Behind the Scenes
Would Anyone Do This for One of Your Health Club Memberships?

Would Anyone Do This for One of Your Health Club Memberships?

Challenge two involved digging in a gravel pit for five minutes to see who could reach the gold membership card buried below. Anthony Westmoreland won this challenge. (Photo courtesy Equinox.)

Imagine having a brand so strong and a membership so valuable that people would do something more than pay for it—they would put themselves through a grueling challenge to win it. That's just what Equinox is asking people to do this summer, as it gives away gold memberships to winners of five challenges.

The challenges, which are open to members and non-members, started July 17 with the In Too Deep challenge at Surf Lodge in Montauk, New York. Ten people (including Neil Patrick Harris, according to this article by the New York Post and confirmed by Equinox) participated in the challenge, swimming 300 yards into Fort Pond to a golden buoy. They then had one chance to dive 22 feet to the bottom of the pond to find the gold membership card without coming up for air. 

The second challenge, Breaking Ground, occurred on July 22 in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City. Participants had to use a shovel to dig five feet to the bottom of a gravel pit in five minutes to get the gold membership card buried below. Nineteen people attempted the challenge. A post on Equinox's Facebook page revealed that the company gave two gold membership cards that day because the company was "feeling generous."

I noticed that several comments on Equinox's Facebook page after the first two challenges complained that women did not have a chance to win either challenge because of the physical requirements of the challenges. A few noted that the challenges only focused on physical fitness rather than mental toughness, which meant unfit people who really need the memberships would not be able to win them.  

It seems that Equinox was listening because for the third challenge, Early Riser, the company gave a gold membership to a male and female winner. The challenge, which occurred on July 30 in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City, required challengers to climb 20 flights of stairs and then climb a 20-foot flag pole to grab the membership card at the top.

The fourth challenge originally was scheduled for Aug. 5 and was called Down the Well, but the company's challenge website now has the challenge and date unlisted. The originally scheduled challenge was to be held in the West Village and was to be a male-female team event in which the team must find the golden manhole cover and, using a rope, work together to lift a bucket with a membership card inside up to street level. I am waiting to hear back from the Equinox team on what happened with this challenge.

The fifth challenge was originally listed as Over the Edge and was to involve the gold membership card dangling off a pier on the Hudson, according to an Equinox spokesperson, but that challenge is no longer listed on the website either. I'm eager to hear back from Equinox about what is happening with these two challenges. 

For the first two challenges, 500 people showed up and 150 participated, according to Equinox. For the third challenge, 95 people attempted the challenge, according to its challenge page.

What would make people go to such lengths for the Equinox gold membership? Well, the gold card gets the holder a one-year membership to more than 75 Equinox clubs globally, 24 personal training sessions, 12 Pilates sessions, one standard 50-minute massage per month, $1,000 at The Shop, $500 at the Equinox Juice Bar, complimentary Kiehl's products, invitations to exclusive new classes and events, and a personal locker at the club of the holder's choice.   

Equinox declined to put a value on the gold membership, but in reviewing various websites, I found that an Equinox membership can run from about $142 to $175 per month for a single location or up to $250 per month for global access. With that in mind, the membership card is worth at least $1,700 to $3,000 just for the membership. If you include the cost of the personal training sessions, massages, Pilates lessons and other items, it could be worth close to $5,000.

It's no wonder more than a few people have undertaken these challenges.

The response has been overwhelming, an Equinox spokesperson said.

"We're thrilled that so many New Yorkers are excited to compete for the ultimate Equinox prize," she said. "We've had participants start lining up earlier and earlier each challenge to try and get one of the elite memberships and are looking forward to the remaining challenges."

The company is considering doing the competitions in other cities where it has clubs, which includes Chicago, Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Dallas.

Would people line up to do challenges for a membership to your health club? Could you do something similar to this promotion for your club? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. 

Challenge one involved diving 22 feet deep to the bottom of a pond to retrieve the gold membership card without coming up for air. (Photo courtesy Equinox.)

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