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Following a rocky year for fitness studios, SoulCycle is welcoming riders back with a new campaign inspired by the goal underpinning its classes, which are meant to induce a mental shift through intensity, message and reward.
"Mind Altering Fitness" debuted this week with an upbeat and colorful video that features loyal riders and music from improv group Freestyle Love Supreme. The minute-long spot, which features lines like "stuck to soaring" and "tired to inspired," is supposed to evoke the euphoric mind-body connection that comes from movement as a way to help riders to feel more present, grounded and connected to the world beyond the studio walls.
The launch campaign for SoulCycle's new messaging extends beyond digital video, and will roll out throughout May via paid social, owned channels and pop art displays wrapped around 20 studios. Timed to studio reopenings, Mental Health Awareness month and the brand's 15th anniversary, SoulCycle's latest effort lays the groundwork for the next year of the brand's marketing.
"It's really about going back to the essence of what SoulCycle is," said Roisin Branch, SoulCycle's head of marketing. "We talk about how our bikes — they're stationary — but they take your mind as far as your mind wants to go. In a simpler form, [the campaign] captures that magic in an audio-visual way."
A paused launch
"Mind Altering Fitness" is the first creative developed with agency Mrs&Mr and the initial campaign under SoulCycle's new CEO, Evelyn Webster, who joined in late 2020 after Melanie Whelan resigned the year prior following accusations of pregnancy discrimination.
SoulCycle's in-house creative team and Mrs&Mr started developing the campaign more than a year ago but paused its launch once the coronavirus pandemic roiled the world. Now, a slightly tweaked iteration of the creative arrives with the same core messaging that may resonate even more amid the health crisis, according to Branch.
"By going back to our purpose and our roots, we landed on something that's exactly what the world needs, and now even more than when we started thinking about it," Branch said. "We started from the brand purpose — to move people to move the world — and we do that by helping riders achieve a state of flow and reconnect with themselves, so they leave feeling empowered and inspired."
Grounding the campaign in the brand's essence provided ample flexibility as the team transitioned to remote work last year, per Branch. Much of the creative stems from graphic design, so the team could continue to develop the work despite lockdowns and production studio closures in 2020. Now, the bedrock of the effort rolls out throughout May on paid social and digital, where Branch says SoulCycle's core audience consumes most of its content.
Other work under the "Mind Altering Fitness" banner will arrive throughout the year, including an activation for Pride month in June and another in September, when many people go back to school and take on new routines. SoulCycle's Hamptons location will do a special activation with other brands this summer, again tying back to the campaign's core message of mental shifts stemming from movement.
"It's going to become the center of gravity for everything we do," Branch said.
The road ahead
SoulCycle is in the process of reopening its indoor studios, with about 20% already open and more anticipated to open this summer. Riders are craving the return to the fitness and community SoulCycle provides, per Branch, who noted that thousands of classes have wait lists, with some averaging more than 100 people hoping to snag a bike.
Yet the return to full operations comes amid a tricky landscape for the fitness industry. Revenue for gyms dropped 58% last year, while 17% of U.S. fitness facilities permanently shuttered in 2020. Meanwhile, at-home fitness providers like Peloton have seen sales rise as homebound consumers invested in exercise equipment. SoulCycle released its own version of an at-home stationary bike in March 2020, peddling on the heels of Peloton's success.
"By going back to our purpose and our roots, we landed on something that's exactly what the world needs, and now even more than when we started thinking about it."
Head of marketing, SoulCycle
While SoulCycle has established that "Mind Altering Fitness" was designed around its brand purpose, the company does not have a long roster of past campaigns. Mostly, that is because it was built from the ground up through attracting celebrity fans early on and growing via word-of-mouth ever since, per Branch.
"It was built on the magic and the power of the experience people have on the bike as well as the strength of the community that's built around our instructors," she said.
The company previously used marketing to highlight its instructors as the core of the SoulCycle community. "Find It!" in 2017 was mostly instructor-centric and marked the first brand campaign from the fitness company. Its centerpiece was a hero video and microsite featuring real instructors speaking directly into the camera, motivating riders to tap into their greatness and push themselves. The message again positioned SoulCycle classes as more than a workout, but rather, an opportunity to find one's best self.
"Mind Altering Fitness" is SoulCycle's first campaign to place the rider at the center, with the goal of reengaging riders who haven't been able to cycle and to recruit new customers. To support people's need for mental and physical wellness, SoulCycle is looking to provide a source of balance and community.
"The campaign aims to capture the magic of SoulCycle since we opened our first studio in 2006, and it does so in a very visual and emotive way with graphics that will cut through and trigger some of those shifts and joy we're hoping to bring to the world," Branch said.