When COVID-19 hit in early 2020, and almost overnight clubs across the UK were forced to lock down, Active Nation immediately began to explore ways to evolve and remodel its digital offering to support its members remotely.
A firm believer in embracing activity of all forms – its mission since day one being to persuade the nation to be active – the charity had already expanded beyond traditional venues into the likes of obstacle course racing, with the launch of Active Warrior, as well as linking with a number of national organisations to provide activities in parks and open spaces.
It was therefore well placed – in terms of mindset, company ethos and non-facility centric expertise – to embrace the challenges presented by lockdown.
Viewing the crisis as a catalyst for fresh thinking, it began to look for ways to deliver the Active Nation experience to its supporters – the charity’s preferred term for its members – so they could stay active while stuck at home.
And it quickly found its perfect solution: Wexer’s ‘any time, anywhere, any internet-enabled device’ Web Player.
As a white label digital fitness platform, Wexer was able to design and brand the player to look and feel like an Active Nation product. Active Nation On Demand was born!
A branded connection
“For Active Nation, maintaining a close relationship with our supporters throughout lockdown – ensuring they felt connected to, and supported by, our brand and our community – was essential,” explains Mathew Smallwood, group communications manager for Active Nation.
“We didn’t just want to signpost our supporters to third-party offerings across social platforms. We wanted to be able to control the quality of the content, ensuring we were offering the best digital experience we could.”
He continues: “One of the things that drew us to the Web Player was the flexibility to offer both third-party on-demand and self-created live streamed content on the same platform.
“Wexer’s extensive music licence-free, on-demand library – featuring top content creators from across the globe – ensures strength in depth at all times. Meanwhile, the Connect section of the Web Player allows us to create a live streaming calendar featuring our own instructors. There’s been something for everyone, from office-based exercise to classes for all the family.
“This has been a great asset, not only during lockdown but also – with social distancing now limiting in-person class occupancy – in the early stages of resuming operations.
“Alongside the on-demand classes, live streaming has allowed us to create a hybrid model of in-venue and digital provision where there’s unlimited capacity for every online session. We’ve seen some classes attended by more than 100 supporters at a time.”
A long-term strategy
Access to the platform and all its content was offered for free to all supporters while gyms were closed, but password protection opened up options for monetisation beyond this period. Active Nation now charges £4.99 a month for its On Demand service, driving an additional revenue stream for the charity.
Smallwood continues: “We see this initiative not as a knee-jerk response to COVID, but as an important extension of the work we were already doing in supporting everyday activity.
“With that in mind, we wanted a long-term, sustainable solution that gave us full ownership of the experience and the data; that complemented the existing offerings in our app and on our website; and that gave our supporters a convenient yet world-class at-home exercise experience.
“The Wexer Web Player ticked all those boxes.”
Seizing the opportunities
And the results speak for themselves. Launched in October 2021, the new platform quickly gained momentum among Active Nation supporters, with over 6,000 users signed up in the first few months alone – users who between them engaged with the platform more than 21,000 times in just six months.
“We’ve been hugely impressed by the way Active Nation has embraced the Web Player and the many opportunities it presents to engage and support people away from its venues,” says Karen Mason, senior customer experience manager at Wexer. “They’ve hit the ground running and shown what’s possible when you take full advantage of everything the platform can do.
“The marketing has been superb, too: from social media to supporter emails and everything in between, Active Nation hasn’t stopped shouting about what’s on offer and why its supporters should dive in.”
“It hasn’t just been something to benefit our supporters, either,” notes Smallwood. “It’s also been a tool to keep our colleagues active, with our full team enjoying access to the platform as part of their wellbeing package. We firmly believe in promoting physical activity to support our colleagues’ health and happiness.”
He concludes: “We see Active Nation On Demand, supported by Wexer, as an integral part of our hybrid strategy moving forward, and enthusiasm for it has spread across our entire team.”
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