Application of social marketing to recruitment for a digital weight management intervention for young adults

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences

Publication Date


Document Type



Behavioral Medicine | Health Services Research | Marketing | Translational Medical Research


Recruiting young adults into weight loss interventions poses challenges that may be mitigated by the use of novel social marketing strategies. The purpose of this study is to describe how social marketing principles were applied to recruitment for a digitally delivered randomized controlled trial for weight management among young adults and report recruitment data and demographics on those who enrolled and did not enroll in the study. The marketing mix of the 7Ps (i.e., product, price, place, promotion, packaging, positioning, and people) was applied to intervention recruitment. Prior to enrollment, respondents completed a screening survey, which was examined to determine optimal strategies for study awareness and enrollment. Of the initial 5,731 who initiated a screener, 3,059 provided data on the source of where they heard about the study. Subsequently, 460 (12.5%) were enrolled in the study, 409 (51.3% non-White; 78.7% female; body mass index: 30.6 +/- 4.3) provided data on recruitment source, with emails (72.5%), cited most often followed by flyers/posters (8.8%), "other" (6.7%), and multiple sources (6.6%). Although email remained the most frequently cited promotion source, Pearson's chi-squared tests revealed that, compared to those not enrolled in the study, those who enrolled were more likely to hear about the study via flyers/posters (enrolled = 14.4%; not enrolled = 7.9%; p < .001) and multiple sources (enrolled = 11.7%; not enrolled 5.85%; p < .01) and less likely to hear via email (enrolled = 62.1%; not enrolled = 74.2%; p < .01). This study applied social marketing principles to successfully recruit a large and diverse group of young adults. While email emerged as the most effective source of study awareness, multiple channels and a mix of marketing principles are recommended for recruiting in university settings.


Emerging adults, Participant recruitment strategies, Social marketing, Weight management

DOI of Published Version



Whiteley JA, Faro JM, Mavredes M, Hayman LL, Napolitano MA. Application of social marketing to recruitment for a digital weight management intervention for young adults. Transl Behav Med. 2021 Mar 16;11(2):484-494. doi: 10.1093/tbm/ibaa032. PMID: 32293670; PMCID: PMC7963283. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Translational behavioral medicine

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID