has a powerful 3 Watt LED that produces up to 195 lumens, with a maximum runtime of six hours. With the rubber molding on the handle for sure grip and comfort, and a shatter-resistant tempered lens, this spotlight has great durability.
And, of course, people often engage in other activities while they're camping. The most common activities, according to the report include hiking (76 percent), outdoor cooking (32 percent), fishing (23 percent), trail running (20 percent), kayaking (18 percent) and photography (18 percent).
Want to help them cook something up? Coleman's Party Grill is portable and fun. Lightweight and compact, it loves to travel and is always ready to cook. It's easy to use, with a setup that takes minutes. And with the PerfectFlow and Instastart system on board, this grill is easy to use. It's little, but powerful, with 8,000 BTU spread across.
Recreation and sporting goods can be found to suit the aspirations of any demographic, but you do have to keep demographics in mind when making your selection for your program.
"We like to stick with the basics, because you can reach a much larger swath of people," Weaver said. "One of the things you find, if a planner goes to pick an item, they see something that looks cool—maybe a single-speed urban vehicle—but it really narrows down the pool of people that can pick it. Knowing the customer is key."
For example, Weaver said, in putting together a program recently where participants are 65 and older, an aggressive mountain bike might not be the best choice. "Think of something comfortable to cruise on instead," he said. "It's a pretty basic idea, but it definitely makes a difference."
As with any incentive merchandise, you need to be aware of product life cycles, so you are not rewarding employees with out-of-date products. "Since our main focus is providing product for elite players, that means we have a shorter life span for the product," Cavallari said. "We are always trying to make it better each year, and that does not translate well for a two- and three-year wellness program.
"Therefore, we recommend product that relates to players of all skill levels and is not likely to change each year. A great example of this would be our badminton kit. We sell elite badminton rackets and change them each year. However, the set, which includes a net, shuttlecocks and four rackets, makes sense. It's also not gender-specific and something the entire family can play. In fact, there are more people that play badminton globally than play tennis."
Also, as you're putting together programs—especially those having to do with wellness—be aware of your rewards strategy, and its effect on program participants.
"Incentives should be used to encourage employees to incorporate new positive health behaviors or maintain existing positive behaviors," Knollenberg said. "Everyone who achieves a goal to change or maintain a behavior should receive something for his or her efforts."
She added that you should avoid offering rewards for the "best" or "most." "Employees should be striving to achieve reasonable goals, and rewarded when such goals are met," Knollenberg explained. "Ask employees on surveys or via focus groups what incentives might motivate them to participate in wellness activities."
And know that whether the program you're putting together is aiming to inspire people to greater levels of health—or simply higher levels of performance for your organizations—recreation and sporting goods can provide that little extra energy to get the ball rolling in the right direction.