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The pivot that skyrocketed a fitness franchise

Chelsea Erieau-Larkin
April 23, 2024

Fitness franchise FitStop has just won its spot in the Financial Times Fastest Growing Companies List for APAC. That’s right, not a list of the fastest-growing fitness franchises - the fastest-growing companies, full stop. 

How did FitStop become the only fitness company to even make it on the list? Let alone 33rd on a list of 500? Let’s look at their marketing history to see how reviving fitness challenges boosted their growth.

The pivot to a fitness series - and back again 

FitStop had previously dabbled in fitness challenges. They pushed a challenge called “Refine You” in 2018-2020, which was promoted as a  “6 week lifestyle challenge promoting healthy lifestyle and removing the focus on fad diets”. 

They even developed a custom feature the FitStop app to track challenge signups for “The FitStop Challenge”.

But by 2022, possibly under pressure to reinvent during the Covid-19 pandemic, FitStop had changed from challenges to a “series.” A series was a structured set of workouts designed to build on one another for sustainable habit creation over time.

In now-deleted articles, FitStop marketed the idea of using “series” instead of challenges. They published an article called “5 Reasons We Don’t Believe in Challenges”.

Using the Wayback Machine, we can see that FitStop was intending to push the idea of long-term, sustainable programs, like their “Unstoppable Series” which ran over 6 weeks. 

The article read:

“‍That’s right, it’s about time we think about our training in a long-term lens, as we’ve been taught for so long to smash a Challenge, give it your all, get quick results, and then what? You fall right back because these Challenges are often not sustainable, and it’s very rare for someone to pay and complete each Challenge all year round!”
“If you have any further questions on why Fitstop released the Unstoppable Series instead of sticking to the Challenge, reach out to your Fitstop location.”

However, by the end of 2022, FitStop seems to have decided to pivot away from the idea of series in order to aggressively pursue challenges. Their end-of-year wrap-up uses “challenges” to refer to series participants. In late 2022, they improved their UI functionality to start FitStop challenges in-app. 

The article “5 Reasons We Don’t Believe in Challenges” seems to have been archived or deleted in 2023, as you can see from public data from ScreamingFrog:

Using fitness challenges for growth

FitStop released the “Move More Challenge” in early 2024. This is now their top keyword driving organic traffic to their website on Google, other than their brand name. From a marketing perspective, this is a healthy marker of a strong choice.

As FitStop may have discovered, long-term, sustainable change doesn’t always sell well. Life is getting busier, and the day-in, day-out maintenance of physical fitness isn’t as appealing as it once was. It’s just another thing to maintain—along with emails, dishes, work, and your social life. 

But a challenge is novel. It’s fun. A short-term commitment is doable. Importantly, as psychology has discussed, what sets apart the concept of a “challenge” is that it includes a sense of opportunity. The engagement that comes from an opportunity is far higher than engagement from obligation.

FitStop has tapped into something else important: gamification. As their blog says, “At FitStop, our engagement has largely benefited from technology through our challenge, referral systems and streaks.”

This is why fitness challenges have become one of the highest tools for community engagement in the twenty-first century.

Fitness challenges were the sole driving force behind F45’s rapid industry domination. Studios like STRONG Pilates created a brand-new revenue stream by adding fitness challenges. Many charities use fitness challenges to create yearly fundraising events. For example, Cancer Council has found huge success running The March Charge - a yearly challenge to push your fitness limits in March alongside the rest of the community. You could argue that marathons are a fitness challenge, and their enduring popularity tells you everything you need to know. Fitness challenges continue to go viral on social media, with challenges like 75 Hard racking up billions of views.

"Challenges are essential for boutique and group fitness studios, fostering engagement and member retention," says Jarron Aizen, CEO & Founder of Hapana.

The reintroduction of challenges, especially in a structured, community-centric format, has been revolutionary for FitStop. They've seen impressive improvements in member retention and a surge in new sign-ups. There’s just something about a shared challenge that converts casual attendees into committed members. And of course, getting on the Financial Times' list of the fastest-growing companies in APAC is nothing to sneeze at.

Add fitness challenges to your offering with Hapana’s industry-first app feature

At Hapana, we wanted to make it easier for fitness studios to offer challenges. We designed the challenge feature - a beautiful, clean, modern and intuitive app for your members to sign up to and track any challenge. 

The challenge app feature has been introduced into Hapana’s offering, and trialed with amazing results.

Hapana’s challenge app is designed with both the studio and its members in mind, offering straightforward billing, insightful metrics, and an attractive design to enhance the user experience.

What sets the app apart is its uniqueness in the market. It’s a pioneering tool that opens up new revenue opportunities for fitness studios, potentially adding significant income with minimal effort. Our clients are already seeing the potential, viewing it as a strategic addition to their services.

By bringing the Hapana challenge feature into your studio, you’re not just keeping up with the trends; you’re setting them. 

The challenge feature can help retain members while attracting new ones who are looking for that extra something in their fitness routine. It contributes to a vibrant, thriving community, and places you far ahead of your competition - because this is the only innovation of its kind out there.

Do you want to add a revenue stream, engage your members, and welcome more people into your fitness family?