Virgin Active and the bacon sandwich

Sometimes clever bits of marketing find you in the weirdest situations. Such as sitting in a car eating a bacon sandwich in the pouring rain.

This happened to me on Saturday, when on the way out of London to stay with friends, we began our journey with a visit to a local cafe, home of the best bacon sandwich you will ever eat.

As my other half filled the car with petrol, I ran next door and bought the delicious breakfasts. And as we sat in the car and eagerly opened our brown bag of bacon-y treats, the first thing my hand touched was a bright red piece of paper.

How odd, I thought, and opened it.

Ah. A leaflet for Virgin Active. The sneaky little marketing people had infiltrated my unhealthy breakfast with a leaflet for the nearby gym. As we tucked in and I moved the brown paper bag, I noticed that it too was sponsored by the gym a couple of streets over.

Now while this is undeniably a very cheap and clever little bit of marketing, I did wonder how effective it would be.

I admired their cheek in creeping into my breakfast bag with their marketing messages, but I also resented it a little bit. This was a breakfast that, as a successful dieter, I have not had in a very long time. It was a special treat that I had been looking forward to all week and I resented the slightly insulting tone. I wonder how many people would have found it intrusive, and, actually shut down defensively in the face of such messaging. During a meal is no time to tell people that they’re fat slobs.

But on the other hand – not everyone will be relishing their breakfast as I was. Some people may be buying their fairly healthy ham salad sandwich from the same establishment and may be idly considering the gym. At the very least, some people will find the campaign amusing.

However, I do wonder if the tone might still irk them a little. And for me, the major thing that was missing was any sort of incentive.

So the bag and the leaflet tell me I’m out of shape – thanks very much. Why should I go to your gym? Where’s the voucher? Why don’t you tell me how you might help me rather than insult me? How about a free 20 minute swim voucher? A morning’s pass at the gym?

So the campaign certainly got my attention. But I don’t really love Virgin Active as a result, and even though I live one street away (and have for six years) I’ve still not been convinced.