Are Wellness Events the Hot, New Trend in Festivals?


In 2017, Propel hosted two pop-up fitness events in Los Angeles and New York City called Propel Co:Labs. The primary goal of the events was to differentiate Propel from its sister PepsiCo brand Gatorade. Gatorade is very focused on sports and athletes, so the Propel marketing team was hoping to set the brand apart by making promoting overall wellness and fitness.

The limited-time pop-up events were such a success that the brand expanded them into a ticketed, multi-city tour called the Propel Co:Labs Fitness Festival. Attendees at the events –held in Miami, Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago – were able to participate in a selection of more than 40 workouts, including a high-intensity interval training speed play class, 1990s hip-hop-inspired yoga classes, indoor rowing, and a box and yoga flow hybrid class. The majority of the workouts were set to live musical performances by such artists like Ludacris and Icona Pop.

“A person who attends a Propel Co:Labs Fitness Festival may come in with some awareness of the brand, but they leave 85 percent more likely to purchase a Propel, and their perception of Propel is improved as well,” Laura Barnett, Brand Director of Propel at PepsiCo, said to Event Marketer.

The events also included talks from leading fitness and wellness experts, including Gunnar Peterson (a personal trainer), Pia Arrobio (a skincare expert), Harley Pasternak (a trainer and motivational speaker), and Brooks Laich (a professional hockey player). There was also a wide variety of healthy foods on hand for attendees to purchase and complimentary services including massages by Soothe and popsicles by Dream Pop.

“The program really has grown in tandem with the rise of the fitness movement,” Barnett said. “We observed that fitness was becoming more and more fragmented as it grew, so everyone was finding their ‘tribe,’ whether it’s boot camp [or] boxing, people were finding their niche in the community. And what Propel intended to do with this platform is unite the community and pull people together under one roof who have one common love of fitness and working out. And really bringing an experience that is special and can’t be found anywhere else.”


Photo Credit: Invisible North

The global health and wellness market has grown 12.8 percent in the last two years and is now valued at $4.2 trillion.

According to research from the Global Wellness Institute, key sectors of the health and wellness market include:

  • Personal Care, Beauty & Anti-Aging ($1,083 billion)

  • Healthy Eating, Nutrition & Weight Loss ($702 billion)

  • Wellness Tourism ($639 billion)

  • Fitness & Mind-Body ($595 billion)

  • Preventative & Personalized Medicine and Public Health ($575 billion)

  • Traditional & Complementary Medicine ($360 billion)

  • Wellness Lifestyle Real Estate ($134 billion)

  • Spa Economy ($119 billion)

  • Thermal/Mineral Springs ($56 billion)

  • Workplace Wellness ($48 billion)

The United States accounts for $167 billion, a significant chunk of that market, and that is anticipated to increase by another $4 billion this year. Recent research even suggests that millennials believe eating well and regular exercise is so important that they are drinking and partying less. Which is why The Propel Co:Labs Fitness Festivals are not the only event to attempt to capitalize on the burgeoning fitness and wellness market. Last year’s South by Southwest dedicated a portion of the festival to the trend. The SXSW Wellness Expo included more than 100 exhibitors and classes.

Even Richard Branson, the billionaire behind everything branded as Virgin (Records [RIP], Air [i.e., Atlantic], Racing, Hotels, Galactic, and many, many more) is in on the act. Virgin Sport is a series of fitness festivals that center around a race (such as a 5K, 10K, half marathon, or a combination) and then branch out to include a selection of fitness classes in a festival atmosphere that features local food, music, art, and culture.

According to the Virgin Sport website, the idea for these festivals came to Branson while he was cycling through South Africa (because … of course it did). The goal is to create an active event that provides motivation and activities for everyone – from couch potatoes to gym rats.

Photo Credit: Marie Curie

“The reality of our life is that we’re surrounded by a variety of friends and family who have different interests and abilities,” Mary Wittenberg, CEO of Virgin Sport, said to Fortune. Last year, Virgin Sport hosted a series of activations around London and one in San Francisco with the intent to expand in upcoming years.

However, it is likely that the fitness and wellness festival trend began 10 years ago with the Wanderlust Festival, which kicked off in 2009. Held in Squaw Valley, California, it was a multi-day event featuring a lineup of indie- and folk-rock bands and variety of yoga instructors. Over the years, Wanderlust’s four-day festival has expanded to several locations (some of the settings this year include the Hawaiian island of Oahu, the Snowshoe mountain in West Virginia, the Tremblant mountain in Québec, and the Stratton Mountain in Vermont) and increased its wellness offerings to include hiking, 5Ks, inspirational sessions (known as “speakeasies”), and, still, plenty of yoga.

This year, in addition to its more exotic locals, Wanderlust is creating truncated two-day festivals set in parks in large cities across the United States, including Atlanta, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, and New York City. The intent behind the two-day format is to duplicate the experience of the original festival in a shorter time frame. These festivals will still offer a wide variety of workout classes (approximately 50 options per day) and an extensive assortment of wellness experts.

“I think the opportunity for wellness and fitness experience expands a lot just because you’re in an urban area. We’re excited to bring the experts, excitement, and diverse classes of our destination festivals to the heart of our most beautiful city parks,” said Sean Hoess, Co-Founder and CEO of Wanderlust.

One exciting aspect of these fitness festivals is that not only are they a festivity of health and wellness, but they can also be a celebration of body positivity. One example is the We Dare to Bare Fitness Festivals and 5K Dance Parties. According to the event’s website, “We Dare to Bare is a national movement that asks women and girls an important question: What if we dare to overcome the insecurities we have about our bodies? What if we instead chose to bare our vulnerabilities in an effort to conquer them? Could we reveal the most powerful version of ourselves?”


Photo Credit: Movemeant Foundation

It’s a powerful mission statement that tackles the elephant in the room head-on: that people’s inhibitions may actually prevent them from attending a fitness festival. The We Dare to Bare festivals were created by the Movemeant Foundation (MVMT), a non-profit organization committed to making fitness accessible, fun, and empowering.

This year the festival will take place in four cities: San Francisco, New York City, Nashville, and Los Angeles. The fests offer a variety of fitness activities, including spin classes, cardio dance sessions, and mother-daughter workshops. All proceeds from the events benefit the Movemeant Foundation.

Health and wellness are aspects that are essential to today’s event attendees. Even if your exposition is not strictly fitness focused, you can still include a variety of healthy activities that your visitors will appreciate. For some help thoughtfully incorporating health and wellness into your activation, give Event Architecture a call at 972-323-9433.