Personal Trainer Software & Fitness Business Blog

Fitness Marketing

Taking a Glance at Successful and Unsuccessful Gym Advertising Campaigns: Part 1

For a well-rounded understanding of what works with gym advertising campaigns, we take a look at few successful and unsuccessful attempts. Advertising campaigns require lots of thought, time, and management to see success. In fact, marketing teams must think about and develop marketing plans for campaigns that cover the competition in the industry, the budget, the timeline, the mediums for delivery, target markets, weaknesses of the company, and strengths.

It’s no simple task to hash out a successful campaign. We see the shortcomings of fitness businesses like Peloton with a campaign that did not sit easily with consumers. Actually, Peloton has received lash back for many of their ads for lack of representation for the average consumer. Nonetheless, Many gyms have seen massive success and complete failure so lets learn from them!

Peloton – An Unsuccessful Home Gym Advertising Campaign

Although Peloton is not a gym, it’s important to dissect this example of how people regard fitness and what to be careful of when creating ad campaigns.

In 2019, Peloton inadvertently created a massively ridiculed ad campaign for their Peloton bike. Overall, the ad featured a nuclear family during the holidays. The husband gifts his wife a Peloton bike for Christmas. She begins making videos to vlog her experience over the course of a year. After watching the ad in full, viewers were struck by the woman’s thin body type and her lack of any fitness routine before. So why did the husband purchase the bike for her?

Unsuccessful Gym Advertising Campaigns - Peloton Commercial of Woman Getting Bike for Holidays
Peloton Commercial of Woman Getting Bike for Holidays

In many of the videos, viewers claim she has a worried or somewhat uneasy expression throughout. Each time she regards the bike and exercises, she does it without enthusiasm. At the end of the video, she shows her husband the vlog she made with her explanation of how it changed her.

Viewers mocked the ad for seeming to portray a strange relationship between the husband and wife. Now, this without a doubt is completely astray from the intention of the ad on Peloton’s part. However, the acting, the dialogue, and the lack of diversity in their ads, in general, led consumers to find these pitfalls in the intent of the ad’s message.

This is where a lack of production causes a pitfall for Peloton. With any ad campaign that creates a narrative around the brand, it’s imperative to fully develop the story. People come from all different backgrounds and have an almost infinite amount of different perspectives. Therefore, this example shows us the importance of carefully tailoring your message to the specific target audience the campaign should attract.

Planet Fitness “Stop the Bullfit” Campaign

In December 2019, Planet Fitness took on #fitspo or #fitspiration to tackle the reasons why people are intimidated by fitness. According to the Bullfit Report, 80% of Americans are not members of a gym or studio. Fitness inspirational quotes like, “Nothing Tastes as Good as Skinny Feels” do not motivate 53% of people. Aside from these quotes, they commissioned other research on American’s beliefs about fitness and “calling out the Bullfit.”

To support the campaign, Planet Fitness hired companies to conduct research. This research produced a report to lay a foundation for credibility. Not only that, but the report laid the foundation for making fitness a humble pursuit instead of a gritty competition between people and others. This is the type of messaging that a person interested in cheap, box gym fitness wants to hear.

Kicking off the advertising itself, Planet Fitness created a spot with a focus group of children responding to popular fitness quotes. The children are the “bullfit detectors” and respond negatively to the fitness quotes like the one below.

Stop the BullFit Campaign
Planet Fitness’s #STOPtheBULLFIT campaign had children give their feedback on common fitness quotes.

The Shorty awards nominated this campaign in social media marketing for the Call to Action category. This category awards companies and influencers with the ability to motivate people to rally around a concept and take action on it. On Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter it received 53,420 native engagements and 843,705 impressions.

Imagine getting your gym or studio’s brand in front of that many eyes! The campaign covered the awareness stage well while engagements thrived. The engagement rate landed at 7.2% by the end of the campaign while industry standards float around 2.4%.

Don’t Ride the Bike of Shame

Planet Fitness also released a competitive ad directed at cycling studios called “Don’t Ride the Bike of Shame” in January 2020. This ad does not directly name any competitors in the fitness studio industry, but it is entirely comparative in nature.

Check it out for yourself.

Ad spot by Planet Fitness for a gym advertising campaign
Don’t Ride the Bike of Shame ad spot by Planet Fitness.

This ad positions Planet Fitness as a place where people can go to work on their health without fear of judgment and for a low monthly price. This piggybacks off of the messaging in the #StoptheBullfit video and digital marketing campaign and aims to show a clear difference between studio fitness and big, box gym fitness. For some, competition and a fast-paced environment are attractive while for others a relaxed environment attracts them. Therefore, Planet Fitness is identifying a specific audience and delivering its message humorously and logically to the right potential customers.

Orange Theory Canada Case Study

On a smaller level, with an Orange Theory Franchise, we looked at a case study from Commerce Garage marketing agency. The performance of the campaigns sparked a 293% increase in web traffic, 58% lower cost per lead, and 33% more conversions.

In the case study, Commerce Garage briefly outlines the methods they used throughout the ad campaigns. The team initially made sure that the landing pages were optimized for web and mobile. Doing this ensured that the leads generated through the campaigns were smoothly guided to more information on the website thus leading to more conversions.

When considering your own gym advertising campaigns, optimize your website to make sure that any leads generated have a clear path to conversion. Aside from making sure that the website is readable and easily accessible, add call-to-action buttons. These lead the consumer to make a purchase, and at best, takes the many steps out of completing a sign-up or purchase. The more steps, the less likely the consumer will become a member.

Optimizing the Ads

Aside from optimization, Orange Theory’s values were simply expressed through bold ads. The point of brand experience that affects conversions is when customers can relate to and understand the values of the company.

Core values help the potential customer know what to expect when they step foot in your place of business. Values lay the foundation for the standards for the staff and how they interact with each other and the customers. Values cultivate the overall studio or gym culture that the members can expect while visiting.

Not all ads work effectively for all audiences, so A/B testing can prove a great method for seeing which one is most effective. The best part is that most ad platforms do the work for you! You just have to specify audiences and create the ad. Let Facebook or Google do the hard work of delivering it for you.

People have a wide variety of perspectives and desires when it comes to fitness and how they get fit. We saw this when looking at the Peloton ad. Therefore, in the case of Orange Theory, they also A/B tested different page designs, different text for the page, and different types and placements of call-to-action buttons.

The biggest overall takeaway from this ad campaign example is the use of data. Data-driven marketing will change your gym advertising campaigns tremendously. Through every means possible, it’s important to analyze what is succeeding and what is not through KPIs (Key performance indicators). KPIs can be different for different campaigns and different industries.

For marketing gyms and studios, the best KPIs to measure for marketing campaigns and their long term effectiveness are:

  • Conversion Rates
  • Lead Generation
  • Page Performance
  • Revenue per Member
  • Retention Rates
  • Member Lifetime Value


These campaigns show a bit about what to be aware of throughout gym advertising campaigns. A number one thing to be aware of is leaving no room for letting potential customers fill in the gaps for message narratives. Even if you’re not working on behalf of a large gym, anything can go viral these days. Do not let your marketing stray from the intended message and delivery by not making the campaign intent and story clear and distinct.

For gym advertising campaigns without a story, as in the case of the Orange Theory case study, focus on making your gym’s values and mission clear and distinct. Not all advertising campaigns require a story to show results! So long as the right customer receives the right message, you will see results.

Results improve when the information shared in campaigns is solidified with initial audience research and data driven improvements throughout.

Stay tuned for a part two with more examples of successful and unsuccessful gym advertising campaigns.

One thought on “Taking a Glance at Successful and Unsuccessful Gym Advertising Campaigns: Part 1

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.