Health club brand Equinox is using Saturday's vernal equinox to launch a new campaign that comes as it tries to lure people back to its clubs after shutting down last year due to COVID. Called “Welcome Forward,” the push includes a video that shows Olympic fencer Miles Chamley-Watson tapping into his own personal “mind palace,” a spiritual place to help him overcome a competitive challenge.
“In response to the pandemic, a lot of people have latched onto the ‘new normal,’ but we wanted to position ourselves as a forward-looking brand—Equinox welcomes you forward,” says Will Mayer, who joined Equinox in January as executive creative director after working at Better Half, an agency that he co-founded. “We took that and applied it to how it could come across through a piece of film, this idea of a ‘mind palace’ as a memory technique.”
The New York-based fitness brand had most recently worked with Droga5, releasing a provocative campaign in early 2020. Shortly after, however, the pandemic struck and forced all brands, and health clubs in particular, to re-evaluate their business. Though fitness operators have introduced virtual workouts and tried to take advantage of homebound consumers eager to work out from their couches, the overall health club environment has been strained.
Last year, chains including 24 Hour Fitness and Town Sports filed for bankruptcy protection. According to a recent report from market research firm Ibis World, revenue for the gym, health and fitness club industry was expected to decline in 2020 "due to the compulsory closure order in many states." More than 87% of U.S. fitness clubs reopened by September, but by then 60% of members still had not returned to gyms, accordiing to a report from fitness research firm ClubIntel cited by Bloomberg.
Equinox closed its high-end clubs last March and becan reopening in May under new safety and operating procedures. Such measures include sanitation stations, health checks, limited capacities and mask requirements.
"We're seeing a ton of members coming back--our safety standards are unparalleled," says Mayer.
But the brand's financial challenges amid the pandemic became clear last spring when it was was one of many brands forced to delay agency payments. Equinox Holdings is also carrying a hefty debtload from its acquistion of Soulcycle a decade ago.