Sunday, 4 March 2007

Leisure in VNG: Auqa - the No. 1 Sports Club

Only two years ago, when I first came to Vilanova with my family, the fitness club Aqua (C/ de Solicrup; web-page under construction) did not even exist but today, as far as I can judge, it is this town’s strongest local brand outside the restaurant sector. There might me some book and jewelry stores or real estate agencies which have a more solid reputation, but that is just because they have been around for longer. While such establishments at the best can hope for customer loyalty, Aqua is a part of people’s lifestyle. The club already works as a fitness and well-being based social network - this was the first place in town where I started to greet other people than our neighbours, although I must admit that being very reserved compared to all the super-social local members.

In all fairness Aqua did not start from scratch. The family who owns it used to operate the more modest gym Sama, so they already knew their clientele before they decided to invest in a big, free-standing construction. The stylish architecture and interior decorations were rapidly discovered by the experts of the industry and already in its first year was the club awarded a prize as Spain’s best privately owned sports facility.

As a member, you have free access to almost all activities and generous opening hours (from 8 a.m. to midnight Monday to Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays) plus a nanny service for children ages three and above. The weight lifting and cardio training area is well equipped and allows you to keep track of your progression, since all stations are connected to a computer network. The instructors of the scheduled classes all have a high profile and most foreigners will appreciate that the classes are in Spanish, not in Catalan. Finally, in the basement of the building there is a sophisticated spa area to which a massage service has recently been added.

A very large cafeteria and a meal delivery service are other things you find at Aqua, and you can question whether they really fit in with the rest of the concept. I guess that partly these can be ascribed to the caprices of diversification which a small entrepreneur can allow himself although it contradicts a more economical business sense.

Lately, I am happy to notice an increasing number of younger people. Can it be because of the earlier relatively high average age that the background music is so odd at Aqua. In other gyms I have been to, the music usually has a strong beat suitable for cardio training to encourage people to give a little extra. Not so at here. Theoretically, I might be able to accept experimental jazz variations and pan flute tunes as half-adequate for a spa area, but certainly not for exercise rooms. In the end, that is the only small flaw I see in the club and maybe the music choice just reflects the owners’ taste. They are clearly quite driven people, very busy with the continued promotion of their club.

Anyone who is not totally immune against billboard and newspaper ads can not have missed the fact that Aqua exists. Classes in workday evenings tend to be quite full, but on Saturday and Sunday mornings you virtually have all machines for yourself. I assume that the often repeated free-trials and bring-your-friend days are well chosen campaigns - the club can trust its members to be its most efficient promoters. However, since the owners seem to have money for further brand building, I would recommend them to change the message of the advertising. It is time to create and tell the story of Aqua. Whenever they come up with a sports bag or clothes looking as smart as the club itself, I will be fast to buy and show the rest of the town that I am a proud member. I can promise that I will not be the only one to do so.

1 comment:

Erik Wirdheim said...

I have just found out that Aqua offers 2 alternatives for those who do not want to become regular members:

A 1-day pass (access to gym/spa/all classes) at € 20/day.

An individual 10-visit card (access as of above) at € 150 (valid for 1 year)

Aqua is located in the eastern part of Vilanova, very close to the hypermarket Sabeco.