Jenna Gardner, QD Events show manager and member of the EN 30 Under 30 2019, on taking over and transforming SFN Expo.
Sports, Fitness & Nutrition (SFN) Expo, now in its sixth year, was created due to its founder’s passion for and love of the fitness and nutrition industry.
SFN is host to The Glasgow Classic (a CrossFit competition) and the final of Scotland’s Strongest Man, attracting Scotland’s top athletes to participate, and enhancing the visitor experience.
In its third year, SFN had grown too quickly for its founder to manage single-handedly, and QD Events was approached to partner, offering experience, advice and operational support. We saw an opportunity to take a show in a strong market, that hadn’t been run effectively and, through operational efficiencies, a strong sales message and an extensive marketing campaign, transform a good event into an amazing one. In August 2018, three months before the event, QD Events acquired SFN.
Collaborating with the previous show manager, over the next few months I was introduced to exhibitors, gained an understanding of the industry and implemented, for the first time in the event’s history, an onsite rebook for exhibitors, with over 55 per cent of exhibitors signing up onsite.
After the 2018 event, we immediately began the planning process for the 2019 event. It was a brilliant concept in a thriving market, but it needed a clear strategy, and a bigger team to give it the love it needed. This year has been all about getting the fundamentals right.
A combination of relationship-building within the fitness industry and the success of securing exhibitors early in the show cycle enabled us to move into the biggest hall within the SEC, doubling the show in size for 2019.
Previously, sales had been almost entirely done via digital marketing as the previous owner didn’t relish talking to clients but was a great writer of engaging digital marketing pieces. In contrast, prior to working on SFN, I worked on The Scottish Wedding Show – an event with over 300 exhibitors – giving me the sales experience required to develop a strategy combining face-to-face visits, calls and digital campaigns. Addressing the fitness industry with a more hands-on approach and taking the time to listen to their thoughts and values has been instrumental to the growth and success of this year’s show. Combining these factors has led to a 30 per cent increase in sales revenue, 50 per cent increase in exhibitors and for the first time we have secured a title sponsor for the event increasing sponsorship revenue tenfold.
Another area we recognised as a weakness was our VIP offering, so we ripped it apart and rebranded it to clearly signify the change. The new ‘Elite’ ticket includes access to a brand-new lounge where members can relax after classes, pick up their goody bags (which will contain products with value rather than leaflets) and meet their idols. The event had been criticised for not meeting the expectations of some of the visitor groups, the VIPs being one of these. Providing value and turning around the current perception to an influential group of visitors is an important focus for the future of the event.
We have also introduced a new area and key message for the show covering mental health and the benefits that physical health and fitness can have on mental wellbeing. Through my contacts from working on Independent Living Scotland we have managed to team up with SAMH (Scotland’s Association for Mental Health) to deliver this area for our visitors with credibility.
Historic marketing campaigns were run entirely via social media, and though this is a key channel for our audience, there is clearly an opportunity in widening this. We’ve contracted a new PR team, added print and outdoor advertising, and we’ve negotiated a partnership with STV allowing us to target a wider community of fitness enthusiasts at all stages in their fitness journey.
The year will culminate in visitor and exhibitor research to help us continue to learn and grow and identify what sports to add to our offering next – the show has almost unlimited potential. With the show coming up on 21-22 September, the teamwork and dedication by all is going to make it the best yet…watch this space.