Feature Article - April 2005
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Catch Those Kids

How to make and market kids’ programming to not only fight fat but rise above a bloated marketplace of leisure choices

By Margaret Ahrweiler

What Every Kids' Program Needs
  • KID-TESTED: Ask an actual kid—or better yet, several, including boys and girls—what they think of a program idea.
  • KEEP IT SIMPLE: A high concept may mean it's too complicated to succeed. Simple ideas work best.
  • GIVE IT SPACE: Make sure a program has the proper siting to help it succeed. The preteen and teen markets, in particular, do not want to be relegated to a poorly lit basement.
  • POP PROGRAMMING: Keep your finger on the pulse of pop culture.
  • SUBSTANCE OVER SURFACE: Lose the Kidz Korner sign. Chances are, the children you want to attract know how to spell and they know it's wrong and silly. Use your creative juices on programming instead.
  • SCHEDULE WITH CONCURRENT ADULT PROGRAMS: Help busy parents maximize their free time. Try scheduling a kids' fitness class at the same time as adult group fitness.
  • INVOLVE THE PARENTS: Believe it or not, kids and their parents share common interests—for example, note that Trading Spaces and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition have become family must-see TV. Why not a parent/child decorating class?
  • DON'T FORGET DADS: Parent-child classes needn't always mean mom. How about sports-skill-building classes for dads and kids (how can a dad teach fast-pitch softball techniques if he's never done it?)
  • FIND THE LEADERS AND APPEAL TO THEM: Every group of children has its natural leaders who set trends in kids' social circles. Appealing to them is essential when programming for older kids and teens. Don't know who they are? Talk to your coaching staff or spend a lunch period or two in the school cafeteria. If you can hook them, the rest will follow.
  • USE TECHNOLOGY: Even young grade-schoolers can out-tech many adults—just sit down at a PlayStation 2, X-Box or Barbie.com Web site with them to find that out. Use their love of technology to sell your programs by incorporating it or marketing it through electronic sources.
  • CRANK THOSE TUNES: Music is an integral part of kids' culture (some things never change) and reaches ever younger audiences. Incorporate pop music into your kids' programs to rev them up. A caveat: Make sure your music choices are current—Britney Spears is way, way, way out—and clean enough for general consumption. Need ideas? Listen to the music on sports programs, Radio Disney or Nickelodeon, or better yet, ask a few kids.
  • MARKET TO YOUTH-ORIENTED GROUPS: Promote your programs to youth groups such as scouts, church and community groups. Leaders often are looking for easy programs and field trips, and you may reach children who are not necessarily as fitness-oriented as the standard rec crowd.