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Multicultural Marketing

Help different ethnic populations, and increase your business bottom line.

The United States is experiencing profound demographic changes, and if fitness centers want to remain successful they must take these changes into account. Minority groups are increasing in size´éżon their way to becoming the majority of the American population. Not only is today’s multicultural population growing rapidly; it also has tremendous buying power. Ethnic populations are influencing the services, products and amenities that health clubs must offer if they want to remain competitive.

To appeal to a particular ethnic group, offer the right products and services and then frame your message in the proper cultural context. While the types of products and services you offer are important, equally crucial are the language, imagery and routes to market them. How do you implement a successful cross-cultural marketing campaign? Follow the steps outlined here.

Help Growing Populations

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2011b):

  • Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population grew by 43%, rising from 35.3 million in 2000 to 50.5 million in 2010.
  • Between 2000 and 2010, the U.S. Asian population grew from 10.2 million in 2000 to 14.7 million in 2010. It had the second-largest numeric change (4.4 million), and its category gained the most in share of the total population, moving up from about 4% in 2000 to about 5% in 2010.
  • By 2010, the African American population totaled 38.9 million and represented 13% of the total population.
  • These statistics illustrate just how quickly ethnic populations are growing in this country. The increase makes these consumers a significant target for increasing your membership and profits over time.

If you need more than just these statistics to get yourself motivated, consider this: Research indicates that minorities typically experience higher levels of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity than Caucasians do. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Office of Minority Health, minority populations have a disproportionate burden of death and disability from cardiovascular disease. For example:

  • African Americans have the highest rate of high blood pressure of all groups, and they tend to develop it at a younger age than others do. In addition, compared to Caucasians, African Americans are more than twice as likely to have diabetes.
  • From 1997 through 2005, the age-adjusted prevalence of diabetes among Hispanics increased 16% among males and 21% among females.

The CDC Office of Minority Health states further that from 2005 to 2008

  • African American women were 60% more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic white women;
  • Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders were 3.7 times more likely to be obese than the overall American population;
  • and

  • American Indian/Alaskan natives were 1.6 times more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic whites.

You can provide a valuable service helping to improve the health of these underserved populations, while also improving your bottom line.

Know Your Local Market

To reach these populations, first do your homework to determine which ethnicities are most common in your neighborhood. Conduct local surveys by mail, email or telephone, and consult the U.S. Census Bureau data for your town (www.census.gov). To truly understand the cultural demographics of your area, get involved with local embassies, cultural associations, local churches and social groups that cater to specific cultural groups. Then use the information you gather to define your target audience and guide your marketing efforts to make the strongest impact.

Understand Your Audience

Take the time to learn about the beliefs, social institutions, purchasing habits and values of your target audience. This knowledge will help you determine the role of your offerings. For example, the American Council for Fitness and Nutrition identifies family as a core value of the Hispanic population, so childcare and family-oriented fitness services could increase your appeal. In addition, marketing materials that show families exercising together would appeal to this group. For each ethnic group you target, focus on values and scenarios that authentically reflect the group’s genuine experiences and/or aspirations (Vicioso 2011).

Obtain valuable information about the various ethnic groups in your area by interviewing community members, reading cultural publications and contacting local minority trade and professional associations. Explore the information provided by the National Hispanic Business Group (www.nhbg.org), the National Association of Asian American Professionals (www.naaap.org) and the African American Web Connection (www.aawc.com).

Develop positive relationships with key people within the ethnic groups. Offer presentations at local cultural events and club meetings to raise awareness of the importance of fitness and to increase recognition of your facility’s many amenities. Attend local ethnic fairs and exhibitions to network. While you’re networking, find out what local shops, religious centers and businesses the members of your target audience frequent, so that you can place fliers or pamphlets about your facility at these places. Individuals tend to identify with someone they consider a peer, so if you have a staff member whose ethnic background is the same as the market you are trying to reach, designate that person as one of your facility’s spokespersons.

Think Outside the Marketing Box

Investigate which magazines, newspapers, radio stations and television channels are most popular with members of the group you are targeting. Consider placing ads in Essence or Ebony magazines for African Americans, or Hyphen magazine´éżwhich covers arts, culture and politics for the Asian American population. You might place an ad spot on a television station such as Black Entertainment Television (BET) or Telemundo, where the programming draws diverse ethnic audiences. Step out of your comfort zone, and market your facility on channels you might not use for your usual marketing campaigns.

Prepare your ads and marketing materials in various languages. Although many Hispanics are bilingual, they are more likely to read material that is in Spanish. Bally Total Fitness™ has applied this on their website (www.ballyfitness.com): Viewers can click on the “Bally En Espanol” link, and all of the text and streaming video automatically converts to Spanish. (Use a professional translator to ensure that your copy is completely accurate and appealing to your audience.)

Think Outside the Offerings Box, Too

When it comes to your products and services, consider the unique needs of your ethnic members. Find out what activities appeal to these clients. For instance, basketball is an important activity in many minority communities, so installing basketball courts if you don’t already have them can be a big draw. When it comes to your group fitness offerings, think beyond indoor cycling. Try featuring classes that draw on international music and dance. Crunch Fitness in Miami offers a variety of dance classes, including “African Dance,” “Afro-Caribbean Dance,” “Latino Grooves” and “Salsa Caliente.” Also consider incorporating martial arts classes. Offering this variety in your group exercise programming reaches different ethnicities and provides fun workout alternatives for all of your members (James 2009).

Develop a Competitive Advantage

To produce the best results, make a multicultural marketing campaign part of your long-term growth strategy. When you are reaching the maximum number of people across all ethnicities, you’ll increase the rate of return on every marketing dollar you spend. The key is to understand the potential market, offer the appropriate services and then incorporate the market into your facility’s outreach efforts. This is your chance to boost your bottom line while contributing to the well-being of the broader community.


Need a little help getting started? Here are some valuable resources:


  • AmÔöť┬«redia Integrated Multicultural Marketing (www.ameredia.com)
  • Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (www.apiahf.org)
  • Institute for African-American Health (http://blackhealthbeat.com/)
  • Japanese American Citizens League (www.jacl.org/)
  • League of United Latin American Citizens (http://lulac.org/)
  • Multicultural Marketing Resources (http://multicultural.com/)
  • National Alliance for Hispanic Health (www.hispanichealth.org/)
  • National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (www.nimhd.nih.gov)
  • National Urban League (www.nul.org)


Burgos, D., & Mobolade, O. 2011. Marketing to the New Majority: Strategies for a Diverse World. Basingstoke, England: Palgrave MacMillan.

Morse, D.R. 2004. Multicultural Intelligence: Eight Make-or-Break Rules for Marketing to Race, Ethnicity, and Sexual Orientation. Ithaca, NY: Paramount Market Publishing.

Rossman, M.L. 1996. Multicultural Marketing: Selling to a Diverse America. New York: AMACOM.

Schreiber, A.L., & Lenson, B. 2000. Multicultural Marketing. Chicago: NTC Business Books.

Trompenaars, F., & Woolliams, P. 2004. Marketing Across Cultures (Culture for Business Series). Mankato, MN: Capstone.


James, M., 2009. Fitness centers must modify marketing strategies to reach multicultural clientele. Athletic Business, February.

U.S. Census Bureau. 2011a. The Hispanic Population: 2010. www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-04.pdf; retrieved November 20, 2011.

U.S. Census Bureau. 2011b. 2010 census shows America’s diversity. www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/2010_census/cb11-cn125.html; retrieved Nov. 20, 2011.

Vicioso, K., 2011. The changing face of America: Four tips for multicultural marketing. Hispanic CMO, April 14.

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