Should Your Gym Capitalize on Social Responsibility?

By harnessing the power of consumer activism, your gym can build a fiercely loyal following.

Do you know how your members feel about your health club? Are they “meh” about your brand, or are they raving fans? After all of your investment in marketing, social media outreach, advertising, onboarding, and engagement incentives, you need to know if your efforts are paying off.

One way businesses measure member satisfaction is through the Net Promoter Score (NPS), a well-known management tool used to gauge customer loyalty. It’s become a valuable data point for health clubs as well.

“The Net Promoter Score provides a very powerful view of how members truly feel about their health club,” says Jay Ablondi, IHRSA’s executive vice president of global products. “Using the NPS, club operators can learn not only how loyal their members are but why they feel the way they do.”

In June, IHRSA announced the results of a survey that found that the NPS for the North American health club industry is 39 out of 100. That means for every 100 members, 39 more are likely to recommend their club to a friend or colleague as opposed to those who would discourage others from joining.

Surveys that calculate your NPS can tell you a lot about what your members think about your club. But in recent years, a disruptive influence has began affecting NPS and other customer satisfaction surveys: consumer activism.

“CSR [corporate social responsibility] is not a fad, a trend or ‘nice to have.’ It’s a business imperative that must be authentic and seamlessly integrated into brand value propositions.”

Whitney Dailey, Director of Marketing/Research & Insights

Cone Communications - Boston

While the fitness industry remains fundamentally—and some would say refreshingly—apolitical, consumers are increasingly choosing to spend their money on “socially responsible” brands. And health clubs are not immune.

Money —and Sometimes It Yells

This new activism can be a liability for businesses that don’t pay attention to the volatility of today’s marketplace. A Washington Post survey found that 41% of Americans said that at least once over the last two years they had “bought or boycotted a certain product or service because of the social or political views of the company that provided it.”

In Forbes magazine, marketing expert Peter Horst warns, “The rise in consumer activism brings a host of new risks and challenges that brand managers ignore at their peril. An increasingly energized citizenry is part of a new reality that calls for new rules for managing brands and reputation.”

Taking a side in a contentious issue comes with significant risks, and sometimes it seems that brands just can’t win no matter what they do. But these days consumers believe companies should be part of the activist landscape. According to a new study by Cone Communications, 86% of consumers expect companies to act on environmental and social issues.

Why should a health club weigh in on any social or political issue? The truth is you really don’t have to. There’s a way to tap into today’s growing consumer activism without wading into deeply polarizing controversies. And a few enterprising club owners are leading the charge.

What’s Your Footprint?

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You want raving fans? A following of fiercely loyal members who will praise your brand all over social media? Then reduce your carbon footprint. Go green. Become a sustainable business.

That’s what Paul Crane did in 2015 when he opened up his first ECO GYM, a sustainable health club with numerous environmentally friendly practices. He’s added two more green clubs since and plans to franchise more in the coming years. His retention data tells the story. One of his clubs boasts an 89% usage rate with a 4% attrition rate.

Crane will explain how he successfully transitioned from a traditional club to a sustainable one in IHRSA’s October 17 webinar: “Leveraging Social Responsibility to Grow Your Health Club.” The success of Crane’s ECO GYM concept proves that you can align your brand with a passionate, socially conscious audience without alienating those with opposing views.

This confirms what market research has been telling us in recent years. According to a 2016 scientific article by Yale researchers called “The Consumer as Climate Activist”:

  • Consumer activism on global warming is relatively common in the U.S., and has increased in the past two years;
  • 31% of American consumers say they have rewarded companies that have taken steps to reduce global warming.

There’s every reason to believe these numbers are increasing. For instance, the more recent Cone survey mentioned above found that 76% of consumers want businesses to act specifically on climate change.

Says Whitney Dailey, director of marketing/research & insights at Cone Communications. “CSR [corporate social responsibility] is not a fad, a trend or ‘nice to have.’ It’s a business imperative that must be authentic and seamlessly integrated into brand value propositions.”

So how does a health club go green and become sustainable? It’s easier—and more affordable—than you think.

The Green Machines of SportsArt

Crane couldn’t have achieved his ECO GYM triumph without his association with SportsArt Fitness, the category leader of sustainable fitness equipment.

SportsArt’s ECO-POWR line of cardio machines are based on a “watts to grid” concept. Instead of requiring electricity to run the machines, ECO-POWR technology stores 74% of energy per workout that is then fed into the club’s own electrical system. Not only do you save on energy costs, your club has the potential to provide energy to nearby businesses.

What makes the transition to using SportsArt’s sustainable model even more painless is the durability and state-of-the-art digital functionality of their cardio equipment. Leading the ECO-POWR line are:

  • The Verde: a treadmill that offers a wide spectrum of training possibilities for all fitness levels, from jogging to sled-pushing. It has advanced slat-belts, braking systems, and multiple resistance levels, and can generate 200 watts/hour of energy, despite being decked out with a state-of-the-art LCD screen.
  • The Verso: a three-in-one cross-trainer that accommodates elliptical, stepper, and cycle movements with the same energy-harnessing capabilities as the Verde.

But ultimately, you’ll harness an even more powerful energy with SportsArt’s sustainable equipment concept: You’ll create those ravings fans you’ve worked so hard to develop. And these environmentally conscious consumers are in the demographic sweet spot. Generation X, Millennials, and younger age groups are strongly committed to consumer activism on green causes, with 73% of Millennials saying they would spend more money to support a sustainable brand. And in the “Masdar Gen Z Global Sustainability Survey,” 40% of Generation Z (born between 1995-2015) said that climate change was their top concern, beating out the economy and other hot-button issues. These young consumers are quick to share their activism with others on social media. So, you not only earn more enthusiastic followers, you create a brand ambassador with every membership.

To learn how you can get started creating a brand associated with sustainability, contact SportsArt via their website or call 1-800-709-1400.

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Jim Schmaltz

Jim Schmaltz is a contributor to IHRSA.org