How Virgin Active is redesigning the cycling experience to beat off competitors

Virgin Active

Virgin Active has launched a bespoke team-based spinning experience called The Pack that uses gamification to differentiate itself from boutique cycling classes that are growing in popularity.

The experience, created by Wolff Olins, works by dividing each class into three teams – the yellows, pinks and blues, or ‘Packs’, who go head-to-head in a series of challenges focused on speed, stamina and strength. Each person’s bike data is tracked in real time and onscreen graphics match participants’ efforts. Each rider contributes to the progress of their team, which is projected on a cinema-style screen so riders can keep tabs on progress.

Richard Houston, strategy director at Wolff Olins told The Drum that the brief was to “shake up” what is a relatively traditional product.

“They wanted to move towards creating their own fitness products… That is all the more important when you’ve got cool boutique gyms like 1Rebel coming on to the scene so they had to shake up what was a relatively traditional product. The brief to us was how can you redesign the cycling experience to make it more attractive to people who love it currently but also attract new people.

“After 30 minutes you can get bored in a dark room cycling and cycling so what we came up with was moving it from a solo riding experience to a team competition to try and bring in some variation and motivation… It’s a big deal for the gym industry, it’s really shaking it up because competitors are doing nothing like this.”

Wolff Olins crafted the entire experience, including developing the user experience, the product’s visual identity and the design of the studio environment. One important factor, added Houston, was not to display individual riders data to the entire class to maintain motivation.

“One of our design principles quite early on the project which came important is that we wouldn’t do a name and shame and what we meant by that is that we don’t show any individual bike data.”

The Pack launched in Virgin Active gyms last month and is now in 13 clubs in both the UK and Italy. The experience is set to roll out globally over the coming year.

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