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How two Clubs gained massive engagement during lockdown

by Les Mills Asia Pacific


Fiona Kriaris is the Health and Wellness Project Manager at YMCA Victoria (a not-for-profit organisation). The YMCA created a digital platform called “Virtual Y”, which is available for anyone – not just YMCA members – to access for free. “Virtual Y is a full online wellness space,” explained Fiona. “It offers a fitness hub with live Les Mills classes as well as nutrition, wellness and family content; plus a ‘resource of the day’”.

“Content selection and creation is important because ‘digital fatigue’ is starting to set in – meaning, there’s so much on offer at the moment, so we need to make our content meaningful for our customers and the broader community. So that’s where our focus is now – getting customer data and responding to it. We’ve tracked our content and so far we’ve delivered more than 60,000 sessions in the last 12 weeks, to up to 8,000 people across Australia and the world, actually.”

Frank Lennard is the Group Fitness and Programs Team Leader at Glen Eira Leisure (a council-run facility). Frank agrees a challenge now lies in motivating members to continue to train online during this extended lockdown period, especially considering the issue of digital fatigue.

“The whole COVID-19 experience is certainly making everyone stronger and more resilient, and we’re all learning to appreciate the opportunities to spend quality time with people. Similar to Fiona we had the groundwork sorted from the previous lockdown with our ‘GEL Anywhere’ program, already launched. Council saw the value in what we were doing, so it was a no-brainer for us to continue offering it even after lockdown was lifted.”

“We thought about what we could offer on top of what we were already doing (i.e., Facebook Lives), and as such, we introduced social catch ups on Zoom, such as weekly coffee catch ups with members and anyone in the community who wants to join. We also deliver ‘GEL Bites’ with a nutritionist who jumps on and does cooking and talks about meal prep and healthy eating. We have a psychologist who comes to discuss issues like home-schooling and other things that we’re all dealing with during lockdown. We also talk about how it’s okay not to be okay and how to deal with those feelings in isolation.”

“We then ask for feedback from the community about the content we deliver, and we then try to integrate those suggestions in the next lot of content we produce. This helps us stay relevant by delivering what people want, which can help them avoid that digital fatigue,” added Frank.

“This is a time to build your brand – whether you’re a council-run facility, the YMCA or a small business. What you do for and in your community now will have a huge impact when you come out of this. People see what we are offering and doing online; they see who you are and what you’re about, so it’s a real opportunity to position yourself. And whether you’re charging for what you’re delivering, or giving it away for free, people will come out of this and think ‘wow, look what they did that for the community’ and they’ll remember that and come back to the gym when they can,” advised Frank.

Some clubs who have offered relevant and accessible services and content to the wider community, have actually managed to get new sales as a result. Interestingly, many of these people are those who would never have enquired before or otherwise. “Being able to take part in sessions that are streamed also enables these people to avoid the intimidation that often comes with trying something new,” Miriam Cohen explained. “It also allows them to create connections with those who they follow or see online, which ultimately strengthens the loyalty and connection to the brand they’re following. Of course, this can then result in them eventually joining the gym as a paid member.”

“Even when we transition back to opening there will be members who won't want to come back straight away,” said Frank. “And there’ll be a portion of the community who would want to continue the online engagement even when facilities reopen. So it’s up to us to create a roadmap of how we can continue to deliver that high quality content. We’ve been really lucky that our content has been streamed all over the world – we were on the news in India who were reporting what we’ve been doing; and I’ve had messages from people in San Francisco and even Scotland who have been participating. You never know how great the impact can be, even if you’re teaching from a little spare room in your house!”

“In the States where Clubs have been allowed to reopen,” added Miriam, “some Clubs are reportedly seeing around 60 to 70 per cent of their members back onsite. Of course, some Clubs may not be able to offer the same services in-club that they used to, but if they consider alternatives to live classes like live-streaming or creating their own content to store on a hub that they can then offer as an extension to a membership, then it’s more likely that their members will get involved with the Club again. It’s no longer about coming to the club – physically – anymore; instead it’s about being connected to the gym in a way that suits the customer. The lesson we’ve learned is that the things that were impossible before COVID may now be possible! Our commitment is to find a way to help our Clubs maintain connections and remain successful.”

If you’d like to explore how to achieve this in your Club or for more tips on creating powerful content, contact your local Business Partnership Manager in Australia or Southeast Asia.