On a fall day last October, Oletowne Jewelers store owner Jamie Bovender was on the last leg of his morning jog. Having trouble reaching his desired distance, he tapped into his gray matter for a little inspiration. He got the mental motivation needed to complete his run plus a bonus item: the idea to host a “Lose Your Weight in Diamonds” contest.
Bovender wanted to give people in his market the incentive (inspiration) needed to lose weight. Loosely based on NBC’s reality show The Biggest Loser, his weight-loss contest was fairly straightforward: For every pound lost a contestant could gain a point in diamond weight.
As clear-cut as the contest objectives seemed at the outset, the logistics and timing of the event proved to be a bit more challenging than Bovender had originally anticipated. For starters, to ensure fairness, the contest had to be based on a contestant’s weight-loss percentage, not simply number of pounds dropped. (Severely overweight people can shed a number of pounds quickly, Bovender discovered.)
After several consultations with fitness experts, Bovender learned that a contestant’s starting weight divided by the weight at challenge’s end, would determine the percentage of body weight lost.
With the first logistical hurdle cleared, the store owner needed to figure out the best time of the year to hold the event. With early spring a slow time of the year for the York, Penn.–based jeweler, Bovender ran the contest March 4–April 30, giving him plenty of time to wrap things before Mother’s Day.
After announcing the contest to the local media, TV stations and newspapers covered the story. Radio stations then picked up the story for additional coverage leading up to the event. With Facebook postings factored into the promotional mix, Bovender hit his magic number of 50 contestants, a manageable number for the first-time store contest.
To help contestants stay on track, Bovender worked out contest cross-promotional agreements with the YMCA and L.A. Fitness facilities in his area. (Roughly two-thirds of contestants went visited one of the fitness centers as part of the contest.)
Oletowne Jewelers owner Jamie Bovender
Over the course of the eight-week challenge, Bovender scheduled biweekly weigh-ins at the store. The goal was to help contestants stay motivated and on task, but a side benefit was getting them in the store as often as possible over a two-month period. Weigh-ins were scheduled on Fridays and Saturdays from store open to close.
Although Bovender was somewhat flexible with weigh-in times to accommodate contestants’ busy schedules, he put out the incentive of meeting with a personal trainer from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on those days to get as many people in as possible during smaller windows of time. A special area in the back room of the store allowed for easy, discreet weigh-ins.
As with any fitness-related goal, some rise to the occasion while others fall. Of the original 50 contestants that started the contest on March 4, only 24 finished (20 women and 4 men) on April 30. “By the second and third weigh-ins, we noticed people were starting to drop out,” says Bovender, adding that he was prepared to run the challenge with as few as 5 contestants and as many as 50.
The winner, Joe Lam, started at 285 pounds. He finished the contest at 238 pounds, giving him a body weight–loss percentage of 16.37 percent. Since Lam lost 46.5 pounds, he earned a 47-point diamond (Bovender rounded up). Second and third place winners were two women with percentages of 13.94 (17.9 pounds) and 13.37 (26.2 pounds).
With the first-time kinks worked out, Bovender is looking to host the second annual event next March. The timing and logistics worked out well, but the retailer would like to invest more in promoting the event, and provide more incentives to keep people in the contest.
“Some store swag, possibly workout clothes and water bottles, to be given away at weigh-ins might be a good incentive to stick it out for the length of the challenge,” says Bovender. “Plus, perhaps paying monthly fees at the contestant’s current fitness club, in addition to two-month free memberships at my cross-promotional partners, might be a deal-sweetener.”
Local media coverage helped drive in contestants
He’d also be willing to pay a fitness trainer to have a more active role in the two-month contest next year. “This time around we had personal trainer from the JCC [Jewish Community center] volunteer her time,” says Bovender. “But she ran in to some scheduling conflicts which didn’t help matters. That happens.”
And, with an attrition rate of roughly 50 percent, Bovender would be more willing to take on around 75 contestants knowing that around half would stick out the challenge to the very end.
For Bovender and those who finished the contest, everyone was a winner by ending the two-month challenge a little lighter. One contestant who was unemployed at the start of the challenge even got a job with L.A. Fitness. In this economy, he’s a clear winner as well.