Sitting in the Jennifer Aniston/Jason Bateman movie “The Switch” a few weeks ago, I had no reason to believe that my job would ever cross my mind during the next two hours. I was enjoying a pleasant yet predictable movie, immersed in the troubles of fictional characters and a far-fetched plot.
Early in the movie, two of the characters appeared on treadmills at a health club. Not a fake club with a fake name, but a real club. Over the shoulder of Jeff Goldblum, I could see the Equinox sign as plain as day. I was jarred back to reality, and my mind started to wander. After searching my memory to recall how many other films have featured a scene in a health club and wondering whether Equinox paid to be in the film or whether the company was paid for the use of the facility, I then began to wonder whether scenes of people working out help to demystify health clubs or serve to perpetuate the stereotypes many people have of clubs.
The next week, I contacted Equinox and found out that the company did not pay for placement in “The Switch” or any other movie or TV shows in which the clubs have been featured.
“Most often, production companies approach us because they want the gym featured in their film to be an actual Equinox,” Nicole Moke of Equinox's public relations department said. “We pride ourselves on our commitment to quality, innovation and the member experience and appreciate when approached for such projects. We do not accept a location fee from production companies. We donate our space in exchange for brand exposure.”
Brand exposure. Industry exposure. In a culture so obsessed with Hollywood, it makes perfect sense to use film and TV to expose more people to the inside of fitness facilities and to the idea that working out at a club is as normal as driving a car.
This is especially important as analysis of results from the American Time Use Survey found that only 5 percent of Americans engage in any vigorous exercise on an average day, and only 2.2 percent use exercise equipment. TV viewing accounted for half of leisure time activity (2.8 hours per day). In addition, data from the movie industry shows that movie ticket sales increased during the recession as Americans planned relatively cheap two-hour escapes.
So, why not use America's sedentary TV viewing addiction and movie obsession (and social networking/YouTube obsessions, for that matter) to the industry's advantage?
24 Hour Fitness must have thought the same thing. It has already put together an online campaign showing real members and how their membership at 24 Hour has changed their lives. The videos are posted on the company's Facebook page, YouTube and a 24 Hour community page called 12MillionLives.com.
Why not create your own YouTube “show” with episodes a few minutes in length that show real members and real club staff working toward a fitness goal? Or post videos showing a new member learning how to use the equipment? By using video and the Internet to demystify what goes on inside the doors and to show the real people who walk through those doors, you could open a whole new world to a whole new group of people.
It wouldn't be mandatory to have Jennifer Aniston or Jason Bateman appear in your video, but it probably wouldn't hurt either.