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How GoodLife Aims to Break Down Barriers


GoodLife Fitness, based in Canada, started 2020 off with a new brand campaign. The campaign “Canadian Strong” seeks to break down the common barrier of intimidation at the gym by focusing on being an inclusive and welcoming place.

According to Sander van den Born, the chief marketing and technology officer for GoodLife, the campaign pushes aside perfection-based imagery often used in the fitness industry in favor of visuals that more accurately reflect what we see in our clubs each day, and in the unique fabric of society. 

“Fitness isn’t perfect, and it looks different for everybody,” said van den Born. “It’s not just about earning a six-pack, building bulging biceps or uber-toned legs; it’s about being healthy — both mentally and physically. The human body was meant to move. We want to encourage and inspire people to do whatever is fun, feels the best and is most natural for them.”

“Canadian Strong” celebrates diversity and inclusion. The campaign showcases different races, genders and a wide range of body types, as well as people who have overcome immense physical and mental challenges. “The message we’re hoping people take away is that we can all become stronger, regardless of who you are, where you’re from or what you’ve been through,” said van den Born. “Everyone can and should be a champion of their own health and fitness. 

With a significant portion of the Canadian population remaining inactive, past campaigns have focused primarily on getting new people through the door. “Canadian Strong” speaks to potential new members by demonstrating the value of being a part of the GoodLife community. It also focuses on the benefits people experience from a lifelong commitment to exercise, resonating with their current members.

For other club operators looking for ways to break down barriers in their facilities, van den Born said the fitness industry as a whole should move away from perfection-based imagery. “The gym isn’t supposed to be an intimidating place,” he explained. “It’s where people come to take care of their health. We have a role to play, as an industry, to be inclusive rather than positioning fitness as an elite ability.”

Van den Born also said he encourages other club operators to ensure their facilities are accessible. GoodLife is committed to ensuring its clubs are accessible for both its employees and members. “We are proud to say that any club we’ve opened in the last 10 years is fully accessible,” he said. “In circumstances where accessibility may be a challenge due to the building design, we are committed to working with our members to accommodate their individual needs wherever possible.”

Overall, van den Born believes the culture of selling gym memberships needs to pivot.

“One of my major observations since joining GoodLife and analyzing the market is that a lot of fitness marketing focuses solely on the acquisition of new members using hefty discounts and special promotions,” he explained. “Instead of trying to sell new memberships with this competitive, race-to-the-bottom pricing, we need to educate people about the value of daily physical activity.”

According to van den Born, the industry should be encouraging regular exercise because of its benefits to mental and physical health, not just because the price is right. “I also believe a shift from acquisition to retention is key,” he said. “We should constantly be reminding current members of the importance of daily movement and provide them with inspiration and support.”

Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is the assistant editor for Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com

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