A grassroots marketing idea for Concept2

I love Concept2. It’s a privately owned company in Morrisville, Vermont that was founded in a dairy barn by the Dreissigacker brothers in the 1970s to make carbon fiber oars and rowing machines. The brothers, both veterans of the USA national team and elite athletes, needed a way to maintain their fitness during the frozen Vermont winter so they cannibalized an old bicycle, nailed it to the floor, and figured out how to make a rowing machine.

That machine has morphed over the last 30 years into a simple, well-engineered, accurate and affordable piece of equipment known as a Concept2 Model D/E ergometer. It is the standard for most high school, collegiate and national rowing programs, and is the centerpiece of the growing sport of indoor rowing. Users can race each other over the internet by networking their ergs, and the exercise is acclaimed by everyone from firefighters to astronauts to radical programs such as CrossFit as the ultimate, full-body workout.

When I travel I try to pick hotels on the basis of whether or not they have a Concept2 ergometer. Very few do, tending to instead buy whatever the corporate headquarters purchasing agent has negotiated as part of a bulk buy for treadmills and stair-steppers, etc.. There are some rowing machines on the market which are complete and utter disasters. The worst of them is the Bally Life Rower, followed, almost below disdain, with any number of cheap rolling-seat-piston based contraptions sold at K-Mart. A WaterRower is an acceptable stand-in, and the other alternatives are almost never seen outside of an elite training facility.

What drives me nuts is the condition of the Concept2s in any given commercial gym. These machines are relatively cheap, but because they are so simple in terms of moving parts they tend to get parked in a corner and ignored until they completely fail. There is a relatively constant, but slow paced upgrade cycle on the machines, with new display monitors, handles, and small tweaks introduced every two years or so. Most gyms never upgrade and because Concept2 operated as a direct web/telesales operation, I doubt there is a large sales force physically calling on the big chains of gyms or hotels to push upgrades.

So Concept2 — here’s a simple idea. Print up adhesive-backed labels with your 800 number, your logo, and a short checklist. The headline should be: “Fix Me!” Put a picture of your latest erg on the sticker with your logo. Under the headline write: “One of your customers thinks you should … then add a checklist:

  • Replace this machine with a new Concept2 Model D
  • Upgrade this machine with a new Performance Monitor
  • Replace the worn foot straps
  • Oil the chain
  • Replace the seat bearings
  • Upgrade the handle
  • etc.

Make the labels available on your site and let people like me stuff a few into our gym bags.  I’ve gone up to trainers and sundry attendants and asked them to fix the equipment, but a big sticker stuck on the frame would get their attention, spare me and them the confrontation of arguing over a machine, and give Concept2 a little branding.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

0 thoughts on “A grassroots marketing idea for Concept2”

  1. My gym is a 24 hour key gym and every qtr we get to vote on a new piece of equipment and all members get charged 6 extra bucks, everytime i write in NEW CONCEPT2 PLEASE. No love so far. Our two machines are just as you describe-in a slow cycle of decay, functionable but not quite right. I am not sure defacing a machine with a sticker is the way to go to get a gym owners or hotel managers attention but perhaps a bulk mailing from Concept2 to its customers would be a good start. Also travel with your own foot straps.

  2. Travel with your own straps. Brilliant but way too organized for me ….

    I’d recommend “slightly sticky” stickers. Not the boil-em-off with solvent suckers.

    Concept2 may have had a “report-an-erg” program where you could drop a dime on a deficient facility and they would go a calling on your behalf. Must research now.

  3. Can only agree with the comment about the neglect so many C2s are treated with. I also travel extensively & look out for a C2 when I have some down time. 10K is a great way to lose some of that airline & hotel chow! I’d love C2 to include a traveller’s guide on their website (maybe a blog / forum?) so we can add comments and help each other find places where a little TLC has been applied to the ergs.

  4. I just stumbled across this site and I have to say these are great idea’s. My name is Greg Hammond and I have worked at Concept2 for the past 12 years. I will bring these idea’s up at our next meeting. Our customers are our biggest asset. Thanks and keep spreading the word. I wish these clubs would realize how inexpensive our parts are and how little it takes to keep even our older models running strong. You can also tell them that we have full schematics and part numbers right on our website. Thanks again. – Greg

  5. Greg – you guys rock. Concept2 is an amazing company that manages to ruin my holidays each and every year with the cursed Holiday Challenge 200K — I am nearly half-way there, pulling 10Ks every day to get the little pin ….

    Anything that can be done to put a Concept2 in every hotel healthclub in the world would be a blessing.

  6. Great marketing ideas for Concept2 — and they could take things a step further by creating an online Google map (hosted on the Concept2 web site) showing the worldwide locations of hotels, gyms, etc., that are using their equipment.

  7. Hi David!!!! Its me AGAIN!!! Jerry from little ole Chico, Ca
    thought you’d love hearing my extremely ambitious plan . I plan on bringing rowing to the
    masses!!!! Like all of you have noticed most if not all gyms havnt a clue about indoor rowing and ergs. So,,,,,,,, just recently somehow I got back into indoor rowing after a 25 year layoff. I saw our gyms 2 unused Concept 2 model Cs siting in a dark corner and started rowing. Started avidly learning technique and training the right way, something I hadn’t done back in the early 80’s, and WOW!!!!!! It was like a light suddenly shone down from the heavens and the rowing angels started singng!!!! I was totaly and completly hooked!!!!!! So,,,,,, being as I was good friends with the owner and manager of our gym, I convinced them of the value of rowing and the ergs . I got the green light to do whatever I wanted to them. So far I’ve put on the newer ergonomic handles, seatpads, and pm4 monitors. I’ve just ordered all new drivetrain components for both machines, which includes new idler pulleys, the new drive sproket, and of course the new nickel plated chain, and last but not least, new seat rollers. I’ve been erging my brains out on both ergs. Logging 790000 meters in last 3 months on Concept 2s website. I’ve also competed 5 half marathons, all at the gym. Needless to say I’ve attracted quite a bit of attention people have come up to me and are amazed at me flogging away for such long periods on a machine that most only last 10 min on. So,,,,,, I started givng tutoring about rowing technique and training to a few curious people. And they LOVED it!!!!! Now I’ve caught the attention of our group fitness director, and now I’m teaching her. We’re now planning on geting 2 modelDs and a model E for the nstructor and starting a class. Recently I just got back from a weeklong trip down to So Cal and went to as many indoor rowing classes as I could in a week and a half. I took classes from Xeno meuller in costa mesa, using water rowers, Iva Boteva in West LA,Luke Walton in San Diego as part of Indo row program Using water rower again, and 2 day Rowbics instructors program in Long Beach, taught by Andrea Draper,,,and to finish it off, I took one of Duncan Kennedys classes in San Francisco , on my way back. I wanted to get a good cross section of different peoples approaches for geting the masses interested in rowing, and I got it . Everybody was very different!!!! Some were much more rowing centric than others with huge emphasis on technique and long boring rowing pieces,to others who mixed in circuit training with short rowing intervals. I plan on doing a progressive type class starting at a rank beginners level progressing to more advanced workouts over a 10 week block, that they have to pay for ahead of time. I’m going to gradually introduce ALL the different types of workouts over time, and I’ll see where it goes from there. I’m going to be doing a rowing demo for the city of Chico,Ca on Oct.14th at 7:00 pm ( wish me luck!! 😉 ) I’ve got quite a few people interested already, I’m trying to slowly build up ALOT of hype around this!!!!! I sorta feel like a Rowing Evanglelist!!!! Extoling the virtures of indoor rowing. People!!!!! People !!!!!!! Lay your hands upon the erg,and feel its powerful healing POWERS!!!!! Seriously though, I think its really about bringing peoples attention to the fact of what a fantastic workout indoor rowing is, and how addictive and medetative the movement is. I don’t know if the ambitious plan I have laid out for myself of brining rowing masses will work,,, but,,,, I’m gona give it my best shot. And even if I succed in just a small way,,, well,,,, at least its a beggining!!!
    take care David. And keep writing, I’ll be reading. Thanks for reading. 🙂 Jerry

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