How One Anytime Fitness Ad Campaign Flipped the Script in the Fitness Industry
How One Anytime Fitness Ad Campaign Flipped the Script in the Fitness Industry

By breaking from the norm and launching an ad campaign featuring regular people and realistic fitness goals, Anytime Fitness capitalized on the momentum fueling the increasingly popular health and wellness trend.

It’s easy to spot an ad for a gym when you’re flipping through a magazine or watching TV. Odds are it looks something like this: a perfectly in shape fitness buff is running on a treadmill or lifting weights without exerting an ounce of effort. And the message that accompanies that standard image all but guarantees life changing results.

It’s a simple concept that’s worked for a seemingly endless list of brands over the years. But the problem with that ad template is that outside of a strategically placed logo, there’s no way to tell which specific gym membership or fitness program is being sold. There’s hardly any differentiation when it comes to marketing campaigns within the health and fitness industries. That’s why when Anytime Fitness launched a different kind of gym ad at the end of 2014, it completely changed the game.

Right off the bat, the brand’s ads looked and felt different from other concepts. Instead of featuring fitness models, Anytime Fitness employed regular people who were simply looking to “Get to a Healthier Place.” That includes parents who were having trouble keeping up with their kids and aging grandparents who were trying to get some of their youthful strength back. Instead of sending a message that you had to look perfect to work out or be a “gym person," Anytime Fitness sold the notion that they could help regular people reach their realistic fitness goals.

“People were saying things like, ‘I don’t look good enough to go to a gym.’ I was shocked by that. I was a little surprised nobody had cracked that insight,” said Stacy Anderson, CMO for Anytime Fitness, in an interview with Ad Age back in 2014. She continued, “It’s a category filled with a lot of the same imagery.”

The brand’s “Get to a Healthier Place” campaign continues to stand out today because it came along at exactly the right time. The door has been wide open for a brand to take the lead—the fitness segment has never been more popular.

From boutique brands like Soul Cycle that develop an almost cult-like following to traditional membership-based gym chains, more people are signing up for some type of active activity than ever before. That’s because millennials—who now make up the largest group of American consumers—are increasingly focused on improving their overall health. And they’re interested in doing it in a gym or class setting.

Anytime Fitness capitalized on that strong momentum and heightened consumer demand. By launching a campaign that sent the right—and realistic—message to potential gym members, Anytime Fitness has been able to turn its once simple concept into a household name. And instead of building up its membership through convenience, the brand has taken an active approach to recruiting clients.

“Our prior campaigns didn’t really have a coordinated spend effort behind them so they were primarily local tools for local efforts,” Anderson told Ad Age.

There’s no doubt that Anytime Fitness’ ability to innovate and stand out in an industry that’s often filled with more of the same has helped fuel the brand’s impressive growth. The brand recently earned the top spot on Entrepreneur’s list of the top global franchises for the second consecutive year, and is frequently mentioned by publications like Forbes and CNN Money as a brand to beat. And with more than 41 million members nationwide and over 2,500 clubs across the globe, Anytime Fitness is expected to continue to widen its customer base as the health and wellness industries play an even more prominent role in the lives of consumers across the world.