Asimba seeks muscle for offline advertising

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Asimba, a Web site for people pursuing an "active lifestyle," is looking for its first full-service ad agency to handle a $20 million to $30 million budget.

President-CEO Kurt Schneider, who joined Asimba in October from a post as VP-marketing at Fox Sports Net, said the search process is just beginning and a list of contenders hasn't yet been drawn up.

He said his first step is to hire a marketing team. A consultancy will not be used.

The site (asimba.com), which launched in January 1999 with financial backing from CMGI's venture-capital affiliate @Ventures, is a community for physically active people. In addition to editorial content, it provides participating members with daily or weekly e-mails personalized for their particular training, weight-loss or exercise regimens, with the help of nutrition, exercise and athletic experts.

The site has had no offline advertising to date, and Mr. Schneider said he hopes to launch a campaign sometime in 2000, after the dot-coms holiday ad onslaught has subsided.

THREE GOALS

Mr. Schneider said the business is open to any agency that can accomplish three things for the Asimba brand: strategic positioning; creative that does more than just "add into the dot-com fray"; and innovative media planning, which he said is necessary to connect with the site's diverse demographic.

"The key for the agency is focusing on the psychographic and figuring out effective ways to reach that psychographic," Mr. Schneider said.

He said Asimba's inherent challenge is that it uses the Internet to encourage people to get out from behind their computers and exercise, lose weight, eat right or participate in an organized sport, race or other athletic event. To deal with that paradox, Mr. Schneider said, the brand must be marketed offline in addition to online.

During its launch year, Asimba has used Swift Partners, San Francisco, as a marketing consultancy; Swift helped the site with online initiatives as well as events and sponsorships.

Although Mr. Schneider couldn't give a definitive number of registered members, he said membership is growing at a rate of 3% daily.

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