How SoulCycle hopes to tempt back riders after a year of health-club declines
It’s been a rocky road recently for SoulCycle, which closed studios during the pandemic and underwent a leadership change late last year amid accusations of a toxic work environment. Now, with a new CEO—Evelyn Webster, formerly CEO of Guardian US & Australia, joined in December—the Equinox-owned brand is trying to pedal to sunnier skies with a new brand campaign welcoming members back.
Called “Mind Altering Fitness,” the new campaign features loyal SoulCycle riders paired with artwork and music from improv group Freestyle Love Supreme. The campaign was created by SoulCycle’s in-house studio with agency Mrs&Mr, its first work for the brand.
“Our riders have gone through a year like never before,” says Roisin Branch, who joined SoulCycle as head of marketing over the summer after working for Equinox. “This campaign is designed to re-engage them and celebrate them as well as welcome in new riders.”
SoulCycle is in the process of reopening its indoor studios; roughly 20% are already open with more anticipated over the summer. Outdoor studios, which the brand first debuted last summer, currently number 21 and the brand plans to operate 34 of such locations by the end of the year. Branch says that business is on an upswing.
“Riders are back,” she says, noting that “thousands of classes have been waitlisted—some average over 100 on the waitlist.”
Yet the return to full operations comes against a difficult backdrop for the health club industry. Revenue for gyms dropped 58% to $15 billion last year, according to industry expert Rick Caro and the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association; in addition, 17% of fitness facilities permanently closed in the U.S. last year. At the same time, at-home fitness purveyors such as Peloton and Mirror have seen sales rise as locked-down consumers invested in their own exercise equipment. Peloton’s sales grew by 128% to $1.1 billion for its recent quarter.
While SoulCycle now has its own at-home bike, it lacks the first-mover brand advantage of Peloton, which in recent years has built a following that has only strengthened in loyalty during the pandemic. Branch said SoulCycle will release new marketing connected to the “Mind Altering Fitness” campaign that highlights the home bikes in the coming months.
The video for the new campaign will run on paid social and digital channels, and SoulCycle will push the messaging across email marketing, its website and in-studio advertising in 15 cities. In addition, the brand will run a capsule collection selling items like tote bags and notebooks.
“The campaign is about going back to the essence of what makes us so magical and why our community loves us so much,” says Branch. “That is what SoulCycle is about—community and culture.”