Fitness Chain Targets Bike-Minded New Yorkers on HopStop

equinoxartEquinox wants New York City bicyclists to start thinking ahead to the days when exercising inside may be preferable to pedaling during the oppressive summer heat or bone-chilling winter weather.

The fitness club chain is the first exclusive advertiser for’s new biking route feature. Equinox banners are appearing on search results pages for people seeking address-to-address bike routes as well as walking directions.

For the two-month campaign launched in early May, Vickie Segar, senior partnership marketing manager аt Equinox, talked about the ad strategy with ClickZ. The brand has 23 fitness centers in the tri-state New York metro area.

“I think a lot of people would probably question, ‘Why is Equinox promoting something that’s outdoors when you are trying to sell gym memberships?,'” she said. “We are very lifestyle focused. We definitely have somewhat of a 360-degree approach to fitness… A fitness club is a great complement to biking. It does rain, and we know there are like nine months of cold in New York City. So if you are a biker, this is another way of working out.”

When it comes to creative, the marketing manager suggested that her team was testing different designs and copy. For one of the versions (see image), click-throughs are taken to a landing page offering a free three-day membership trial for people who give their name, phone number, and email address. Consumers who sign up are then called by a nearby Equinox gym to help them find the location and start the trial.

Segar commented, “We have a lot of space on the [HopStop] pages, so we’ll probably rotate a variety of messages. We take different approaches to our ads in general. The call-to-action is usually about experiencing the club. There’s a second call-to-action that is about studio cycling.”

HopStop, a six-year-old brand launched in New York, offers public transportation information and city guides for 37 U.S. markets. “We are going to be expanding bike route functionality to all of our markets over time,” said Joe Meyer, CEO of the web company. “We’ll be looking at other major metropolitan areas such as [Washington] D.C., Chicago, San Francisco, and Boston.”

HopStop Loses Ground to Google Maps, Gains Ad Partners

Competitor Google Maps began offering biking directions in early March, and is running house ads for “biking directions” as a search query. More generally, the Mountain View, CA-based online giant appears to have become a bit of a thorn in HopStop’s side.

According to comScore data, since Google Maps started offering public transit directions two-and-a-half years ago, HopStop has averaged 322,000 unique visitors per month. In the six months prior to Google’s arrival on HopStop’s turf, the latter averaged 401,000 visitors. Google Maps, according to the Reston, VA-based comScore, had 49 million unique visitors the month before launching public transit directions, while totaling 58 million last month. HopStop contends comScore’s numbers are inaccurate. According to its in-house Google Analytics data, the transit info site says it received 1.4 million unique visitors pre-Google Maps in October of 2009 and has averaged 1.45 million monthly so far in 2011.

At any rate, HopStop seems to be attracting advertisers with location-specific opportunities similar to Equinox’s plan of targeting bike-minded New Yorkers. For instance, in March, the transit site sold its first-ever multiple-page takeover package to Macy’s for the retailer’s 37th annual flower show. For one week, the department store chain’s display ads appeared on HopStop’s public transportation search pages for New York, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, and San Francisco. Macy’s was offering guided “Tower of Flowers” tours in each city.

Meanwhile, without giving specifics, Segar from Equinox said early campaign metrics indicate her brand could end up becoming a regular partner with HopStop, which has designs on upgrading its mobile advertising offering. “The reaction in the first few days of the biking routes…people seem to really love it and really love the fitness component,” she said. “I think what we are seeing right now says we need to blow it out a little further.”

Terms of the HopStop-Equinox advertising deal were not disclosed.

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