Seasoned brand and marketing strategists in the active lifestyle and outdoor industries have come to understand the true unrivaled influence of their target consumer— one that is dedicated, educated and, most importantly, in a position to spend. So, why is it that top strategists running billion-dollar presidential campaigns, often billed as the most intelligent political minds in the world, have seemingly overlooked the active lifestyle consumer?
By Joe Ciccarelli
HDC Brand Strategist & Marquette University Adjunct Professor
In politics, it’s far too often we hear common audience targeting strategies rolled out as if they are groundbreaking revelations (e.g., the Hispanic vote, the wealthy vote, the youth vote, etc.). These demographic segments, while extremely important to an election, are nothing more than the most rudimentary divisions of society that even my students enrolled in their first collegiate advertising course can conjure within minutes.
I can only assume the argument against targeting the active lifestyle audience, or one like it, may be that catering to small, niche audiences throughout such a massive campaign is viewed as a losing strategy. Perhaps, the preferred thinking is to stay broad to reach broad audiences. A completely acceptable premise, if not for two things. First, it has become common knowledge in our industry that the right audience, void of size, is more likely than not, the best audience. Second, while the active lifestyle consumer may be a niche audience in the minds of many, it is, however, much more powerful than one could begin to imagine. Let me explain.
Core Strength. For starters, 217 million Americans actively participate in an outdoor or fitness activity (Sports & Fitness Industry Association, 2012), of which about half are extremely dedicated to the pursuit of the active lifestyle. That’s about half the country, but their strength in numbers only scratches the surface of their potential political power.
Sweat Equity. Of this not-so-small segment, outdoor enthusiasts alone account for $646 billion a year in spending on the pursuit of outdoor recreation (Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2012). That’s the same amount of money the country spends a year on pharmaceuticals and gasoline. Combined. What’s more, its sister industry, the sporting goods and fitness market, is only currently outpacing the Gross Domestic Profit (SFIA, 2012). Money and spending power— sounds like a good audience for campaign funding?
Working Out. Jobs — quite possibly the single most important issue in this year’s election. And if that’s what you are looking for, look no further. The outdoor recreation industry creates more jobs than finance and insurance, construction, transportation and warehousing, education, information, oil and gas, or real estate, rentals and leasing (Outdoor Industry Association, 2012). Should be a topic in the job discussion, right?
Exercising Influence. Our own research (Outdoor Elite, 2008 ; Actively Different, 2008), along with several other industry studies, suggests that not only does this group spend more, but the active lifestyle consumer tends to be highly educated, well-connected, actively engaged in social media and exerts significant influence on friends and family. Highly influential ambassadors — someone a candidate should be trying to reach?
Actively Engaged. Oh, by the way, did I mention this demographic is more likely to vote? According to the SFIA’s 2012 annual report, research suggested that those who are physically active also are more interested in politics, are concerned the with direction of the country and are much more likely to vote in an election. Voters at the polls are good, no?
A Competitive Edge. Convinced yet? The SFIA also compiled data to determine the 10 most active states in America (in terms of physical and outdoor activity). We compared the data to a current electoral map and the results are staggering. As depicted in the map below, 5 out of 10 states listed as the “most active” in the U.S. are also currently considered pivotal toss-up states in the upcoming election — Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin, Virginia and New Hampshire (CNN, 2012). A high population in toss-up states? Sounds really important.
We think it is.
Last week on a train out of Chicago, I happened to be seated next to a political consultant for the President’s campaign. After exchanging some pleasantries and discussing our occupations, I asked him, “So why is it that you don’t target the active lifestyle consumer with your campaign strategy?”
To which I only received a polite chuckle.
I turned my computer toward him and gave a brief rundown of this educated and influential segment who is more likely to vote, makes up half the country, drives a significant part of the economy and just so happens to be congregated in the current undecided states he is fighting so hard to win.
His smile faded into a mild look of concern.
I left him my card and got off at the next stop. Who knows, maybe we’ll receive a few phone calls as the 2016 election campaign cycle begins. But I won’t hold my breath — I’m no political strategist, just a brand strategist. It would seem, though, the easy part in all of this is identifying this powerful audience. The hard part — which we work on here everyday— is connecting with with them in a meaningful way.
Joe Ciccarelli, HDC Brand Strategist & Marketing Manager, assists in client branding initiatives and is often called upon for his expertise in research, competitive analysis and strategic content for brand platforms. Joe joined HDC in 2011 and brings more than five years of experience working with leading brands including The Ford Motor Company, Koss, Wolverine, Toyota and Lexus. He holds a master’s degree in advertising and digital storytelling from Marquette University, where he now serves as an adjunct professor in the school of communication.