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You Sure This 9/11 PR Stunt is a Good Idea, Snap Fitness?

There have certainly been better ideas.

Aaron Burden/Unsplash

For the past 20 years, as we’ve been solemnly never forgetting, brands have kept never learning to avoid cringey 9/11 content.

The latest culprit: Snap Fitness, the Chanhassen-headquartered gym chain with 2,000-plus worldwide locations. On Thursday, Snap released plans for “9/11 memorial workouts/boot camps” that feel ripped from an episode of Nathan For You.

“The official 9/11 memorial workout will entail climbing 110 flights of stairs in full firefighter gear, which is what the brave men and women did at the World Trade Center on 9/11,” the press release states. Providing a veneer of charity, Snap mentions that donations will be accepted at its Chanhassen and Cottage Grove locations (Friday) and Andover location (Saturday), but neglects to mention whether the company itself will provide any money “to the heroes and families of heroes who served on 9/11/2001.”

Are the 9/11 memorial workouts/boot camps a… good idea? We asked Snap’s PR rep that verbatim question. We’ll update if we hear back, but a cynic could read the whole ordeal as a crass PR stunt featuring deeply insensitive 9/11 firefighter cosplay, a true unforced error from a multinational brand that could have simply done nothing instead. The whole promotion smacks of Subtember 11.

Snap Fitness is hardly alone, though this specific flavor of tone deafness is becoming almost retro.

“[9/11] was one of the first major events that took place that could’ve been shared on social media by a brand,” Jennifer Grygiel, an assistant communications professor at Syracuse University, told Fast Company in 2019. “So it’s one of the first cases of social media and how to deal with a national tragedy… You don’t want to be seen as making money off this.”

Many 9/11 brand fails have been scrubbed from the internet, perhaps none more infamous than this all-timer from a flashlight you’re supposed to hump.

It coulda been worse, Snap.