Date: 04/06/2020
Author: Cornerstone Design & Marketing
Company: Cornerstone Design & Marketing

Cornerstone Design & Marketing has recently supported a number of leisure sector clients across the north-west to maintain their public profiles and customer engagement during the coronavirus lockdown. Services have focused around tailored digital media health campaigns for people at home and raising awareness of community support through newspapers and radio stations.

Cornerstone works with a number of leisure trusts which each manage a portfolio of venues and services in their local authority areas. Locations include leisure centres, gyms, swimming pools, spas, golf courses, and performing arts venues.

But these have been temporarily closed in the lockdown meaning regular activities such as exercise classes, swimming lessons, health referral work, theatre and music shows have all been suspended.

Oldham-based Cornerstone works with trusts including Active Tameside, Burnley Leisure in Lancashire, Oldham Community Leisure and Everybody Leisure in Cheshire.

These types of trusts differ from purely commercial leisure chains. Leisure trusts typically have charitable status, are accountable to local authorities and any profits are reinvested back into facilities, local community initiatives, equipment and services for the general wellbeing of the public. In addition, trusts often have wider public health remits which include physical and mental wellbeing activities including referral partnerships with local doctors’ surgeries, hospitals, schools and community groups.

During the lockdown, Cornerstone’s services have included communicating key operational and commercial information to customers and suppliers in the early days, followed by health, wellbeing and motivational campaigns on social media and websites, which has been watched and shared by tens of thousands of viewers at home and shared widely, leading to positive audience feedback and engagement for the trusts.

Cornerstone managing director David Wadsworth said: “In the days leading up to the coronavirus lockdown, we invested time and resources across all our departments into developing responsive marketing and communications strategies for clients to stay engaged with target consumer or business audiences over the coming weeks.

“Firstly, our campaigns helped leisure trusts to cope with the immediate challenges they faced in the first lockdown phase. This included huge customer demand for clear information, advice and updates on payments, bookings, membership, classes, performances and so on.  Early messages also included essential information for suppliers, employees and the wider community on operations, financial arrangements and temporary health and safety measures.

“Secondly, we designed tailored online content marketing campaigns for each leisure client to engage with their members and the wider public at home though the first six or seven weeks of lockdown. This helped people stay healthy, motivated, reassured, connected and entertained at home. It includes posts, videos and live-streamed fitness tutorials on websites and social media. We also created quizzes, puzzles and leisure and culture blogs about performing arts, music, local traditions and the histories of local pools, leisure centres and theatres.

“Thirdly, our digital media campaigns and strategies will provide clients with strong platforms in the future to bounce back commercially when lockdown restrictions are eased and wider economic activity revives.

“Throughout this period, consumers and business audiences are seeking useful information, clarity and advice from trusted sources.  So, it’s vitally important that businesses and organisations are seen, heard and promoted accurately as the circumstances change and their interests and reputations are protected.”


Exercise and dance class content has been especially popular with consumer audiences at home.

Audiences watched almost 11,000 minutes of Active Tameside videos on Facebook in the early period. Cornerstone assisted the trust’s output which included a range of daily workout videos and challenges on social media and its website. One video of an LBT workout has received over 2,000 minutes of viewing by people at home.  A Saturday night quiz on social media, plus puzzles and games, have also been popular.

Meanwhile Burnley Leisure increased its creation of live workout videos presented by instructors from their homes from weekly to daily, owing to video popularity. In the early period, Burnley Leisure Facebook posts gained nearly 3,000 likes, over 1,200 comments and over 1,100 shares.

Particularly popular videos included a cha-cha slide plank challenge. The link below is a compilation video showing taking part at home:

Audience engagement has been strong for all ages. One younger Burnley Leisure viewer, a girl called Lily, was inspired to produce her own workout video which she shared with the trust’s social media.

Watch it here:

In other services for leisure trusts, Cornerstone’s PR department has worked to raise public awareness through the regional news media about the trusts’ practical community help during the lockdown. This outreach work has included trusts’ support for NHS partners, schools, local councils, community groups and charities, such as The Samaritans, to help people with special needs, disabilities, the elderly, the vulnerable and children of key workers.

News coverage of the work has been gained in print and digital channels of the Manchester Evening News, BBC Radio Manchester, the Burnley Express, Lancashire Telegraph, Tameside Reporter and the national gym industry media. This has reached thousands of readers and listeners across a range of age and demographic groups.

The campaigns have been successfully delivered and have helped each and every trust to stay connected to their members, whilst maintaining a large share of voice within the market. This strategy will help for the speedy recovery of members and memberships once lockdown eases, and an increase in market share.

Pictured: Example of Cornerstone’s marketing work for leisure clients Active Tameside during the lockdown.