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Open House: Boosting Membership with Club Events

event marketing

The pros of hosting events within your gym’s walls, and how to market them. 

The daily struggle for a gym owner is dreaming up ways to get people to walk through the door. Promotional offers and radio ads seem to work for awhile, but after enough time, the effectiveness wears off.

When you’ve hit a marketing wall, it might be time to try hosting an event at your health club. While sponsoring conventions or events hosted by outside organizations can help increase exposure for your gym, there are numerous benefits to putting on an event inside your four walls.

“Events can drive non-members into your club who normally wouldn’t come in,” said Linda Mitchell, the director of public and government relations at the Newtown Athletic Club in Newtown, Pennsylvania. “These types of events give people an excuse to experience your club without the pressure of a sales pitch.”

For many gyms, the point of hosting club events is to gain exposure in the local community — whether that be through community events, fundraisers or carnival-style game nights.

“It brings in a lot of people from the outside and also creates a social atmosphere within the club,” said Kay Yuspeh, the president and CEO of Elite Sports Clubs in Wisconsin. “People are now shopping on the internet, but our clubs are very good-looking — we want potential members to come in and actually see the facility, instead of just comparing things online.”

For example, you could host a game night with various games and activities strategically placed throughout different areas of the club — the aquatics facility, small group training space or indoor cycling room, to name a few — that will create visibility for the club and its amenities.

The motivation for the event is important as well. Club events can have many purposes, such as purely creating exposure to gain new members, fundraising for a good cause or making money from an operational perspective.

“The decision to make an event create profit is dependent upon the original intention of the event,” said Mitchell. “Most of our member events are designed to retain members with little or no thought to profitability.”

According to Yuspeh, the best way to determine whether or not an event should make money is evaluating the current goals of the club. If your club needs to increase its membership numbers, go all in for exposure. If you’re looking to foster goodwill in the community, hold a fundraiser for a worthy cause.

Of course, it doesn’t matter how much planning goes into your event if no one knows it’s happening. You might land a few people who happen to be in the area and wander in, but you can’t rely on happenstance. You have to heavily market your events across all available channels.

“Events are marketed through email, social media, in-house signage and a human presence in the lobby of the club, talking face-to-face with members to invite them,” said Mitchell. “Face-to-face marketing is critical to the success of all our events and often produces the most results.”

As you’re planning the event, it’s important to consider getting sponsors. Having local businesses sponsor your event is an effective method for at least breaking even, as well as gaining trust from local consumers.

When approaching a potential sponsor, be upfront with the event’s goal to ensure your interests are aligned.

“It’s imperative to present sponsors with a clear definition of the cause and what the sponsor benefits will be in writing, and then make sure to demonstrate to them you have provided those benefits with documentation in the form of photographs, promotional items with their name included and a heartfelt thank you,” said Mitchell.

If everything comes together — the marketing, sponsorships and execution of the event — your club should see positive results in driving memberships and participation.

“Hosting events can also do wonders to increase retention by creating opportunities for members to connect with one another,” added Mitchell. “They’re forming relationships that will keep them loyal to your club over and above the services that you render.”

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former assistant editor of Club Solutions Magazine.

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