FLG aims to elevate California's Fitness Festival into international event

By Thy An   January 18, 2024 | 05:00 pm PT
Dane Fort, CEO of FLG Vietnam, reports a record-breaking California Fitness Festival with thousands of attendees, inspiring millions to prioritize health and well-being.

Why did you and FLG come up with the idea of holding a fitness festival?

Established in Vietnam in 2007, California Fitness has grown to become one of the country’s leading premium gym networks, spanning a range of world-class brands that include California Fitness & Yoga, California Active, California Centuryon and Hypoxi.

Committed to the mission of ‘One Life Live Well’, California Fitness & Yoga is dedicated to inspiring, entertaining and energizing the communities it serves. Delivering a range of training programs - including over 2,000 classes a week - it is driven by a goal of improving the health, wellness, lives and livelihoods of all 100 million people in Vietnam.

Held in October, the inaugural California Fitness Festival was such a success that plans are already taking shape to scale it as an annual lifestyle event and destination.

California’s Fitness Festival attracts a record-breaking crowd with thousands in attendance. Photo courtesy of FLG

California’s Fitness Festival attracts a record-breaking crowd with thousands in attendance. Photo courtesy of FLG

Earlier this year, we launched a new vision for California Fitness. Encapsulated in the statement "One Life Live Well". It's about health, happiness, and hope for all 100 million Vietnamese people.

Our product is preventative healthcare, so we wanted our vision to be something with substance, something we could measure.

We took inspiration from the McKinsey Health Institute, which last year said at least six years of a higher quality life for everyone is within reach and set out to play our part in making this a reality for the Vietnamese population.

Conceived in February and launched in July, it’s no overstatement to say that, even though we were already a market leader, "One Life Live Well" has transformed our business.

Partners are flocking to be involved. Team members are so proud to say they work for us. And crucially, it resonates strongly with a Vietnamese population that had already begun to embrace a longer-term, holistic, health-focused mindset around exercise and wellness.

Engagement with our brand had therefore already reached unprecedented levels, but we wanted to add fuel to this fire. We wanted to give our vision a heartbeat beyond the walls of our clubs, and the California Fitness Festival was born.

The event aimed to inspire millions of Vietnamese people to prioritize health and well-being.

The event aimed to inspire millions of Vietnamese people to prioritize health and well-being. Photo courtesy of FLG

What did the festival consist of?

Taking place in Ho Chi Minh City on Oct. 14, it was one of Vietnam’s largest fitness and music festivals. It started with a series of outdoor classes: 300 people took part in sunrise yoga and 700 in the Les Mills and Zumba sessions that followed.

Throughout the day, a popular Live Well Expo showcased various aspects of health and wellness across 80 sold-out booths, with our California booth running recovery sessions and challenges.

Then in the afternoon, almost 7,000 people took part in a 5-km bubble run, at the end of which a grand stage lit up, welcoming thousands of spectators to enjoy an All-Star Fight martial arts competition and a live music concert.

Featuring top names such as indie band Chillies, California brand ambassador and rap sensation tlinh, DJ Minh Tri, rappers Andree Right Hand and HIEUTHUHAI, and many more, the concert was a great way to connect with Generation Z.

California has been going for 17 years now, meaning many of those who joined at the beginning are now in their 40s and 50s. We need to make sure we’re relevant to the younger generations too, and music is a great way to speak to them.

The events key activities were meticulously crafted with unprecedented investment. Photo courtesy of FLG

The event's key activities were meticulously crafted with unprecedented investment. Photo courtesy of FLG

What was the uptake?

We were expecting 7,000 attendees, but we had no idea how many would actually turn up and never put limits on it. We just went all-out and, on the day, welcomed 20,000 people, including lots of non-members.

We raised US$500,000 through sponsorships and ticket sales alone, with a portion of that donated to Heartbeat Vietnam, our chosen charity.

The whole event was sponsored by the Vietnamese Olympic Committee, which allowed us to put the five rings on all event marketing, which was great news with the Paris Olympics coming up next year.

We collaborated with a number of international Chambers of Commerce and with the Ministry of Health, whose social, economic, and wellbeing agendas are highly aligned with our vision.

Our All-Star Fight, which featured the first ever government-sanctioned title bout, was created in partnership with the Ho Chi Minh City Muay Thai Federation, part of the Ministry of Sport, and broadcast live across the nation on HTV, with around 23 million people tuning in. Viettel also streamed the fights to its mobile customers.

In the two weeks following the event, we had 34 million views of event videos and 40 million shares of our social posts. Podcast giant Vietcetera also did a live podcast from the event, asking celebrities what they were grateful for that day. It resulted in some great endorsements for us.

We have tried something like this before, but this time it caught the zeitgeist. I'm so grateful to the team for delivering it; we only had the idea for the festival in July and were moved by their pride in the way it touched lives and added value.

FLG aims to elevate California’s Fitness Festival into international event - 5

Participants enjoyed the engaging activities at the Live Well Expo. Photo courtesy of FLG

What are you planning next for the festival?

A one-day event this year, we are looking at a three-day event for 2024, incorporating anything and everything that feeds the soul: TED Talks, a big mental health focus, longevity experts, HYROX, healthy F&B, and even more music.

I'm also going to run from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, inviting other CEOs to donate money to run parts of the route with me.

It's already gone from being a dream to a reality, and I'm excited by what comes next. We would like it to become a movement, a lifestyle destination on the international calendar, a PG version of Burning Man or Coachella for health, fitness, and wellness.

We would like it to take on a life of its own, becoming its own brand as well as a mouthpiece for what we’re trying to achieve for the health of the nation.

What would the value for your brand?

With our new vision, we want to take our company to the next level, intertwining ourselves in the social fabric of Vietnam and taking control of the narrative around health and wellness. This is a big responsibility and one we take very seriously, but it’s a responsibility we want to assume.

At the moment, there’s less than 1% penetration of health club members in Vietnam. If we can help raise that even just to 4%, it would lift the whole industry as well as the health of the nation. This is where initiatives like the California Fitness Festival come in, allowing us to market health in a way that’s cool and relevant across generations.

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