Luxury fitness brands SoulCycle and Equinox faced a chorus of calls for a boycott last week over news that Stephen Ross, the billionaire chairman of the company that owns the fitness boutiques, was hosting a lavish fundraiser for President Trump at his home in the Hamptons.
Research shows that boycotts tend not to do long-term damage to companies’ bottom lines and that only about a quarter of them bring about desired change at the institutions targeted. But SoulCycle and Equinox are nonetheless especially vulnerable to the effects of a boycott because of how they market themselves as lifestyle brands, according to research by Mary-Hunter McDonnell and Brayden King, management professors who have compiled an extensive database of hundreds of corporate boycotts.
“Building a strong reputation as a socially responsible firm creates certain expectations, making incongruent behavior more noticeable and damaging to the firm’s image,” the authors wrote.
SoulCycle, for instance, sells itself as a “meditative fitness experience that’s designed to benefit the body, mind and soul.” It positions itself as a company that is pro-woman and pro-LGBTQ, and it partnered with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to organize fundraising rides during Black History Month. […]