Sponsorship sellers looking to kickstart their sales efforts in the new year should consider adding an active yet often overlooked category to their prospect list: health clubs.

Regional, national and international health club chains are increasingly using sponsorship to burnish their brands and gain a point of differentiation in an increasingly competitive category.

Recent deals range from community festivals to pro sports teams. Those include Equinox fitness and the 2016 International Champions Cup, LA Fitness and the San Diego Sockers and Planet Fitness and the Kansas City Royals. Planet Fitness also expanded its sponsorship with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Fitness chains use sponsorship to accomplish five primary objectives:

  • Maintain top-of-mind awareness
  • Demonstrate training expertise
  • Drive customer acquisition
  • Engage employees
  • Reward existing customers

Case Study: Orangetheory Fitness
Orangetheory Fitness is bulking up on sponsorship to support its aggressive growth ambitions.

The seven-year-old company has signed three new deals over the past year, with potentially more on the way. Ties include the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Lightning and University of Texas at Austin.

Orangetheory Fitness, which opened its first studio in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. in 2010, operates more than 400 stores in the U.S. and abroad. The company plans to open 700 studios by the end of 2017.

Orangetheory positions its technology-driven training program as a point of differentiation from other clubs. The company’s customer base ranges from professional athletes to health club newbies, roughly 70 percent of whom are female.

Like other fitness franchises, Orangetheory spearheads sponsorships on behalf of its corporate office and regional licensees. The company sponsored the New York Yankees out of its Boca Raton, Fla.-based corporate office, while an area developer initiated the University of Texas partnership.

Texas represents a key growth market for the health club chain. Orangetheory opened its first studio in Central Texas in 2014 and plans to double its studio count in Austin, Texas from 12 to 24 within the next 24 months.

The University of Texas sponsorship includes presenting status of the Texas Athletics’ Hype Squad at more than 100 Texas Longhorn events throughout the 2016-2017 school year. Orangetheory activates the partnership with on-site brand ambassadors who talk up the company’s fitness offerings.

“The demographics of people who attend football, baseball, swimming and volleyball games are our customers,” said Terry Blachek, Orangetheory Fitness area developer for Austin and San Antonio, Texas.

The school’s official color—burnt orange—aligns with the fitness chain’s namesake color, he added.

And the company may not be done signing new deals in the Central Texas region. The licensee is mulling potential partnerships with the NBA San Antonio Spurs and the Austin Spurs, the team’s D-league affiliate.