“Gyms can get dirty!” says company which cleans gyms

Gyms have been in the news on a fairly regular basis over the last few weeks, which is exactly what we’d expect to see as PR companies take advantage of the annual ‘get-fit’ resolutions of the nation. So it’s no surprise to see this story in the Daily Mail, detailing some of the odder gym behaviour taking place over in America:

From flatulent body builders to the blood on the weight room floor: The most vile behavior to come out of the gym

A new survey has revealed the most revolting conduct to come out of the local gym – and it goes far beyond the meatheads who neglect to wipe their sweat off the equipment.

Respondents to the poll were asked about the most shocking sights that they have witnessed while exercising in the gym – and they spilled all the gory details.

It appears that any one of the nearly 50 million Americans who hold gym memberships have a horrific locker room story to tell, and the respondents were no different.

Source: Daily Mail, 14 January 2013

I have to admit, at first this one caught me something off-guard – it has all the obvious trappings of PR, with a nonsense poll, some headline-grabbing rarities in the results and a clear angle to the copy, but it wasn’t immediately clear who funded the story, and who profits from it. Initially, there appeared to be only two possible candidates:

Some of the particularly gruesome details were unveiled today by the Today show’s TodayHealth blog – including flatulence and unexpected bowel movements…

…Neil Gussman, communications manager at Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia, told TodayHealth: ‘At family gyms like the YMCA, guys keep the body noises under control – until they get to the locker room.’

Is this story really just here to promote NBC’s the Today Show, or Philadelphia’s Chemical Heritage Foundation? PR can be odd, and sometimes obscure, but that would be downright opaque. 

But, after a moment, it became clear: the Daily Mail story (written by that hard-working journalist ‘DAILY MAIL REPORTER’ – a synonym for ‘COPY AND THEN PASTE’) is in fact taken directly from the Today Show’s blog, but in the copy/paste the survey’s originator is lost:

You won’t believe these gym gross-outs

Gym rats: beware of gym rats, as well as gym cockroaches. Also, you’d best avoid that dried vomit coating the stationary bike, the blood swirling in the whirlpool, and that old man in the locker room who is dutifully airing out his genitals with the hand-held hair dryer.

These are merely five of the nearly 2,000 gnarly sights, smells and sounds reported by fitness center patrons in a new Harris Interactive survey commissioned by the Cintas Corporation. Exercise buffs were asked last month, via an online poll, to list “the dirtiest object or behavior” they’ve ever seen in an athletic facility. They were urged to “please be as descriptive as possible.” Oh, and the people obliged – just in time for the January surge of membership deals from your local gyms.

Source: TodayHealth, 13 January 2012

That the Daily Mail copied the story but ditched the paymaster is rare to the point of outright novel.

As for the originator of the poll, the company who paid to have it pretend to be news? That would be Cintas, the professional cleaning and supplies company. 

The angle here is reasonably smart: Cintas are reminding people, at a time when gym membership is at its peak for the year, to look out for anything that might be considered low standards of hygiene at the gym… which would inevitably result in more people spotting and reporting anything which transgresses rules of cleanliness… which in turn leads to more calls to Cintas as gyms act on reports of poor hygiene.