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Bell's Infomercials

Summary: An article about Bell's second try with informercials.

An Article from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News September 1, 2003

Round Two: Bell Sports Takes a Second Stab at TV Infomercials


SANTA CRUZ, CA-Bell Sports' $500,000 experiment with infomercials last April didn't bring the company the kind of success that had executives doing cartwheels, but the commercials showed enough promise that the helmet maker took another stab this summer.

Bell test marketed two direct-response television commercials (DRTV) in Sacramento, California; Phoenix, Arizona; and Orlando, Florida, for three weeks in April.

Company executives hoped the new strategy would build brand recognition, stimulate retail sales and promote cycling.

The company created two ads-a 60 second spot targeted at kids and a 30minute spot aimed at parents-that ran a variety of networks, including CBS, Fox Sports, NBC, UPN and WB.

The television spots prompted viewers to buy select Bell helmets by calling a telephone number. But what Bell marketing executives really hoped consumers would do is head to a local bike shop or other sporting goods retailer and ask for a Bell helmet.

Retail sales in the three test markets increased an average of 9 percent in dollars and 6 percent in units during May, when compared to sales during the same month in three control markets. Bell tracked sales at five retailers in each market.

"These results are especially encouraging when compared to the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association's market data that show helmet sales in 2003 are down over 10 percent versus last year,' said Greg Shapleigh, Bell's vice president of specialty marketing.

The boost encouraged Bell to re?run the 60?second BMX spot, but to a more targeted audience. The ad, which features BMX freestylers Dave Mirra and Rick Thorne and downhill and BMX racer Brian Lopes, ran nationally during the X?Games approximately 54 times on ESPN, ESPN2, Cartoon Network, ABC Family and Much Music between Aug. 17 and Aug. 24.

The results of those ads will be available this fall.

Of less importance to Bell than boosting sales among local retailers was selling helmets consumer direct. In March, Shapleigh told Bicycle Retailer ~ Industry News that retail sales generated by DRTVs generally outweigh direct sales five or more to one-something Bell found to be true.

Shapleigh declined to give sales figures, but said "direct sales were insignificant," during the April campaign.

That disappointed Bell executives, who wanted to reinvest revenues generated by on?air sales into future advertising. "It's designed to be a self-funding advertising program," Shapleigh said.

Just testing the campaign the first time gouged Bell's marketing budget, but executives remain confident that the gamble will pay off.

"We tested the spots with a representative sample of our target audience and were able to confirm that they are valuable brand?building tools. The test viewers came away from it feeling positive about the brand," Shapleigh said.

"We also found that people know Bell helmets are widely available and they didn't need to call the number to get one," he said.


Copyright 2003 by VNU Business Media, Inc., owner of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, all rights reserved, operated under license by NBDA Services. Used with permission.