Behind the Scenes
Catching Up with the President of Equinox Is Not Easy

Catching Up with the President of Equinox Is Not Easy

Equinox President Sarah Robb O'Hagan, seen here speaking at the Salute to Women and Sports Awards in 2009 while she was at Gatorade, is no stranger to making public appearances. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for the Women's Sports Foundation.)

I am just exhausted trying to keep pace with Equinox President Sarah Robb O'Hagan.

I don't know her, nor have I even met her, but I feel as if I know here through her Twitter account. Last Friday, Robb O'Hagan spoke at a conference in Park City, UT, after checking out Equinox clubs in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Her presence is not limited to appearances she posts on Twitter. On Monday, Robb O'Hagan was quoted in The Wall Street Journal in a piece on how to mix business with fitness. If you want to read more about her or get more insight about business, check out recent articles in (get ready for some links) the Huffington Post, Marie Claire, Harper's Bazaar, Boston Magazine, the Return on Ideas/TED website, Readitfor.me, a SXSW interview from Austin, the Maria Shriver Project, the New Zealand Herald and Boardroom Insiders (the full profile can be yours for the low, low price of $175). On top of all that, Robb O'Hagan will be speaking at the ESPN Women and Sports Summit next month in Dana Point, CA.

That's just this year. Don't forget about 2013, when Robb O'Hagan was featured in The New York Times, on CBS This Morning, a Katie Kempner interview during TEDWomen, something called LeanIn and another interview from her native New Zealand. If that's not enough Sarah Robb O'Hagan for you, here she is in Mashable, Business Insider, Fast Company, Viddler.com (Part I and Part II) and once again in the New Zealand Herald. Still not sure who she is? Here's her About.me profile.

Robb O'Hagan, who honed her media savvy and developed her reputation as a leading businesswoman while at Gatorade, represents herself and Equinox well in these interviews and speaking engagements. Keep in mind, none of these interviews happen by accident. My guess—and this is my opinion here—is that this is a conscious effort by O'Hagan and the Equinox team to get her out in front and make her the face of the brand. If that's the case, kudos to them.

After skimming through these interviews, I only found one interviewer who asked Robb O'Hagan about the Equinox advertising campaign—which remains a sticking point with me and others who follow the brand. Boston Magazine challenged Robb O'Hagan on the issue that the campaign is oversexualized. Here's the snippet from that interview:

Boston Magazine: When it comes to Equinox's advertisements, the past couple of campaigns have been really hypersexual. Why is that? Do you think sex sells?

Sarah Robb O'Hagan: If your question is are we targeting someone specific, then yes, we are. And that is what we know about our members is they are people who lead what we call the high-performance life. Which means they are successful, they are driven, they're…

Boston Magazine: Already fit? To me it's clear that you guys are targeting a very specific audience. Would you agree?

Sarah Robb O'Hagan: You know when you come to Equinox you are not the person who is needing motivation to go to the gym, you already take yourself to the next level whether you're a banker, or a professional, or a soccer mom. We have very driven and successful individuals in all walks of life. So when we think about our advertising we tend to think about the lifestyle that fitness allows you to enjoy more than the actual piece that you are doing in the gym specifically. We think the Equinox lifestyle is very multifaceted and it tends to lean towards fashion and active sports and all the things you can do if you have a great healthy body and life. 

I thought Robb O'Hagan countered with a reasoned, company-first response. I still don't think I got the answer I was hoping for. When Equinox announced Robb O'Hagan—a married mother of three—as its new president two years ago, I expected Equinox would do away with its sexualized ads. The campaign did change, but the message remains.

Recently, a column on Bustle.com criticized the Equinox "preapologize" campaign and said it was "worst" (not worse—the typo is still there in the headline) than the Equinox campaign featuring the Terry Richardson photos. I don't think the preapologize campaign is worse, but I do think showing a shadow of a guy's hand on a woman's rear end is going too far. The same goes for two women showing their bare butts while draped in an American flag. I asked for Equinox, and specifically for Robb O'Hagan, to comment about the Bustle.com column. Equinox declined, so it appears it will not apologize for its preapologize campaign.

I've seen the photos Robb O'Hagan shares on Twitter and Instagram of her and Equinox staff at various Equinox clubs. I don't think the Richardson campaign or the preapologize campaign best represent what I see in those photos—happy, hard-working people who love their jobs. If we're talking about projecting a positive image of the Equinox brand here, I think the company should consider using its own staff and its own members in future campaigns and get away from the sexual nature of its message.

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