Tattoos, Red Bull and Valuable Lessons in Marketing a Health Club

I love marketing. I love fitness marketing. What I really love is creative fitness marketing. Unfortunately, good examples of this are few and far between when it comes to health clubs.

Anytime Fitness' Tattoo Promotion Has People Talking That Alone Makes It Better Than A Lot Of Traditional Marketing Ideas

Often, it's the same commodity sell of “low price,” “$0 enrollment,” or “free personal training session” with most advertising... Yawn.  Others resort to the perfectly fit woman leaning across a pool table or the guy with a six-pack jumping rope, or some other way-too-fit person trying to sell the dream...Yawn.

That's why a recent campaign by Anytime Fitness caught my eye. And, luckily for them, it caught the eye of several news outlets showing the power of creative marketing ideas.

Recently, the company announced a promotion where  people would be reimbursed for putting the chain's “Running Man” logo on them permanently. Sure, people with the logo tattooed probably won't add many people walking through the door to sign up. But, capitalizing on the tattoo craze (just turn on Spike TV and see how many tattoo-themed shows they air) helps get the stunt noticed by media and helps to get the brand in front of a whole lot more people than a traditional ad might.

And even more important, while not directly related to fitness it does get people's attention and keeps on people's minds.

Red Bull Is A Leader In Creative Marketing IdeasMany companies outside of fitness use creative marketing campaigns to promote the brand, even if it has as little to do with their business as, say, a fitness company giving away tattoos. For instance, Red Bull's logo could be seen all over the company's YouTube video of Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic freefall from the edge of space that broke the record for breaking the sound barrier without engine power. Not much to do with drinking an energy drink, but it sure made an impression. In fact, that video now has more than 33 million views. More people watched that event live than President Obama's inauguration.

Fast Company included Red Bull's marketing masterpiece in an article about insane marketing campaigns that actually worked, noting that it doesn’t matter that the campaign had very little to do with the actual product, but it was creative, entertaining, and got people talking, making it a huge success.

Now, will Anytime's stunt work to get millions of people talking? Probably not. But, it will get enough people talking that its brand will become more top-of-mind when people are thinking fitness, and that is a success.

Luckily, independent health club owners are in a great position to think outside the box and try things that will help them top-of-mind when people are thinking of working out.

It takes some vision and guts to go outside of the typical mailer or ad in the local paper that shows smiling, young, fit people (often with a towel slung over their shoulder or in the middle of a crunch) having a great time at your club.

Three Creative Ideas to Market Your Health Club

  1. Have staff (in shirts) use their “muscle” by helping shoppers carry out heavy products during the holidays
  2. Partner with a restaurant chain to print exercises on napkins so people can learn to “work off their meal”
  3. Much in the vain of the “Andre The Giant Has a Posse” stickers that went viral before the internet, a well-designed sticker that your staff, members and others are encouraged (Instagram contest?) to place around the city can really get a street buzz going.


John Agoglia has spent nearly two decades either working in health clubs or writing about them. He currently writes for several digital and print publications and provides marketing strategy and content services to companies in and out of the fitness industry.

AB Show 2023 in Baltimore
AB Show is a solution-focused event for athletics, fitness, recreation and military professionals.
Nov 1-4, 2023
Learn More
AB Show 2023
Buyer's Guide
Information on more than 3,000 companies, sorted by category. Listings are updated daily.
Learn More
Buyer's Guide