The Business of Fitness: How CrossFit, SoulCycle and MovNat Use Video to Build Loyal Communities

With the New Year comes New Year’s resolutions, most of which are centred around fitness goals, diets, and dreams of six pack abs. Gyms are packed, competition for the treadmills gets heated, and hot yoga studios get even more sweaty.

And by mid-February, things get back to normal and you can once again find a locker in the change room.

While many fitness facilities build their business model around the January membership surge and inevitable drop, there’s a new crop of fitness movements that seem impervious to the February slump.

Fitness businesses like CrossFit, SoulCycle and MovNat have built huge followings around a unique experience and a distinct culture. They’ve transcended the gym and have become lifestyle companies, supported by virtual communities on forums, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

With CrossFit approaching 10,000 gyms around the world, and SoulCycle exploding in popularity despite its $34 class fee, these businesses are clearly doing something right.

So what’s the hook? A large part of it lies in these organizations’ ability to create a unique and rewarding experience both in the gym and outside of it. They encourage new friendships and community, things many of us have a hard time developing on our own these days.

They encourage human experiences. They inspire positive emotions by helping members accomplish goals, and experience personal triumph and exhilaration. When members have failures or set-backs, they are built back up through support within the communities, both in the real world and online.

These organizations also place a huge emphasis on video in their marketing and community-building. They use video for branding, storytelling, demonstrations and workouts, testimonials, and instructor profiles. Their videos inspire viewers and create emotion, making them ideal for sharing on social media. According to Karen Nelson-Field’s new book Viral Marketing: The Science of Sharing, videos that feature personal triumph are more likely to get shared than nearly any other emotional device.

When you watch a MovNat video, you immediately get what they are all about (natural human movement) and what you can expect from becoming part of the MovNat community. We see lean, strong men and women climbing trees, lifting logs and rocks, and having a great time doing it.

When you watch a SoulCycle video, you experience the nightclub-like atmosphere of a class, the infectious personalities of the instructors, and the addictive rush of the workout.

CrossFit’s videos connect the community with WODs (Workout of the Day) and highlights of members’ triumphs, from Nicole’s first “muscle up” to Mike’s “clean and jerk PR”.

These organizations are successful because they’ve created tribes. They’ve made their customers feel like they belong and they are supported. They know how to show off their unique culture, they make it look like fun, and they keep them coming back through a strong community and the power of habit.

These are lessons every business can apply. These are resolutions worth keeping.