Advertising Reminds You to Keep “Workin’ on My Fitness”

Fergie coined the term “workin’ on my fitness” and that’s exactly what fitness advertising encourages you to do.  A huge question that comes into play though is their methodology. Which is better – advertising your gym or fitness program using already fit people or how about advertising that uses the everyday person to sell their product.

As temperatures continue to rise, swimsuits are being dug up from the back of the drawers.  Advertising for gyms and home workouts are capitalizing on consumers angst about being seen in a bikini. Even food companies are! Anyone else eat their Special K in their swimsuit?

If you’ve seen any fitness advertisements over the past year, you’ll notice that they usually cast already fit people.  When I saw the Flirty Girl Fitness commercial on TV, I didn’t know if they were trying to sell me a fitness program or dance classes to be an exotic dancer (no offense to anyone using the FlirtyGirl brand by the way).

nike fit

I think this sends an inappropriate message to viewers though. As a media consumer, I don’t see the progress that they’ve made or how long and gruesome their weight loss process has been. Instead, I see already beautiful people who look like they hit the gym for fun – while I’m over here with sweat dripping down my face and my eyeliner going right along with it.

To counter this perception, Planet Fitness has run a different type of campaign. They actually parody the “hot” bods who workout at their gyms and show the regular John and Jane Doe joining the gym to avoid those crowds. They even make fun of the gyms that are a hangout for all the beautiful people – and for me this is much more effective.

As health and fitness become more of a priority as the temperatures rise, I think an exploration of what type of fitness advertising works is an interesting topic to discuss. Personally, I’m able to relate more to Planet Fitness’ ‘real’ campaign, whereas the lean bodied men and women in gym commercials just do the opposite in motivating me.

powerhouse gym

Advertising agencies are tirelessly trying to find ways to motivate and change consumer behavior. In my opinion, what works for consumers (at least it does for me) is to create a sense of reality in the ad. I want companies to show me how their products help everyday people in an everyday lifestyle. This way, their pitch can become my own reality.

What works for you?

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11 Responses to Advertising Reminds You to Keep “Workin’ on My Fitness”

  1. Nikolos Gurney says:

    I spend a lot of time “working out” but I really don’t view it as that. I see it more as a lifestyle choice to stay fit and lean – and because of such to a certain extent I resemble the people in the typical gym advertisements (well maybe not the bulging muscles, I’m a skinny runner, but I digress…) I have been to a Planet Fitness and honestly the facility was not for me. As somebody who has invested a reasonable amount of time into my body the gym simply didn’t have the resources I needed or wanted to achieve my fitness goals. That being said I still think that it is a good option for a lot of people looking to improve their health – particularly those who the advertising and the culture of the gym are designed to capture. So what works for me? I think the same thing that works for you; a message that connects with me. However I doubt it is the same message as the one that connects with you. I know that Planet Fitness’ message is actually slightly annoying to me – as was working out there. I actually got the lunk alarm while doing interval training on a treadmill. I remember thinking, what, do these people not know that I am going to breath hard, sweat a lot, and grimace as I push through this workout?

    That being said, the perfect body advertising doesn’t appeal to me either. I think that I am a little more unique of a demographic for gyms – and probably not the profitable demo they are looking to bring in (people who sign up, forget about it and never use the facility are the most profitable as their credit cards suffer every month.)

    • guia says:

      Nicole – I really appreciate the insights you provided. I find the Planet Fitness ads to be silly and humorous, becuase it’s nice to see that a gym has finally poked fun at something that’s been going on at gyms for years.

      I think the most interesting point you bring up has to do with the consumer demographics – probably a point that I should’ve also discussed within this post. The consumer is the end result is it not? Therefore their perception of fitness in general (I really need it vs. I’m already on board) will affect the probability that the ad will work.

      For consumers like yourself who already have a fitness routine, neither ad is going to really work. However, those who want a lifestyle change might perk up a little more to the advertising.

      A final point to note – I saw much more media buy for the Planet Fitness campaign during the past season of the Biggest Loser. So maybe that had a hand in the advertising message..

      Again, I really appreciate your contribution!

  2. amonda says:


    I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed your blog post, as it was full of substantive commentary and humor as well. I compliment you for doing such a good job articulating your thoughts so effectively.

    I concur completely with the basis of your post; why do fitness club ads always show members possessing the Mr. Universe-type bodied? They obviously have worked long and hard to achieve his physique, but why don’t they show the guy (or gal) that signs up for membership to shed those extra 20 – 30 lbs. amassed over the years, and struggles to do so. These are the typical folks who don’t ingest Creatine, but rather pizzas as part of their nutritional regimen. We all know these are the bodies that most often prevail, so how can gyms appeal to them? I don’t think it’s by showing ads with persons possessing bodies the likes that most people, who don’t have 4-6 hours per day to spend at a gym, will ever attain. While I am dedicated to my fitness routine, including running and weight training six days. Therefore, I don’t want to see bodies of individuals who don’t have anything better to do with their day than to train, although I respect them for their commitment.

    To your point, showing the common, typical body in ads is much more relatable and resonating than the types of ads most gyms and health-food marketing strategies employ.

    Very good blog; I really enjoyed it.


  3. Stuart Haack says:

    Very timely and interesting topic! Should gym membership advertising be aspirational or reality driven? At first, all that I could think of are all the Reebok/Nike/Adidas/Gatorade ads out there that show the fittest people in the world pushing themselves to the limit as abs and biceps flex everywhere. But then I realized that there is a big difference between selling the products that go along with training and working out, and selling the training program itself. Selling these items almost needs to be aspirational because the people most likely to buy these items with brand loyalty and on a regular basis are indeed athletic and sporty individuals. But, the people who are likely to join a gym or fitness center could be anyone (especially after New Years and before summer). So showing uber in shape people may not be the best way to capture the Average Joes and Janes out there. If someone is really out of shape (or even just a little), seeing someone bench pressing 350 pounds or striding into their 10th mile on the treadmill might not be the best selling tool, as it could easily overwhelm and discourage enrollment. Great topic!

  4. waterwor says:

    Great Blog! I am totally with you in that advertising is out of touch with fitness and what appeals to the gemeral consumer. I can attest to being turned – off by fitness ads that pontificate the importance of having an ideal body for bikini season. I think ads that show “real” people and not supermodels are way more effective because it sends the message that they understand that not everyone has huge biceps or is size double zero (00), I think that these ads not only make people not feel good as they are aimed to do, but they also futher society’s emphasis on superficial beauty and do not address something very important to everyone– THEIR HEALTH. Awesome job!

  5. Allison Cordova says:

    Hi Rachael,

    I really enjoyed reading your post! I try to “work on my fitness” as much as possible, but never really thought about the advertising that attracts me to working out or to favor a gym. In some way I agree with Nikolos in that it is a lifestyle choice and the ads that connect with some may not work for others. For me, being around people who are fit and healthy motivates me to work out even more. It helps me set a goal for what I can work toward. But …I can’t say I’ve ever been moved to buy a product with some “hot bods” in front of it! lol I always viewed those infomercials for ‘Insanity Workouts’ or ‘P90X’ are false advertising and was never motivated to buy the product. However, I stand corrected. I tried an Insanity workout with my boyfriend, who bought the product, and I found it to be a great workout! So ..while I’m not really moved to buy something myself, I think it depends on what you want from the product. Great post!

  6. capeyton says:

    I love it! I actually agree with you that the unrealistic portrayal that only already fit people spend time working out is counterproductive. I actually think that showcasing these already fit people, without any sort of documentation of their journey could create early disappointment and disengagement with a fitness routine. If you have the “unfit” person all fired up about a New Year’s resolution to get fit and kick the latest Nike ad’s butt…and 3 weeks into, they are still soft in all the wrong places, it’s discouraging. I agree, realism is best. Show the journey! Share the secrets!

  7. Tori Bass says:

    Hi Rachael,

    I found your post to be rather thought provoking and interesting. Being someone who is not a “gym person,” per se, I think the ads that show the already very fit people at the gym to be a bit intimidating. While in theory I would like to be a bit more of a “gym person.” the fact of the matter is when I do go, I always feel like I don’t know what I am doing, and therefore feel a bit foolish. The ads that show these gym aficionados are not speaking to the everyday person, and in fact, only serve to discourage would be gym subscribers who may only feel even more inexperienced in a gym setting. I think Planet Fitness is on to something by advertising the average person because this is more relatable to any potential (especially new) gym subscriber.

    Tori Bass

  8. lavellelj says:

    Hi Rachel,

    Great blog! Timely as well, since I received an email today that told me I had 81 days until summer and to get my body ready. No pressure (lol). It actually didn’t have any people featured but showed the facilities and benefits of using the gym as a lifestyle change. I appreciated that because like you mentioned I’m not trying to see already ‘fit’ bodies in ads for me to get fit. I like the “real” people approach. Heck, it worked for Dove in their campaign for beauty products to convey a more internal message of what beauty is. So, maybe health clubs should take a page from the Dove book of ads.
    I really enjoyed your perspective on the subject and the humor and passion you used to write on what is sometimes a touchy topic for people.
    Thank you for sharing.
    ~LaVenia CMGT541(A)

  9. calandry says:

    Rachael, you have no idea how this post hits home for me! About a two years ago, I took a leap and decided to hire a personal trainer to direct me in my quest for a healthier, slimmer me. It worked great (although he’s a little mean when he wants to be – don’t tell him I said that though)! Having a trainer gave me the accountability I needed when it came to keeping up workouts and following a strict nutrition plan. After a break from training, I decided it was time to go back and gain some of the ground I lost in the months I wasn’t training. So I’m back at it, sweating, pushing myself and wishing I could inflict the same pain on my beloved trainer (he really is a great guy).

    That being said, I feel like although I’m not a super fit, six-pack ab-having, athletic goddess, I’m “into” fitness and I want to do all I can to improve myself physically. So seeing commercials that feature perfect bodies extolling the virtues of fitness sometimes fall flat for me. For example, take the Insanity videos. It’s hard to not get discouraged when you see a gym full of perfectly ripped bodies doing the exercises with flawless form. Meanwhile, most people are just trying to catch their breath and are fighting to keep up. While these bodies do give me something to work toward, I feel that the advertising for fitness-related companies miss the mark. Their ads almost come off as aspirational when fitness is something we should all take part in, regardless of size, shape and weight. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I’m definitely feeling the same way you do!

  10. ellena says:

    I agree that showing already fit bodies might not actually work. Why go to the gym and torture yourself when you already look great?

    I think gyms and athletic clubs should differentiate themselves to be more appealing. For example, I just joined a gym. I hate gyms. The only reason why I joined this particular gym is because not a lot of people go there, it has a great sauna area, and it has a lap pool, which I use frequently. Its also close to my house. These are the things that make me want to go to the gym.

    Ads that would appeal to me would be of awesome swimming pools, people in action in fun classes such as yoga or spinning, and people chilling out in the sauna or jacuzzi.
    Counting calories, not in. Having fun and relaxing after a good workout, in.