Case Study: Champions Run

Outside the Box Member Engagement

Published Thursday, September 17, 2020
by Allison Boyd and Ben Lorenzen

As club managers watched the COVID-19 pandemic unfold, uncertainty and fear undoubtedly filled clubs across the country. Managers, board members and support staff quickly shot into action to deliver the promise to their memberships, because with every great crisis comes the opportunity to be great!

Champions Run, located in Omaha, Neb., was no different. The staff swiftly developed a comprehensive engagement plan and strategy to connect with their members as their state began to go into lockdown. Now, more than ever, was an opportunity to show members why they were part of the Champions Run family.


Like many food and beverage operations nationwide, Champions Run shifted to drive-thru, curbside and delivery services. The family-style takeout menu included family favorites like pizza and wings, take-&-bake lasagna, and their famous enchilada kits. In addition to regular takeout, they offered daily specials for Taco Tuesday and Fish Fry Friday’s. After securing a vehicle, they took to delivering to their members’ homes and debuted an online ordering system.

It was also important to help members celebrate those special holidays that they normally spent at their family club. St. Patty’s Day was a sellout, offering a corned beef and cabbage meal, partnered with a shamrock scavenger hunt through the parking lot to get the kids engaged. The club served 800 of their members on Easter (both pick-up and delivery). On Mother’s Day, they prepared breakfast, brunch and lunch packages, while organizing an online pop-up shop for families looking to buy mom that special gift.

Once the weather began to turn, Chef John Benton began an online steak store, offering all that members would need for their family grill outs. Pastry Chef, Hanna Eadie got in on the action, creating take-&-bake cinnamon rolls, weekly dessert specials and cookie decorating kits. Club staff served Sunday coffee and mimosas to cars driving through, including flipped pancakes to kids hanging out of car windows.

Champions Run saw a demand for to-go wine, beer and cocktails packages. They opened an online retail wine shop, hosted wine tastings via Zoom, as well as drive-thru wine nights, complete with date-night appetizers for two.

But the infamous burger night drive thru, was by far their biggest success, selling 1,024 burgers, 430 chicken sandwiches and 420 pounds of fries in just under three hours.


Fortunately for most clubs, golf never shut down during the pandemic. While the golf course was busier than ever, the golf shop noticed the effects on merchandise sales and began to offer products for sale online. Merchandiser Dawn Neujahr took to uploading clothing, hard goods and more, available through a new online golf shop. She also offered kids activities for pick-up or delivery, such as the Egg-Mazing Easter Egg decorating kits, which sold out on three separate occasions.

Since the club could not host their traditional Easter Extravaganza, they purchased the website Members visited the website, where they could purchase eggs for $1. Champions Run staff then went from house to house, hiding the eggs in the members yard, with the Easter Bunny, of course. Additionally, they left behind Easter baskets and polaroid photos of the Easter Bunny’s visit.

While many scheduled member events were cancelled, Event’s Coordinator Kayla Ryan thought outside the box to offer these events virtually. One such event was the Mommy and Me Tea Party, for which take-home boxes were assembled for tea parties and crafts. Instead of canceling the Memorial Day Celebration, Champions Run hosted a parking lot parade with activities and food you could grab from your car.


To engage the club’s robust children’s membership, Champions Run immediately began offering activities through Zoom and Facebook Live. Every day, at 1 p.m., kids tuned-in to watch cooking classes, juggling lessons, yoga and dance training. They took virtual golf and tennis instruction, did art projects and learned about photography and origami. They even learned how to tie a tie and set a table.

The Champions Run “directors of fun” interspersed virtual scavenger hunts, game shows and trivia into the 1 pm line-up. “Krakens Got Talent,” hosted through their social media accounts, allowed members to showcase their specific talents and vote on winners. The club also held virtual tours to give kids a behind the scenes look at what it takes to run the day to day operation at Champions Run. A “Slime the Staff” series allowed members to vote each week on staff members to be slimed, while they live streamed the content.

One their most unique events were the virtual escape rooms. Members began in one Zoom room with a virtual puzzle to complete. They would privately chat puzzle answers to the “game room master,” and correct answers would allow players to move on to a new Zoom room, until they reached the end.

Furthermore, the entire fitness calendar moved to an online format until it was safe to begin teaching classes outside. More than 24 online classes were offered each week to the member- ship, as well as kids’ fitness classes.

It’s true that COVID-19 has presented its fair share of challenges for clubs across the world, but with a little creativity and outside the box thinking, there is always an opportunity to connect further with your membership and to challenge your staff to think differently. In the famous words of Winston Churchill, “Never waste a good crisis.”

Allison Boyd is service manager and Ben Lorenzen is creative director & director of aquatics & fitness at Champions Run.


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