How Health Clubs Can Capture the ‘Values-based Consumer’

Attracting Millennials and Generation Z are critical to your success. Here’s how taking a stance on sustainability will bond them to your brand.

Young demographics have always been the meat of the industry. Data collected in the IHRSA 2019 Consumer Report bears this out.

“Fitness facilities are predominantly the playground of the young … 35% of all memberships are held by individuals between the ages of 25 and 44,” says the report. “It becomes clear that the industry caters strongly to adults 18 to 45, with less representation among the populations over age 45 and under age 18.”

Millennials (born 1980–1999) lead the charge. “Millennials are the largest industry cohort, representing 33% of all members…” But though they form the bulk of industry membership, Millennials are a fickle group. Again from the report: “Millennials are far more likely to see the value in accessing multiple facilities (24% to 34% use multiple facilities). Traditionally, Millennials have been cast as individuals who become bored easily and are more likely to try new experiences, which this data seems to support.”

But there’s another factor that greatly influences the consumer behavior of Millennials: social responsibility. According to the 2018 Edelman Earned Brand study, we are in the age of the values-based consumer. “Nearly two-thirds (64%) of consumers around the world will buy or boycott a brand solely because of its position on a social or political issue…a staggering increase of 13 points from last year.”

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Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman, calls this movement “the birth of Brand Democracy, as consumers are electing brands as their change agents.”

The values-based consumer is a growing trend in today’s marketplace and brands need to pay attention—and that includes health clubs.

Sustainability and Climate Change on Their Mind

While the values-based consumer is found across all age groups, the strongest proponents are Millennials and their younger cohort Generation Z. Drawing on research presented in a report by Forrester called “The Values-Based Consumer,” Forbes reports that “nearly seven in 10 U.S. Millennials actively consider company values when making a purchase—compared with 52% of all U.S. adults. Older Millennials (ages 27 to 35) are particularly conscious of company values across product categories.”

Generation Z are less trusting of brands than any other generation, according to Emerson Spartz, CEO of Dose, but they are similar to Millennials in that they give values a high priority in their consumer choices. And they are poised to become the dominant consumer category, eclipsing their older peers.

According to Bloomberg, estimates from researchers reveal that by the end of 2019, Generation Z will outnumber Millennials and represent 40% of all consumers.

In a report by Barkley called “The Power of Generation Z Influence,” researchers say “Gen Z spends $44 billion a year on themselves and influence another $600 billion in spending by others.”

“Nearly seven in 10 U.S. Millennials actively consider company values when making a purchase—compared with 52% of all U.S. adults. Older Millennials (ages 27 to 35) are particularly conscious of company values across product categories.”

So what values drive Millennials and Generation Z? If you paid attention to the UN Climate Summit and the massive marches that followed in major cities around the world in late September, you know that climate change and sustainability are chief concerns with these young consumers.

According to data collected by Neilsen, “Nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.” By 2021, sustainably minded shoppers will spend up to $150 billion on green goods.

While overall “60% of Americans fall into the ‘Sustainable Mainstream’ category,” says Neilsen, Millennials are the leaders. “Millennials are twice as likely (75% vs. 34%) than Baby Boomers to say they are definitely or probably changing their habits to reduce their impact on the environment.”

Other research finds Gen Z similar to their older counterparts when it comes to environmental stances. According to GreenMatch, Gen Z will quickly switch brands to move toward companies with sustainable policies, regardless of cost. And Gen Z is more willing to boycott companies who do not match their green values.

Health club owners are in a great position to reach these values-based consumers. Both generations give fitness a high priority. Millennials have been called the “wellness generation” by health advocates, and a survey by UNiDAYS says that 61% of Gen Zers stress the importance of exercise.

Combining green values and fitness is a winning strategy. Here’s how clubs can make a difference by reducing their carbon footprint and appealing to sustainability minded consumers.

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SportsArt bikes in Terra Hale, an eco-friendly fitness club in London.

How You Can Stock Your Club with Sustainable Equipment

As we move toward the beginning of the next decade, issues related to sustainability and climate change will significantly increase. Club owners can satisfy their members’ desire for sustainable products with ECO-POWR cardio units created by SportsArt Fitness. Based on a “watts-to-grid” concept, the ECO-POWR technology harnesses human activity to generate electricity. These machines don’t just reduce your club’s carbon output, they can generate as many as 250 watt-hour of energy that feeds into your electricity grid.

The ECO-POWR line consists of the VERDE, the world’s first energy producing treadmill; the VERSO, a three-in-one cross-trainer that can act as an elliptical, stepper, or cycle; an upright cycle; a recumbent cycle; an indoor cycle; and an elliptical. These machines not only deliver on the promise of sustainability, they have all the bells and whistles that today’s club member demands, such as state-of-the-art LCD screens.

Members also love SportsArt’s SA WELL+ software ecosystem, which tells exercisers how much energy their workouts are producing by measuring their output in easy-to-understand terms (e.g., gasoline saved, electric bulbs powered, etc.). This tracking system provides continual positive reinforcement that sustainability values are being honored.

According to the Edelman research survey, “a majority (60%) of respondents say brands should make it easier to see what their values and positions on important issues are when they are about to make a purchase.” By adding SportsArt’s ECO-POWR line to your club inventory, you’ll be creating a bond with the most important demographics in the industry by proving that you share their values.

SportsArt makes it easy to get started on creating a more sustainable club. Visit their website and access their “Ultimate Sustainable Gym Checklist” to begin creating a green brand that will appeal to values-based consumers while lowering energy costs. And to learn more about SportsArt’s ECO-POWR line, visit their website or call 800-709-1400.

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Jim Schmaltz

Jim Schmaltz is a contributor to IHRSA.org