Virgin Active is a chain of health clubs in Italy, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Australia, Singapore, Thailand and the UK. They, like all gyms and health facilities, have been heavily impacted by the arrival of the new Coronavirus.

In response to Italy’s Covid-19 lockdown, Virgin Active developed "Smart Fitness", a suite of free online fitness classes given by Virgin Active’s very own personal trainers.

We began supporting Virgin Active from the virus’ initial emergence in Italy, assisting them with the delivery of both their internal and external communications strategies.


Our objectives were to:

  1. Bring national visibility to the "Smart Fitness" project.
  2. Establish Virgin Active’s reputation and brand positioning as one of the best at delivering effective fitness solutions during the Covid-19 crisis.
  3. Ensure that the internal communications team gave staff the information and reassurance they needed to be safe and have confidence in their company.

Externally, this meant delivering a strong PR campaign at a national and local level, alongside a confident social strategy that would maintain the image of the company and promote the “Smart Fitness” service.

Internally, we needed to help Virgin Active inform internal stakeholders of the actions the company was taking at every step.

External Communications

Edelman managed the press release development and awareness campaign for the "Smart Fitness "project. This was rolled out on both a national and local level and included speaking opportunities for the president of the company.

We also managed their social strategy, which involved creating visual assets including graphics and appealing content to be published on Virgin Active’s social channels. This included creating a smart video format to introduce the Virgin Active daily classes, displaying the daily timetable, and sharing encouraging music to accompany it. In order to give visibility to the trainers involved in the Smart Fitness project, we also created a separate video format to introduce the trainers through Interviews, helping to keep the gym’s users close to the brand and its people.

Internal Communications

We advised Virgin Active on their approach with internal stakeholders to ensure people felt clear and confident with regards to the company’s handling of the situation. This included suggestions on how to reassure workers and clients of the actions being taken by the company to address the virus spread, before the lockdown. Our recommendations included:

  • Informing the customers about the extra hygienic measures adopted within the club
  • Making sanitising gel available for clients in all clubs
  • Making scientific information regarding the spread of the virus (e.g. reliable articles and institutional announcements) readily available for employees and clients
  • Informing trainers and employees about the measures adopted by the company for the club safety, fully equipping them to reassure clients in case of questions



Through the activity, we received a huge amount of media coverage on main national and local media (TV, print, online) and the positioning goal was fully reached.

Through the "Smart Fitness" launch on social media we were able to engage with a huge number of people : the online classes shared on Instagram TV and YouTube have received 1 million views to date, and the total reach of the classes posted on Facebook is currently at more than 7 million. The activity also led to an increase in the number of Instagram followers for Virgin Active Italy, from 72,000 to more than 104,000 in 8 weeks: an increase of 43 percent.

The activity and its impacts have been so successful that Italy’s Virgin Active Covid-19 activity/strategy has now inspired various actions adopted by Virgin Active in other countries.