Fitness Brands Are Offering ‘At-Home’ Workouts for Free to Reach Quarantined Consumers

Crunch, Equinox and Orangetheory adapt their marketing efforts

Screenshot of a woman with her arms raised above her hips with chat bubbles next to her and the Planet Fitness logo
As customers shift their behaviors, brands can take advantage of these changes. Planet Fitness

Key insights:

As the coronavirus has forced people indoors, fitness brands are trying to keep the sweat flowing, even if doors to their gyms are closed.

Both traditional and boutique studio fitness brands have turned to streaming platforms to shift their audiences away from the squat rack and toward their televisions and laptops. Although it isn’t enough to replace the lost revenue, workout platforms have kept maintaining their brands top of mind during the crisis.

Orangetheory Fitness, an interval training workout studio with franchises nationwide, announced on March 16 that it would be closing its studios. Within two days, it pivoted to YouTube, publishing new Orangetheory At-Home Workouts daily.

“We’ve completely done a 180,” said Kevin Keith, Orangetheory’s chief brand officer. “We’re not driving people to our studios, but what can we do right now to help people?”

The at-home workouts feature the exercises that customers have come to expect from the studio, adapted for an at-home setting. Orangetheory’s workouts usually involve a treadmill, rowing machine and barbell, but the at-home versions replace free weights with items users can find around the house, such as a can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup or even a French bulldog.

Within a week of launching its first workout video on March 18, the brand has seen engagement across social platforms increase 366%, with the first seven videos averaging over 110,ooo views and viewers watching for an average of 7:19 minutes.

As customers shift their behaviors, brands can take advantage of these changes.

“Some of the work that people do at the gym could have been done at home,” said Joshua Swartz, a consultant at Kearney. “If that’s proven, it could change the way people exercise, work out and engage with fitness professionals.”

Orangetheory chose YouTube as its preferred platform, meeting users where they already were. The fitness brand has also pulled back on its lead generation marketing strategy, investing on social channels like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to promote the at-home workouts.

“For those people discovering and looking for at-home solutions who might not be an Orangetheory member, YouTube is a great chance to capture them,” he said. “The workout is the marketing.”

Planet Fitness, a chain gym with almost 2,000 locations across the U.S., has also been offering “home work-ins” on the brand’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. It has also loaded its app with workouts. Planet Fitness said that subscribers to its YouTube channel have grown 58% since March 18.

Equinox, which also closed its gyms worldwide on March 16, has hosted meditations and workouts on its Instagram page and has sent its members daily workouts and fitness challenges. Earlier this month, Equinox announced the rollout of its own fitness platform called Variis, initially only available to select Equinox members before its full launch later this year. To aid members stuck in quarantine, the brand has released the content on Instagram.

Since the start of the outbreak, Crunch Fitness has closed all of its 300-plus locations worldwide. With every locked door, its members have gotten an email notification to tell them about Crunch Live, the brand’s streaming platform where members can find workouts.

According to Chad Waetzig, Crunch’s evp of marketing and branding, visitors to the site’s daily sessions are up 6,000% over the past 10 days.

The digital platform boosts Crunch’s presence in a time when the company has had to pull back on its marketing. Crunch has gone dark across all of its media channels, with its only ongoing marketing being paid search.

Although originally only available to a specific tier of membership, Crunch has opened the platform to all members and offered a 45-day free trial. By offering it for free, Crunch is staying relevant to both its own audience and future members at a time when the brand can’t afford to market itself any other way.

“Even during a severe retraction, we want to have opportunities to engage with our members,” said Waetzig.

Although the revenue generated from the platform is “negligible,” that’s not the point, he continued. “This is not a time to monetize our video platform, it’s a time for us to remain a hopefully important part of our members’ lives,” said Waetzig.

For the immediate future and until the crisis abates, fitness brands are banking on remaining relevant.

“When things get back to normal, we’ll be top of mind,” said Keith. “We were there for them when they needed a solution.”

Virtual-Only Workouts Also See a Boom

Beachbody's new daily subscribers have increased from from 2,000 to more than 13,000.

Of course, if your entire business exists only on a platform and without a physical gym, there’s a market opportunity.

Beachbody, a fitness company created in 1998 and known for its P90X and Insanity workouts, has seen a spike in subscribers. Since most gyms nationwide closed in early March, Beachbody has seen its new daily subscribers leap from 2,000 to more than 13,000. Although, as of publication, it’s still too soon to see how many will last longer than the 14-day free trial.

“We’ve been very careful not to exploit the situation,” said Carl Daikeler, Beachbody’s CEO. “We’re going to stay in our lane and focus on how we can serve people.”

This story first appeared in the April 6, 2020, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.
@RyanBarwick Ryan is a brand reporter covering travel, mobility and sports marketing.