Site Wants to Be Fitness Central

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Aiming to become the Internet's next big infomediary - a Web site that offers a wealth of information and services on a particular theme to sell related products or advertising - eFit.com is set to go live Nov. 1.


The New York company will target the fitness market with range of original multimedia content and personalization features.


"We're not going after the expert athlete," said Riva Syrop, co-founder and executive vice president of marketing at eFit. "What we're really trying to do is get visits from fitness enthusiasts or beginners."


The site will offer reviews of 1,000 products, including footwear, apparel, sports equipment, vitamins and mineral supplements, books and videos. eFit will drop ship all its products, ridding itself of the need to stock inventory. It will offer visitors one-click shopping and pass orders to the appropriate e-commerce partners to be fulfilled. Though it currently has no partners, negotiations are on with unnamed retailers.


To increase sales, eFit will recommend products to its registered members based on such preferences as income, region and age.


"Rather than tossing products at consumers, we're doing calculated marketing," said Syrop, who formerly was marketing director at New York-based EarthWeb Inc., a provider at business-to-business online services to the IT industry.


To get members, the company is sidestepping glitzy ad campaigns in favor of co-branding partnerships with bricks-and-mortar marketers.


"[The marketing plan] is a multitier concept with the idea of keeping the cost of our customer acquisitions under $4," said Syrop.


Bally Total Fitness, the leading fitness chain in the United States with more than 4 million members and 330 locations, is among eFit's first allies. Starting this fall, eFit displays and wall banners will appear in Bally fitness centers, and URL will appear alongside Bally's in a national television ad campaign.


The deal also may result in eFit health-related editorial in Bally direct mailers to members, e-mail marketing and traditional marketing. Also, beginning next month, eFit editorial content will run on the Bally site at www.ballyfitness.com.


In another similar deal running concurrently with eFit's launch, it will provide half the editorial content on Crunch.com, the Web site of fitness center chain Crunch. The deal mirrors the Bally alliance.


The company recently hired Response Direct, a search-engine positioning company, to register it on various search engines. The company is also buying keywords and considering content relationships with on online directories and portals.


The competition is formidable. CondeNet's Phys.com, Oxygen Me-dia's Thrive.com, Mens Health.com, Fox's TheHealthNetwork.com, iVillage.com and the asimba.com service for professionals all operate in the same space, though, as Syrop points out, most target women in contrast to her site that addresses both sexes.


Hoping glamour will boost the brand, Syrop said negotiations are on with certain Hollywood celebrities to track and feature their fitness regimes on the eFit site.


"We'd like to do a lot of things outside the banner ad," said Syrop. "[Also] we'll be looking for opportunities that are text-based, sponsorships of newsletters and sponsorships of small health sites."


These are all traffic drivers, she said, adding that eFit would "like to do 20 to 30 such deals in the next month."


"I think driving traffic is always the biggest challenge," said Syrop. "There's so much happening online that it's always a challenge to get an individual to your site."

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