Gyms are no longer the sole residence of the iron pounder, now people from all walks come together in these rooms with the collective goal of self-improvement.
The Rise Of The Fitness Industry
Naturally, this rise has brought its own trends and nuances, including the emergence of the fitness blogger as a genuine career path, the height of which covers true influencers like Australian sensation Kayla Itsines, who commands a following of over 6 million!
A GAP In The Market
Accompanying this explosion in gym-goers, was the opportunity to “equip” them. As a result, “athleisure” sales have grown by 42pc over the past seven years (2016) to $270bn (£204bn) to become a £7bn market in the UK (Telegraph)
A more recent phenomenon has been the emergence of “class gyms”, particularly for young professionals, designed to take the thought out of workouts and replace it with a mild form of torture for £20/hr!
British Military Fitness is succeeding in this area, with 13,000 members paying for more than 400 classes in 140 locations across the UK. (Telegraph) Other notable class gyms include US export Barry’s Bootcamp, Rebel1 and Psycle all of whom cottoned on to the fact that ALL people want to save time, even when they’re in the gym.
It is safe to say, in this short time, the industry has exploded. These are just three examples, of countless, which have been affected by the rise of fitness culture. Now the scene is set, it’s time to focus on the players we’re really interested in, the brands.
What does this mean for brands?
A Constant Cycle
Much like marketing, fitness is a never-ending process. Therefore, brands have to be actively engaged with consumers’ lives consistently in order to remain relevant to them, it is not possible to be semi-present in the market and expect to have success in what has become a hotly-contested industry, ranging from bedroom brands and multi-national giants. Brands must commit, demonstrating to consumers that they can develop with their ever-changing needs.
A Collection of Interests
Furthermore, fitness is no longer a niche, it has become a collection of niches, almost a self-segmented market. An example of this is obstacle races (Tough Mudder, Spartan Race etc.), the popularity of which, by 2015, surpassed that of traditional half and full marathons combined in the USA. (USAToday) Due in no small part to their accessibility and team working components.
So many of these communities, small in the context of the whole, but sizeable nonetheless, are areas of attention waiting to be captured, in the same way Reebok captured “CrossFitters” everywhere. The onus is on brands to occupy this space before someone else does.
Overall, the consensus is that brands need to specialise enough to be able to react to fluctuating trends within niches when these changes occur. The brightest examples are, naturally, the leaders in the market. Both Nike and Adidas sport vast catalogues of micro brands; Nike Football, Nike+ Run Club, Adidas SpecialtySports etc., that constantly work to stay on the cutting edge of their niche through varied and interesting campaigns, Nike “Strike Night” is a perfect example of this.
How Can Brands Capitalise?
What we have seen so far, is that personal fitness has become a billion dollar industry, and with this development, specialist niches have formed, full of active, well-informed consumers waiting to be engaged. This presents a unique opportunity to brands to engage these consumers with well-crafted experiences to create the emotional bond which leads to brand loyalty. Here are a few ways in which brands can adapt to this new culture:
1. New Positioning Opportunities Have Been Unlocked
The rise of the fitness niche has opened up the opportunity for brands to stop being a jack-of-all-trades in favour of being a master-of-one. Whilst this does present a smaller target audience, it gives brands a chance to build a deeper connection with consumers within their niche leading to increased brand loyalty and valuable repeat purchases.
A prime example is Lucozade Sport, who rebranded with an emphasis on encouraging the general public to “get off the sofa” and get active, with the goal of making 1 million people more active by 2020. (TheDrum) This repositioning takes them out of direct competition with brands like Gatorade and Powerade, who target serious athletes, in favour of a much larger albeit less engaged niche.
2. Hosting & Sponsoring Events
Make use of plentiful influencers: The advantage, for brands, of fitness becoming such a nebulous industry is that many different niches mean many different influencers. This leads to tremendous accessibility for brands regardless of size. For example, Zespri created the ‘Zespri Sun-Up’ event in collaboration with BCXM and Cassey Ho (1.3m followers) which recorded over 4.5m mentions. Conversely, London lifestyle blog SecretLDN regularly run Secret London Sessions fitness classes, ranging from SUP board Yoga to HIIT, inviting influencers like Twins in Trainers (1400 followers) to extend the reach.
Zespri Sun-Up Fitness Event:
3. Bring value to existing customers
Perhaps the most important and effective method of driving value, retaining and developing existing customers into brand advocates is a sure-fire way to generate a steady stream of revenue and “earned” promotion. I’ve split this into three main strategies, however, they are not uniquely exclusive and “crossing the streams” is recommended when appropriate.
Your customers want to get the most for their money, which means getting the most out of your product when they buy it. Now obviously no one needs to be taught how to use a pair of yoga pants, however, a lesson from an accomplished Yogi on some new advanced techniques will go a long way to endearing a customer to your brand.
Similarly, a seminar from a professional fighter to help you get the most out of your new gloves will likely affect your decision when it comes time to replace them. Educating your existing customers helps them derive more value from their relationship with your brand, which makes them more inclined to return the favour.
A large part of modern fitness culture is the sense of belonging to a community, these communities openly and actively discuss pain points, trends and yes, preferred brands! It is, therefore, imperative, when attempting to capture the attention of these niches, that brands immerse themselves, becoming an active member of the community.
By engaging openly with, and contributing to, these communities, consumer perceptions of brands shift, from faceless corporations to trusted community members, developing the bond between them.
A perfect example of this is Reebok who’s name has become synonymous with CrossFit worldwide. This is no accident, the brand has been actively nurturing community relationships with influencer partnerships, event sponsorships and community engagement activities. The brand is so involved, FitHub stores are kitted out to host CrossFit competitions.
Similarly, Nike’s Run Clubs provide an arena for like-minded individuals to socialise whilst enjoying their pastime, for many the brand has become synonymous with the hobby, meaning returning customers, meaning a constant flow of value for Nike.
Break Them (Disclaimer: this one is more for the hardcore fitness heads):
Finally, in an industry that reveres “the burn”, one sure-fire way to get the people talking is to push to their limits. Not only does an exceptionally brutal workout ingrain itself in the memory, the massive release of endorphins triggered by intense exercise chemically predisposes attendees to develop a positive attitude towards the brand through association.
I’ve collated a few brief, engaging, example campaigns to show the diversity of both campaigns and brands that can be effective within the fitness space:
1. Nike “Unlimited You”:
Nike partnered with XYZ agency to create 3 days of intense motivational training in East London. The experience featured US export Barry’s Bootcamp, London-based Kobox and Nike Run & Training Club sessions, all set to a bespoke soundtrack, created by Hot Chip.
2. Lucozade Wait Training:
Lucozade teamed up with Grey London and out-of-home specialists JCDecaux, converting a London bus stop into a live interactive exercise area. The bus shelter featured a screen which live-streamed fitness classes from Zumba to Boxercise, and rewarded participants with a free bottle of Lucozade Sport.
3. David Lloyd ‘Run For Your Bun’:
The premium health club brand built a Covent Garden pop-up café where diners paid for food with specially designed workouts. The campaign aimed to reinforce the importance of a healthy lifestyle, particularly for young professionals who spend a large part of the day sat down.
These three very different examples show the variety of campaign brands can employ when engaging the fitness industry. Hopefully, this article has educated you on the changes to the market, caused by the ever-increasing popularity of health and fitness, as well as how experiential campaigns can be used to integrate your brand into these communities.