Engaging cover contest works out well for Fitness Magazine

Client: Fitness Magazine

Agency: In-house

Objective: To promote brand exposure and further engage current readership and fan base through social media.

At Fitness Magazine, insight is the driver that propels and informs every new initiative.

When the people behind the women’s monthly health and exercise magazine decided to launch a cover contest for the November/December issue, they immediately looked to the research.

According to a recent internal study conducted by its parent company, Meredith Corp., there is a “clear overlap” between the magazine’s print readership and its 250,000 Facebook fans, said Christie Griffin, digital director at Fitness. Very few of its Facebook fans are not regular readers.

“We have a very engaged social community. Our closest competitor among other women’s fitness magazines has around 100,000 fewer Facebook fans than we do, so we’re clearly the leader in terms of that vertical,” Griffin said. The magazine chose to reinforce the strength of Fitness as a brand by putting one of its readers on the cover, and it got the word out through the printed product, as well as its social platform.

The reader cover contest fit neatly into the corporation’s overall marketing strategy, said Patrick Taylor, VP of communications at Meredith.

“This campaign was designed to reflect the brand’s vitality through the use of social media in a way that’s very insight-driven, which is critical, because it allows us to try new things and also measure the pre- and post-results,” said Taylor.

STRATEGY: The contest ran for 12 weeks between February and April and lived exclusively on Facebook. The rules of the contest were simple: After “liking” the Fitness Facebook page, visitors could enter the contest by submitting recent photos and a brief essay outlining their health and fitness accomplishments. Entrants then received a personalized link they could send to their supporters via their personal Facebook pages and Twitter feeds to garner votes.

Thirty percent of an entrant’s score was based on her essay, judged by a panel of editors and fitness experts. Five finalists were flown to New York City in June, where they were put up in a posh hotel and treated to a photo shoot, a rooftop yoga session and lunch with Fitness’ executive director.

Part of the magazine’s goal was to make sure women knew that this was a “relatable” contest for “real people and real women,” not “bodybuilders and jocks,” Griffin said.

“Our readers aren’t coming to us for celebrity news or advice about their boyfriends. They’re coming to us because the brand speaks to them and about them,” Griffin said.

Readers were exposed to the contest through a call-out from the editor-in-chief in the print magazine, with a circulation of roughly seven million. Fitness also plugged the contest on its website, Facebook and Twitter, the latter of which has more than 73,000 followers.

A call-to-action also appeared in its e-newsletter, which goes out to roughly 350,000 opt-in subscribers.

Fitness kept interest alive even after the contest closed by inviting the winner, Caroline Seymour, 26, of Raleigh, to guest-host the brand’s Facebook page. Seymour posted exercise tips and answered questions from enthusiastic fans.

RESULTS: Roughly 3,500 women entered the contest, which also brought in 50,000 new Facebook fans. Brand fans voted on their favorite covers during the contest’s three-month span. That is clear proof, according to Taylor, that Fitness readers are engaged with the brand.

“The huge amount of voting participation spoke volumes about the engagement and excitement of our readers,” he said.

According to Taylor, the magazine will take what it learned from the success of this campaign and apply it to future endeavors, especially as the brand works to make a larger presence for itself in the digital world on tablet platforms.

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