Dear Fitness Industry


Brand | Crisis & Reputation Risk

The fitness industry needed a wakeup call: People with disabilities do not feel at home inside their spaces. Research from Degree partner Lakeshore Foundation, a nonprofit organization specializing in sports science for athletes with disabilities around the world, found that 81% of people with disabilities do not feel welcome in fitness spaces. It's evident that disabled athletes face heightened discrimination and bias as a result of societal ability standards. This is compounded by the lack of representation of disabled trainers and coaches in the fitness industry and the limited access to inclusive fitness spaces.

The Challenge

To tackle this problem, we went to the root of the issue. People with disabilities do not see people who look like them in the industry, compounding the central problem. The idea was to tackle the issue at the trainer level – and create employment for diverse and disabled trainers and coaches, while also educating companies on how they can make their spaces feel inclusive. The goal was to draw attention to the problem by leveling the playing field – and point out that everyone deserves the freedom to move.

The Strategy

Degree has long believed that everyone should experience the transformative power of movement. Working closely with athletes with disabilities, such as World Champion Medalist and Paralympic Medalist Blake Leeper, the goal was to speak to both people with disabilities and the world at large to show what ideal representation of inclusive fitness looks like – by making it happen. It was to showcase that coaching an inclusive crowd can come hand in hand with maintaining sport and exercise integrity.

The Execution

Degree released an open letter in The New York Times calling on the fitness industry to join the brand in creating a more inclusive world for people with disabilities. This letter includes an open invitation for fitness industry leaders to participate in the brand's first-ever inclusive pop-up cycling classes led by Blake Leeper. The same day, mobile billboards went to the offices of fitness companies in New York to challenge the industry directly. And new marketing starring professional surfer Bethany Hamilton also aired during the Paralympic games to show how movement is truly for everyone.


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