Case: Climbing to the Top!
Read the case, then answer the following subset of the case questions. Please number your responses and write at least 200 words, total.
You might also find it helpful to hear people talk about why they climb in the video “The Insiders.”
1. What types of programs or tactics would you suggest to break the fear of Baby Boomers and change
their attitude towards rock climbing?
2. What do you think motivates one to rock climb or try this sport? Is the value provided utilitarian or hedonic? What would be
your motivation to try rock climbing?
3. Explain how the intrinsic motivation state of flow might occur in rock climbing.
4. Which specific consumer traits would explain one’s motivation
to rock climb. For example, the Five Factor Model of personality traits is one framework that can be used.
CLIMBING TO THE TOP!
Written by Dr. David Matthews, SUNY Adirondack; students
Sandra Dickinson and Christina Green, SUNY Adirondack
Where can one go and relax while having a thrill-seeking
adventure? Ever heard of vertical yoga? Would you, could you,
imagine being 30 feet off the ground in a tranquil state of mind,
knowing you have just reached a new high? Tom Rosecrans began
an adventure of a lifetime when he bought out two partners of
Rock Sport Indoor Rock Climbing (www.rocksportny.com). A
small-scale facility with varying degrees of difficulty ranging
from beginner to advanced bouldering, the setting may be
small in square footage but it sure fills the desires of experienced
climbers. Never having owned his own business, this high school
teacher powdered his hands and held on tight taking his venture
to new levels ten years later. With over 36 years of rock climbing
experience, Tom has experienced destinations on a global scale,
including two expeditions to the Himalayas.
Running a business of passion could be overwhelming, so Tom
kept things relatively manageable, never really trying to outdo or
grow the business beyond modest proportions, satisfied to own
a part-time “hobby” business. However, the situation has changed
and Tom has decided now is the time for adjustment, and with
good reason. A few months ago a newer, bigger, brassier indoor
rock climbing gym opened just 20 minutes away and is drawing
excitement from Rock Sport’s current customer base as well as
the public. With few choices and immediate need, Tom must
determine through market research what is best for Rock Sport,
especially increasing his target market, client base, and innovative
Outdoor rock climbing, or mountaineering, began in Europe
in the early 1800s, though the first mountaineering club wasn’t
started until 1857. Rock climbing for recreation came much later
in the 20th century, when styles, grading, and equipment were all
brought together and turned the adventure into a sport.1 In the
1980s alternatives were made for busy climbers; indoor facilities
that took less time to manage were designed to have different
degrees of difficulty and to allow realistic experiences for the sport
Climbing is both challenging and rewarding, physically and
psychologically. Designed to promote problem solving, teamwork,
and self-confidence, other benefits are purely physical. For
example, major progress can be made in improving one’s
cardiovascular health, muscle tone, and weight loss. But one of
the great benefits of rock climbing is the thrill and joy it brings, as
well as a pure sense of achievement. Children love the challenge
in a risky environment, while parents enjoy the safety features
in today’s indoor gyms. Having fun with family, friends, or finally
reaching one’s personal “trail” goal is satisfying. A simple focus
group conducted at the gym even revealed customers speaking
of “peak performances and experiences,” conditions indicative of
the intrinsically satisfying “flow” state of motivation.
However, there are some negative perceptions in society today
regarding rock climbing, many stemming from cautious Baby
Boomers. Survey research revealed the following possible
obstacles: fear of falling, fear of heights, low self-image while
climbing (embarrassment), and even the fear of failure. All were
cited as reasons why the sport has declined in adult participation
over the years. On top of this, cost and time limitations were
also mentioned by survey respondents. Tom’s biggest challenge
is drawing in new people or markets to try rock climbing. He is
convinced the sport can be viewed as another “soft recreation”
alternative similar to kayaking and bicycling. In fact, he has made it
a personal mission to try and get more Baby Boomers like himself
to try the sport. The children’s market is not the problem. Hundreds
of Generation Y parents are bringing their kids to the facility for
birthday parties and non-competitive meets. In addition, students
from the local community college are also regular customers who
share their experiences on social media like Facebook. No, the
younger demographic segments are not the issue. As such, Tom is
now challenged to try and change this negative attitude among
the Generation X and Baby Boomer market segments.
Other indoor gyms have reacted to grow their business and made
the needed changes in facility offerings and programs. In the past,
strong athletic men were the avid climbers; today the average
climber is in his or her mid-20s, with the number of children
right behind and growing rapidly.3 There are stories of toddlers
climbing indoor rock walls in just diapers, and even five- and
six-year-olds on open mountain ranges climbing better than most
adults, which shows how they will become the new generation of
the sport. Women have slowly gained interest in the sport mainly
due to themed nights and special events. Many believe that rock
climbing is for the 130-pound, athletic, outgoing type and miss
that rock climbing can fit anyone who is willing to try. There has
even been a national marketing campaign introduced to stress the
safety of climbing.
Currently, most of Rock Sport’s customers are the children of
Generation Xers in the athletic programs and some college
students. Tom would like to encourage Baby Boomers and parents
of the children that use his facility to give indoor climbing a try.
Convincing the older generations of the health benefits and the fun
and exciting adventures is tricky in today’s society. Their opinion
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of adventurers is young and fit, not parents and grandparents.
Changing the views of these age groups is challenging and can
cost quite a bit of money and time if not done correctly.
Soon Tom will pass the business off to his daughter, but not without
leaving her a strategy that ensures sustainable growth forward.
Ideas include moving into a larger facility, revamping the website,
increasing social media use, and creating strategic alliances with
lifestyle, service firms like yoga, and Pilates training. Creating
large competitive events that showcase the facility and spread
awareness are other possible ideas. As such, Tom is challenged by
what the future holds and eager to turn ideas into action plans.
1. What types of programs or tactics would you suggest the
owner institute to break the fear of Baby Boomers and change
their attitude towards rock climbing?
2. What do you think motivates one to rock climb or try this sport?
Is the value provided utilitarian or hedonic? If you never tried
rock climbing, would you now consider it? If so, what would be
3. Explain how the intrinsic motivation state of flow might occur in
4. Using the multiple trait approach to consumer behavior, analyze
which specific consumer traits would explain one’s motivation
to rock climb. For example, the Five Factor Model of personality
traits is one framework that can be used.
5. Using the ABC approach to attitudes, explain why a Baby
Boomer might feel that rock climbing is a “young person’s
sport.” Then, create a program for Rock Sport that attempts to
change this negative attitude and invites Baby Boomers to try
indoor rock climbing.
1. “Indoor Rock Climbing,” Find Sports Now, http://www.findsportsnow
2. Jessika Toothman, “What Is the History of Rock Climbing?” How
Stuff Works, http://adventure.howstuffworks.com/outdoor-activities
3. “Climbing Gyms,” Centrahealth, http://www.centrahealth.com/health