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How Health Clubs Can Be a Force for Good in an Uncertain World

The industry’s unique position as a unifier under the banners of health and well-being can help bring people together for a common purpose.

So far, 2020 has been anything but business as usual. In fact, it’s been anything but life as usual. The events of the year go beyond acts of disruption; they’re better described as seismic. Sometimes it seems that the earth is shifting under our feet.

Still, even as the pandemic raged in March, April, and May, silver linings emerged. For the health club industry, one of those promising developments was the unity of health club owners, suppliers, and fitness professionals who work in the sector. Every health club is, after all, an optimistic enterprise; the foundational philosophy of fitness is self-improvement. You work toward a goal that will improve your body, your health, your mental outlook, your entire life. It’s the opposite of stasis. It’s about progress, of making things better.

Sales and marketing woman Sportsart Senza Line column

It’s that built-in attitude that has helped the industry roll up their sleeves, work together, and find solutions to the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis. IHRSA has taken the lead in providing a platform for industry leaders to brainstorm ways to get back on track, to emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever. (Check out IHRSA’s COVID-19 resource hub for information on a variety of topics related to the pandemic and reopening.)

Health clubs aren’t interested in just weathering the storm. This is a group of professionals who are endeavoring to find ways to build an industry more resilient than ever.

What needs to accompany this message of strength is unity with their members.

“We’re in this together” is a powerful concept in uncertain times. But you have to put some meat behind the message.

The ‘Intersection of Profit and Purpose’

As stated above, the mission of the fitness industry is centered on the concept of positive change. Broadening this to include social and community-based issues isn’t a great stretch.

This is related to “cause marketing,” which is “the cooperative effort between a for-profit and non-profit for their mutual benefit.” Think of the annual fundraising drive at health clubs to benefit Augie’s Quest, an organization dedicated to finding a cure for ALS. It was founded by industry legend Augie Nieto who was diagnosed with the disease in 2005. Many health clubs engage in other charities and fundraising events for numerous issues, some focused on community issues and others on national causes. Cause marketing is the clearest manifestation of the “intersection of profit and purpose,” according to marketing firm Engage for Good.

Even more impactful is the brand that makes a passionate cause part of their very identity. Instead of being controversial and divisive, this commitment to a broader social mission resonates with consumers.

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Statistics back up this movement toward cause-driven brands. A 2019 Porter Novelli/Cone Purpose Biometrics study found that:

  • 86% of respondents say they’re likely to purchase from purpose-driven companies;
  • 76% say supporting companies that are addressing social and environmental issues helps them feel they are doing their part; and
  • 72% of Americans say they feel it is more important than ever that the companies they buy from reflect their values.

As you may expect, these impulses run deeper in younger generations. A companion to the above study, Porter Novelli/Cone’s 2019 Gen Z Purpose Study, found that 90% of Generation Z believes companies must act to help social and environmental issues, and 75% will do research to see if a company is being honest when it takes a stand on issues.

Adults of every generation who invest in stocks also prefer to put their money into brands that represent causes they believe in. A 2019 Aflac Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility found that 73% of investors agree that a company’s efforts to help improve society and the environment contribute positively to return on stockholder’s investments. The survey also found that 77% of consumers say they would be motivated to purchase a company's products or services if the company shows they are committed to making the world a better place.

Keep in mind that these statistics were compiled before the historical events of 2020. It’s easy to imagine that cause-driven consumer demand has only intensified among consumers and investors.

How Your Health Club Can Become a Positive Agent of Change

An obvious entry point for health clubs to participate in purpose-driven messaging is via environmental issues and climate change. According to a recent article by Nielsen research titled “Sustainable Brands Can Pivot with Purpose to Help Address COVID-19,” the pandemic has created a bigger lane for brands to serve consumers in helping them recover from the anxieties and disruptions in their own lives. Says the article: “Even as governments move to support their constituents, it’s businesses that may make the biggest impact on an individual’s life.”

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Health clubs that want to make a purpose-driven statement on environmental issues and sustainability need to look no further than SportsArt. An industry leader in sustainable fitness systems, SportsArt has created a revolutionary technology called ECO-POWR: cardio machines that operate on a “watts-to-grid” concept. Instead of consuming vital resources and adding to the global carbon footprint, ECO-POWR machines create energy and feed it back to the electricity grid. With their flagship ECO-POWR machines, the Verde treadmill and Verso three-in-one cross trainer, SportsArt has become the go-to equipment supplier in servicing sustainable gyms. It’s just one reason why the company earned IHRSA’s award as 2020 Associate Member of the Year.

SportsArt’s technology is supported by digital tools that let exercisers know how much energy they are producing as they use ECO-POWR equipment. This makes your members active players—in every sense of the term—in creating a more sustainable planet. You are inviting them to play an essential role in a cause that’s important to them, while making them your partner in creating a better world.

This is also gives your members a feeling of agency. When the events of the world can sometimes make us feel helpless in the face of insurmountable problems, playing a part in a solution can be empowering, and empowerment is a fundamental principle of the fitness lifestyle.

To learn more about the SportsArt’s ECO-POWR line and other products and services, visit their website or call 800-709-1400.

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Jim Schmaltz

Jim Schmaltz is a contributor to IHRSA.org