Pros and Cons of Sports Business Membership Models

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There are four primary business models used by sports businesses to structure their memberships. Each come with their own benefits and drawbacks, and offer members different ways to improve their game. From memberships that simply allow facility access to fully immersive memberships, there is no “right” model for all businesses. Use this list to decide which membership model is right for your business. Learn about Upper Hand’s industry-leading membership management software

Pros and Cons of Various Sports Business Membership Models


Open Facility Membership

An open facility membership model allows members to access the facility at any point during open hours. Commonly used by larger gyms and facilities, it can be an effective way to generate recurring revenue streams if members are able to complete their workouts on their own, since this option lacks the structured training and services provided by other facilities.  Pro: The open booking structure allows for athletes to work out as needed, and train when is convenient for them. Pricing models can be flexible with this particular membership model. Offer short-term memberships or yearly commitments. Members can receive perks like discounts on camps, clinics, or training sessions. Additionally, this model is commonly combined with other memberships or services that give access to training options, and it’s often an easy way to upsell members to more inclusive and expensive memberships.  Con: This membership can feel like one available at a big box gym because of its lower cost and freedom for athletes to come and go as they please. Without the benefits that come with other models, an Open Facility model essentially just grants access to the space. Because of the lower level of engagement between athletes and coaches, member retention and loyalty tends to be lower in this particular model than others. Additionally, businesses that operate on this model are unlikely to attract high-level athletes because of the lack of robust training programs. [su_spacer]

Service Membership

A service membership enables members to access a certain number of classes, credits, or sessions per month. As the name suggests, credits or sessions are used to schedule specified services like lessons, classes, and training sessions. Fitness studios frequently use this model for their members. Pro: The service membership model allows facilities to control the number of sessions booked out per period. A facility might offer a special rate as the quantity of credits or sessions increases, which could entice members to choose the package with more credits. Members can typically buy additional sessions at a discounted rate. Con: Depending on the number of sessions a member receives per period, this membership model can make members feel limited. Because of this, it’s important to allow for members to easily purchase more sessions as needed. [su_spacer]

Training Membership

A training membership enables members to pay a monthly fee which grants them access to a variety of classes, lessons, camps, clinics, or training sessions.  Pro: This is a great way for athletes to access your full range of services. The mix of lessons, rentals, camps, and other offerings ensures that they are training at a high caliber. Because of the wide array of options available with this membership and the higher frequency of participation, athletes often have stronger loyalty to the brand. Con: For athletes who are committed to a single offering such as weekly lessons, this membership option may be unnecessary. Additionally, the cost of this membership tends to be higher than the cost of others listed here. [su_spacer]

Team Membership

A team membership is wholly different from the other membership options listed above, because rather than being directed towards an individual athlete, this membership is available to teams who train in your facility.  Pro: Teams who purchase this membership option are typically granted a certain number of training sessions per period. Coaches can schedule a recurring time slot (ex. 3 practices per week) on a monthly, season, or year term. Additionally, with this membership model, facilities could offer athletes on the team special discounts on sessions booked with the facility’s trainers.  Con: This membership doesn’t inherently offer individual training sessions with the athletes themselves.
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