Jill Rankin has over 20 years of experience as a Brand Marketing Executive. She has been in marketing leadership roles at NIKE, Gap brands and Adidas, and specializes in driving digital growth, innovation and transformation while building world-class brands.
24 Hour Fitness has been a landmark brand in the fitness industry since it was established almost 40 years ago. Restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, however, pulled the rug from under its feet. Suddenly, the population was no longer able to go to the gym, or anywhere else. Priorities drastically shifted, and lifting weights or getting that six-pack was pushed down the scale of importance.
The revolutionary physical fitness brand had to adjust.
Senior Vice President of Marketing at 24 Hour Fitness Jill Rankin led the way through this branding refresh strategy, using her decades of experience in the marketing and fitness industry to transform 24 Hour Fitness into a contemporary brand that prioritizes understanding its customers and listening to feedback.
The launch of 24 Hour Fitness’ creative campaign “Strength in 24” retained the core of the company, while carefully listening to customers about how their lives have changed since the start of the pandemic. Physical fitness was no longer the main goal of a trip to the gym. Instead, mental health, a sense of community and a holistic approach to physical fitness were put at the forefront. And customers couldn’t be happier.
Spotlight: 24 Hour Fitness is nearing its 40th year in business and you’ve chosen this time to embark on a brand refresh titled “Strength in 24”. Can you tell us more about this new direction and what made you decide to update the 24 Hour Fitness brand?
Jill Rankin: We are so happy to be nearing our 40th anniversary as a beloved legacy company. During the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, we spent a significant amount of time listening to our club members as their needs changed. Fitness has become more of a priority along with mental health. As we emerge from the pandemic, we’ve pulled together programs and amenity options that represent our holistic approach to fitness and mind/body health for life. This is a great moment in the post-pandemic journey to celebrate our members and the inspirational club community of 24 Hour Fitness.
We’ve updated our brand identity to reflect our holistic approach to fitness and our Strength in 24 initiative. In our campaign imagery, we want our members to see themselves, not only physically, but in the emotions that come from leading an active, healthy life, inspired by friendships and the supportive club member community. That meant not focusing on the extreme nature of what the human body can do, but how we can change our minds and hearts as we transform our bodies.
You collaborated with the creative consultancy InGoodTaste for the “Strength in 24” initiative. What were the biggest challenges on this rebranding journey and how did you work together to solve them?
More than anything, we wanted to create a clean slate for a world that had changed so much in a short period of time. It was critical for us to take in those signals, synthesize them with the mission and values of 24 Hour Fitness and determine how the brand could better serve the needs of our club members in a world that has changed so dramatically in the past two years.
That meant introducing new partnerships, programs and digital/on-demand services that explore the fitness journey in a new, more impactful way. Alongside our passionate fitness professionals to support each club member’s fitness goals, every aspect of the new branding communicates that 24 Hour Fitness continues to listen and respond to the needs of our members. The InGoodTaste campaign visuals for Strength in 24 reflect the energy and enthusiasm of our members who have a stronger connection to fitness for life, rather than just a moment in time. Because our members have a stronger understanding and connection to fitness, our campaign as well as every aspect of branding must demonstrate the fact that 24 Hour Fitness is listening and prepared to partner with our members to be comprehensively fit and healthy.
With over 20 years of experience working as a brand marketing executive for global brands, what strategies have been particularly useful to you in the rebranding of 24-Hour Fitness?
The most important element of our recent brand work was remaining laser-focused on our team members and club member communities. We genuinely understand their mindset and have worked tirelessly to explore ways to capture the essence of that in our brand position. We spent significant time and resources on a deep dive with a range of our club members to develop an accurate portrait of their relationship with 24 Hour Fitness and how they wanted to see it progress to align with their long-term interests and needs. The initial club member insights work that we did paved the way for our creative team to feel a strong conviction in the territories that we explored. We then enhanced and deployed them in the 24 Hour Fitness Strength in 24 campaign. The feedback has been terrific so far!
Mental health as part of the fitness journey has been key post-pandemic. How is the company catering to this with a brand that has thus far been focused on the physical aspect of fitness?
We have all struggled to such a great extent in the past few years with the isolation and stress that comes with a once-in-a-generation pandemic, along with other mental health concerns, that it felt absolutely necessary to recognize and create new offerings and partnerships that reflect our holistic approach to fitness. The partnership with Headspace was an important investment in mind and body wellness for 24 Hour Fitness and included a complimentary subscription to this leading digital mental health platform. I am thankful that we have leadership at 24 Hour Fitness that deeply cares about our team and club members’ mental health and is willing to invest to help this population learn new mental health skills that ultimately increase their abilities to live healthier, happier lives.
Can you share 5 secrets to successfully refreshing and modernizing a brand that already has an established tradition?
I’d rather narrow down my response to your question with some basics that rarely change—it’s not a dramatic reveal! The key to further developing an already iconic brand, particularly in the fitness industry, is to continue to be curious and keenly interested in the member journey. At 24 Hour Fitness, we are passionate about our mission, vision and values and continue to seek, evolve and present a variety of mind/body fitness options to our community of club members and guests that excite and celebrate the small moments that lead to big changes in their long-term health and wellness.
Our renewed focus on our club members and guests — and devotion to building a healthy population — will never wain; in fact, it’s more important than ever before. Our responsibility is to be true to our brand principles and continue to build on our legacy of supporting members on their fitness journey to a healthy lifestyle.
As a lifelong athlete who has worked on digital strategies with big brands throughout your career, what are the most valuable things you have learned from the “Strength in 24” initiative about maintaining physical fitness and mental health?
Athletes maintain a very precise focus on end goals and the detailed journey to deliver the optimum result. That has helped me throughout my career in the corporate marketing world where there are many competing interests for your attention. Over the past few years, I’ve also learned that there are many sides to the holistic fitness journey, and it has a different, very personal meaning to each individual we encounter. That has been a valuable lesson for me personally and I’m thankful to work with a company that spends every day focused on bringing holistic fitness to millions of people throughout the U.S. It’s deeply gratifying and fills me with optimism that 24 Hour Fitness will move into its next decade as a beloved legacy brand with a strong purpose and renewed focus on our team members, club members and guests, and what they need long-term to feel happy and healthy.