Planet Fitness walks back bespoke Publicis team

    • Less than a year after consolidating its $200 million business with a bespoke Publicis unit, “Team Lift,” Planet Fitness confirmed in an email to Marketing Dive that it is returning to its previous agency, Barkley, as AOR and will move its media business to Crossmedia.
    • The consolidation last year was intended to leverage efficiencies that could be reinvested into the brand. The CMO who engineered the strategy, Jeremy Tucker, left the company in May.
    • Team Lift will continue as one of Planet Fitness’s local marketing agencies, in addition to Moroch and Zimmerman. The move comes as fitness brands try to lure customers they may have lost during the pandemic.

    One of the largest fitness chains in the country, Planet Fitness moved its business to Team Lift in September 2021 as a way to build scale, efficiency and more data-driven-decisioning in local and national markets. Apparently, company executives felt that approach was not going to bear fruit. 

    “After careful evaluation of our marketing agency structure, we determined that transitioning to a new Agency of Record for national marketing is the best path forward to meet the needs of our business and drive the success of our marketing efforts now and into the future,” said McCall Gosselin, Planet Fitness’s senior vice president of communications, in a statement. “We have a longstanding relationship with the Barkley team and are confident in their proven track record and ability to continue to elevate the Planet Fitness brand.”

    Barkley, an independent agency based in Kansas City, Missouri, was previously Planet Fitness’s AOR from 2019-2021. The shop is already driving the current national creative strategy and working on the brand’s national marketing plans for 2023. Team Lift will continue to handle national media planning and buying through the remainder of the year. At the beginning of next year, Crossmedia will take over national media and Team Lift will be part of a group of agencies handling local marketing.

    Publicis’s Team Lift launched Planet Fitness’s “Feel Fitacular” campaign at the turn of the New Year, which is typically a very heavy time for fitness marketing. Commercials featured celebrities including William Shatner, Jane Krakowski and Dennis Rodman. The campaign continued during this year’s Super Bowl with a spot featuring Lindsay Lohan.

    The “Feel Fitacular” campaign directly addressed the effects of the pandemic, noting that physical fitness is closely tied to psychological health. 

    A number of fitness brands have been ramping up their marketing as the country emerges from pandemic-enforced isolation. Soul Cycle, for instance, offered to exchange a number of in-studio classes for used Peloton bikes as a way to get people back to riding together. Peloton, meanwhile, has experienced several business setbacks after being one of the early stars of the pandemic as people sought ways to work out at home. The brand recently announced it would outsource the manufacturing of its bikes as part of a turnaround effort and featured a nude Christopher Meloni in its new campaign.

    The Planet Fitness shift back to an independent agency is likely to be closely watched by brands and agencies for its potential implications regarding agency relationships more broadly. Several holding companies have created bespoke agency teams — drawing talent from their various agencies — to handle large clients. Planet Fitness’s shift to an independent agency may demonstrate that the bespoke model is not a be-all and end-all solution. 

    In a May earnings call, Planet Fitness CEO Chris Rondeau acknowledged the company had “experienced some challenges with our national and local marketing and advertising agency consolidation efforts.” However, at the time, he continued to stress that the “long-term benefits” of its consolidation outweighed the “near-term disruption.”

    Until, apparently, it didn’t.


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