VIRGINIA BEACH, VA, Aug. 10, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The COVID-19 pandemic has created vast economic challenges for practically everyone — but some industries are feeling this more than others. Among the hardest hit businesses are gyms and fitness centers, which are believed to be an area where the virus can spread easily.
Many gym owners have been forced to shut down their facilities for months. Those in states like Arizona have faced an economic whiplash, initially given the go-ahead to reopen, then forced to shut down again as local cases spiked.
Needless to say, gym owners, fitness trainers and others employed in the industry have been struggling. Even iconic fitness chains like 24 Hour Fitness have declared bankruptcy and announced permanent closures of locations across the country.
Fortunately, companies in related niches are taking notice — such as active duty-owned fitness apparel brand Born Primitive, which recently stepped in to support local gyms by offering $1.5 million in gift vouchers to gym members.
‘Stay For May’
“As soon as gyms started closing due to the pandemic, they started bleeding memberships,” explains Bear Handlon, co-founder of Born Primitive. “This was devastating for the gyms. A lot of them were immediately in a position where they were just trying to keep their heads above water.”
Recognizing the significant threat the industry was facing, the fitness and CrossFit apparel brand developed a campaign entitled “Stay For May.” Targeted at gym owners, the idea of the campaign was to help local gyms offer a compelling reason for their customers to retain their memberships, even in the midst of the pandemic.
“This campaign was the sequel to our ‘Back the Gyms’ stimulus initiative, which allowed us to ultimately contribute over $186,000 to local gyms all across America. However, we soon realized what was more important for gym owners was for their customers to keep their memberships. So we pivoted the campaign and took a different approach that attempted to incentivize those who were on the fence about things to stick with their gym for a few more months,” says Handlon.
The Stay for May initiative aimed to directly help struggling gyms by offering gift vouchers to patrons who kept their gym membership during the month of May. The gyms themselves didn’t have to pay anything — instead, the money for the vouchers came directly from Born Primitive and its partners.
By offering gift vouchers from various, fitness-oriented brands that gym users would be interested in, local gym owners could give their customers a reason to not cancel their memberships. It was also easy for gym owners to implement. The gym owner simply needed to share a link with their members. From there, the participating brands were able to deliver the gift vouchers instantly via email.
The Power of a Partnership
To execute the Stay for May campaign, Born Primitive partnered with O2 Natural Recovery Drink. Together, they recruited two additional brands — Bear Komplex and Puori — in an effort to spread the word and secure additional incentives for gyms.
“The $1.5 million in gift vouchers we were able to distribute from Born Primitive was an astonishing amount. But I’m incredibly pleased that we made the decision to partner with other brands — that raised the total amount of support we were able to provide to over $6 million!” Handlon notes. “I think that really made an impact in getting more people to stay.”
Each brand chipped in by providing a $25 gift voucher to each gym patron, who could then use the voucher at their respective websites. Because each brand focuses on fitness products, the vouchers were a natural fit for gyms and their members.
“We will never be able to actually quantify how much of an impact this campaign had on persuading people to keep their memberships, but most importantly, we wanted the gym owners to know they weren’t alone in this. We wanted to use our brand platform to support them because these local gyms are the foundation of the entire community, and we owe it to them. We are stronger together,” Handlon says.
This mindset is not new for Born Primitive, a brand with a history of giving back since they were founded just a few years back. Prior to this campaign, Born Primitive donated over $500,000 to a variety of charities in only four years’ time — charities that supported cancer research and prevention, adaptive athletes, military- and first-responder communities and COVID-relief efforts.
“As a business, we’ve said from day one that we have to use our platform to give back. We need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. That is something we will never waiver on,” Handlon says.
Even with widespread support for initiatives like Stay for May, many fitness centers and local gyms face an uncertain future. “We don’t know what the immediate future looks like, especially given the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in some areas,” Handlon admits.
“But if we lose our gyms, we lose an essential place for people to improve themselves and get on track for healthier, happier lives. Even when they’re deemed ‘non-essential,’ we can’t lose sight of how big of an impact for good these places can have.”
For the time being, at least, fundraisers and programs that encourage customer loyalty are helping ensure that many gyms will still be there when their patrons are able to return.