Will the SoulCycle and Equinox boycott, and others like it, actually work?

If you’re wondering why social media-driven boycott campaigns seem to be so prevalent these days, ballot box disillusionment may be a big factor, according to a professor who studies consumer activism.

The latest example comes as protesters — including celebrities — have taken a stand against high-end gyms SoulCycle and Equinox, calling for a boycott because investor Stephen Ross plans to host a fundraiser for President Trump.

“Everybody who cancels their Equinox and SoulCycle memberships, meet me at the library,” tweeted Chrissy Teigen, adding, “bring weights.”

“Just contacted Equinox to cancel my membership after many years,” wrote Billy Eichner. “Money talks, especially with these monsters.”

But do these types of boycott campaigns — which have also been launched against companies like Nike and Chick Fil A — actually work?

Georgetown University Associate Professor Neeru Paharia said sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. For example, the campaigns against Nike and Chick Fil A were not successful, however, she said the one against SoulCycle might work, largely because the gyms are predominantly located in and around cities with strong Democratic support.

As for why we’re seeing so many boycotts these days in general — Paharia said the political process may have a lot to do with it.

“The way we’re supposed to do this is to go vote, right? If you don’t like the president or you do like the president, you should go to the ballot box and vote, but I think people feel disillusioned now, they feel disillusioned with the traditional political process,” she explained. “So then what’s another way of expressing your political view? If you can’t do it in the traditional channel through the ballot box, can you do it through your consumption choices?”
SoulCycle and Equinox released a statement saying the companies have nothing to do with the fundraiser for President Trump. Whether consumers will ultimately agree remains to be seen.