Member Contests


winnerGetting members into the gym during the sunny days of summer has always been a challenge for climbing gyms.  But if there’s one thing that has the power to lure customers inside it’s the power of the prize.

A recent article from highlights the many ways health clubs are enticing members into their facilities. The article states:

Whether the prizes are nutrition bars, water bottles, free tanning or personal training or even a month free membership, the prizes can be relatively inexpensive and will be appreciated by members. All it takes is a little creativity and some effective marketing to entice members to take part in a contest or special promotion. These contests and incentives will encourage your members to come to the club, get results and more importantly, refer their friends and family.

Some climbing gyms are already using these tools to garner attention and create customer loyalty.  One example is Pure Bouldering Gym in Colorado Springs which is offering a free punch pass for their 300th “like” on Facebook.

While we all like “likes”, they may not lead to getting people through your doors.  Offering fitness-based contests is a great way to get new climbers excited about climbing and keep long-time members excited about that night’s session.  One example that has been used by recreation centers and as a fund raising strategy for special events is a “climb Everest” contest.  Climbers compete against each other to see who can climb the height of Everest (29,029 feet) first.  Because this type of contest is not about how hard one climbs but is about how much one climbs, it’s a great way to get new climbers into the gym.  If Everest is a bit too intimidating, other climbs like Half Dome (8,839 ft) and El Capitan (7,569 ft), or the total height of all the climbs in your local crag would work as well.

Another fitness-based contest many gyms have used is the “first ascent”.  The contest goes like this: once a route or boulder problem has been set a prize is given to the first person to come in and “send” the route.  All grades should be represented and different prizes can be awarded to male and female participants.  This contest is especially good after a competition when spectators have seen many competitors trying the route, have all the beta and are excited to jump on the “Finals” routes.

Make sure to post on-going results in the gym and encourage members to post their results on social media, which will keep your members engaged and may entice new customers into the gym.

As far as prizes go, the most enticing may be cold hard cash. The Durham Climbing Centre in the UK set a special problem with a £50 ($76) bounty. They even created a video of pro-climber and routesetter Gaz Perry sending the project, giving the beta to all those interested in giving it a try.  Not only does this get people psyched about going into the gym to try the route themselves, it creates a buzz in the gym as climbers and spectators eagerly wait to see who will claim the bounty.

Also remember to keep an eye on your current annual and monthly memberships.  Pulse Climbing in Australia teamed up with a local gear shop last summer to offer $650 worth of climbing gear to one lucky customer that signed up for a membership in the month of June. Offering gear or technique class as a prize to customers that sign up for a membership can be a great incentive for those day-pass climbers to take the plunge into a monthly or yearly membership.

Some gyms may be reluctant to give prizes to get people into their gym — isn’t this a cheap trick that is only used by struggling businesses? In a word: no.  Humans have a deep-seated desire for games and contests; according to CNN more than 50% of Americans gamble or play the lottery. The psychological power of contests has been used by businesses in every sector, including the health industry, to create excitement about their company, attract new customers and rev up their existing customer base. With these types of contests, it’s a win-win for your gym.