Inverclyde Leisure teams up with Bigwave to boost figures

Inverclyde Leisure has boosted swimming lesson participation by more than 44% and related income by a staggering 82% at its Port Glasgow pool.

The impressive increases are part of a company expansion plan by CEO, Kieron Vango, who brought in Bigwave media soon after his appointment in summer 2013, to help drive participation and income through a number of product development and commercial marketing projects.

Other wins include a 45% increase in swimming lessons income at The Waterfront Leisure Centre, and the successes have been replicated across the leisure trusts’ fitness suites, where gym memberships increased by almost 30%, representing a 28% growth in income.

“Whilst our quality of customer service was superb, Bigwave helped us to create a culture change and instil a business focus across all members of staff to ensure that, whilst giving this first-rate service, we also thought commercially,” said Vango. “We set ourselves a three year development period, but hit our targets in just two years thanks to the support of Bigwave media.”

Inverclyde’s swimming development focussed on increasing class occupancy to over 95%, expanding the pool programme, fully utilising pool space and clearly segmenting the swim school classes to accommodate each child accordingly – for instance, confidence boosting classes for timid children using the warmer, shallow learner pool.

“Just looking at the groups more carefully can really aid retention,” said Nick Masson, Sales Director for Bigwave media. “We also looked at ways to limit the effects of re-enrolment and reduce attrition, such as direct debit and 51-week terms, so there is no re-enrolment and, importantly, dropping the word course. Swimming is a life long journey and we don’t want parents to suddenly stop lessons once their child can swim – it’s an opportunity keep young people physically active throughout their lifetime.”

The aim for health and fitness was to identify any potential membership improvements, both in terms of service delivery and commercial opportunities. As part of this, Inverclyde Leisure has invested almost £2 million in new facilities to take advantage of gaps in the local market. Through the rebranding and redevelopments of existing facilities, the trust has introduced a budget model, a CrossFit gym, soft play and climbing facilities to the local area.

“Our biggest investment has been at Ravenscraig Activity Centre, which the council had planned to close,” explained Vango. “We used innovative thinking to redevelop the sports hall and small gym, including a mezzanine floor to accommodate an IL Fitness For Less budget gym, soft play area and X-Height, ultimately saving the centre, as well as creating 30 new jobs.

This was all backed up with strategically planned marketing support and social media delivery as part of Bigwave media’s Big Solution, a fixed-price ‘pick and mix’ marketing package that enables operators to create a tailored marketing solution across areas such as design and branding, mobile apps, mystery shopping and surveys, as well as PR and social media.

Masson concluded: “By sharing and implementing best practice across a wide range of commercial opportunities Inverclyde Leisure has driven income and at the same time raised operational standards. Bigwave’s national benchmarks now show they are operating at a significantly high level, both in terms of participation and income, with an overall improvement for swimming lessons of 34 places for the Waterfront and 49 places for Port Glasgow.”

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Editor’s notes:
Inverclyde Leisure manages the area’s leisure facilities on behalf of Inverclyde Council, which include two Swimming Pools, one Leisure Centre (including an ice rink), five Fitness Gyms, three Sports Centres, three Outdoor Pitches, three community venues and an Indoor Bowling Club.

Bigwave media is a full service marketing agency, with in-house designers, developers and marketers creating dynamic, creative and cost effective marketing solutions. Currently working with over 200 clients, Bigwave specialises in marketing for the leisure, tourism, cultural, arts and entertainment industries on behalf of local authorities and social enterprises.

Abigail Harris About the author
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