Home Commerce How A Gym Chain Became An Ad Data Seller

How A Gym Chain Became An Ad Data Seller

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Planet Fitness is hiring an in-house ad sales team to win agency and advertiser budgets for its omnichannel media netw …

Wait, what?

That’s right: This month, Planet Fitness became the latest brick-and-mortar business to join the parade of retail media networks.

PF Media, as it’s called, has a three-pronged media and data sales approach: an affiliate and email marketing program, video or static units on in-club TVs and other screens, and a data sales partnership with LiveRamp so marketers can retarget or segment gym member audiences for their own campaigns.

The idea started as a hypothesis that an affiliate and email marketing program would be a good loyalty perk to connect gym members with discounts on fashion, health and fitness products, according to Planet Fitness Chief Digital Officer Sherrill Kaplan.

The advertising on TVs and other places in Planet Fitness clubs was an intuitive step for businesses in the affiliate program. By then, Planet Fitness realized there was a “captive audience” of tens of millions of people in its locker rooms, resting in massage chairs, running on treadmills, etc.

That’s the slippery slide down the ramp to retail media. (The LiveRamp, in this case, har har.)

AdExchanger caught up with Kaplan about how Planet Fitness developed and hopes to grow its retail media network contender.

AdExchanger: What was the process of developing the advertising and data business?

KAPLAN: We’d dipped our toes into this B2B opportunity for some time with our Perks program, an affiliate program intended to be a member benefit.

And it dawned on us several years ago that there was a real opportunity for advertisers. We have 18.7 million members who are in our 2,500 locations and a huge number of eyeballs in our gyms.

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So we have this captive audience. And we really started pulling together an omnichannel strategy where we could target folks through the affiliate program and email, at TVs in the gyms and via LiveRamp.

What are the priorities for year one?

We’re hoping to run a lot of advertisements and are excited to test out the capabilities and where there are more opportunities.

We have segments running right now in our LiveRamp storefront that are, for instance, people who are everyday gym-goers or who are new sign-ups from January.

As we learn more about what’s interesting to advertisers and how they’re hoping to leverage our member database, we can better fine-tune our offering with LiveRamp with different types of segmentation.

Is the LiveRamp data sales expected to be the biggest channel?

I think that’s going to be the most used.

For one, it’s not an incremental cost – marketers can do it within their existing digital media buy. The opportunity is to be full funnel for an advertiser that has video commercials, maybe has an affiliate offer, even audio ads and other digital media.

It’s not for everyone. But advertisers can use the data without buying directly with Planet Fitness Media.

Are there rules about who can use the LiveRamp data? Like, say, can Peloton or a different gym operator buy it?

We will always approve who’s using the data on a case-by-case basis.

Also, one of the reasons we chose LiveRamp is that they have brands across industries and experience with those competitive pressures. They’re used to making sure who they’re selling our data to are appropriate buyers.

Who are the endemic or pilot advertisers?

There are obviously a number of industries that would be excited about having incremental exposure to an audience of fitness beginners or people with in-house gym setups. We’re obviously going to look for adjacent categories that make sense.

But over the summer, a pilot partner of ours was a fast-casual restaurant chain I can’t name, but which was launching a product in supermarket refrigerator aisles. They had awareness spots running throughout our club, and then we retargeted folks in the club who saw their advertisements via our Perks program and our email platform.

So it really could be a variety of advertisers that find interest. We have a broad and large member base who are very engaged in terms of dwell time. And in terms of impressions served, we have on average 40 million check-ins per month.

Would retail media standardization be a boon to Planet Fitness Media?

Cookies going away is presenting opportunities all over the place, and that’s true for us.

We do leverage Kantar’s IAB-approved dwell time and impression standards, so we stay on top of the policies.

I think the standardization progress is a benefit, too, in that we know we will present as high quality in terms of data and media impressions.

For instance, many mobile location data companies you might see in LiveRamp or other marketplaces actually sell “Planet Fitness” audiences. They’re using location data to guess that someone went to a gym, perhaps because they were at the same strip mall for a period of time.

Our first-party data is going to present better if there is more transparency and standards on quality. Also, some retail media impressions or data is based on someone with a dwell time of a minute or two. Nothing is going to be as high quality as our check-in data, when we know someone was at a gym for perhaps an hour or more.

If standardization delineates that difference in quality, it is a good thing for us.

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