In today’s world, advertising follows people everywhere. Literally. It’s no coincidence that those trainers you’ve been looking at online are suddenly appearing on your Instagram feed.
When you hear the word advertising – what comes to mind? Is it those Instagram video ads? Banners on a website you regularly use? Whatever you picture, most of us can conjure examples of what advertising looks like. But it’s not as easy to pinpoint exactly what it means, or how to do it well.
From its print-based beginnings in the 1920s to today’s pesky pop-ups; the advertising industry has adapted to work in our technology-driven world. However, the need for advertising hasn’t changed, nor have the best practices that make for successful ads.
As we know from these 7 Attention-Grabbing Gym Ads; it takes a combination of endurance, flexible strategy, tenacity, and creativity to stand out with advertising in the fitness industry.
The Aggressive World of Fitness Brands
Competition among brands to get noticed in the fitness world is fierce, even for its pioneers. Over the last few years, innovative brands have emerged; disrupting the fitness world through social media and giving established brands a run for their money. Everyone is trying to get noticed in some way, so what are brands doing to stay relevant and resonate with people in a highly competitive market?
In this article, we’ll take a look at 3 examples of fitness brands leading the way with their social media marketing and the loyal customer base they’ve built.
Standing out is no easy task, but it’s something these brands do exceptionally well, all in different ways. With the exception of Nike, Outdoor Voices and Gymshark are relatively new in the fitness world, and their rapid growth and success is down to their social media marketing backed up by strong, distinctive branding.
These brands prove that when it comes to marketing on social, the key is to build a community. Engage and inspire people. Encourage them to share their stories and become a part of the journey. Social media marketing is much more than a one-sided conversation pushing products.
3 Huge Fitness Brands with Killer Social Media Strategies
You can’t talk about fitness advertising without talking about the biggest sportswear brand in the world. A pioneer in its field, Nike is known for many things. From its 1984 Jordan Brand, which became one of the most athlete-endorsed brands of all time, to its iconic 2017 Breaking2 campaign.
Breaking2 was an attempt to break the two-hour marathon barrier, to knock a few minutes off the men’s world record time of 2:02:57. The campaign challenged expectations of what was possible in sport, and the project gave the world unprecedented access to the athletes’ journey, including a partnered documentary with National Geographic.
The project broke a world record, but didn’t actually ‘break 2’. One of the campaigns three athletes Eliud Kipchoge came close, falling short of just 25 seconds. In spite of this, the campaign was a huge success and received global media attention. The hashtag #Breaking2 generated 84,459 mentions on social media in just two days and totaled 140,029 mentions during the 6 months from when the challenge was announced, to the day itself. 13.1 million viewers tuned in to watch the live video of the attempt.
Speaking about the campaign, Nike’s Brand Communications Director Mark McCambridge puts its success down to social media: “Once you set an audacious goal, especially when it is seemingly impossible, it allows people to kind of work differently. The media partnerships that we had with platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, and their openness to seeing what the possibilities were going to be for engagement, also made that live element something that was so impactful.”
The Takeaway: Tell a Story
When you think of Nike, you likely think of their shoes; it’s the product they’re most famous for. And while the athletes in Breaking2 wore Nike activewear for training and competing, none of the campaign’s marketing mentioned products.
A quote from Apple founder Steve Jobs summarises Nike’s advertising success perfectly: “Nike sells a commodity. They sell shoes. And yet when you think of Nike, you feel something different than a shoe company. In their ads, they don’t ever talk about their products. They don’t ever tell you about their air soles and why they’re better than Reebok’s air soles. What does Nike do? They honor great athletes, and they honor great athletics. That’s who they are; that’s what they are about.”
The success of Breaking2 is just one example; the brand excels in its marketing efforts when it plays to its strengths. Storytelling is what Nike does best, and it’s at the heart of everything the brand communicates.
2. Outdoor Voices
Outdoor Voices was created with a straightforward goal; to create the world’s number one athletic brand. Founder Tyler Haney wanted to fill a niche in the market for activewear brands by designing stylish clothing for everyday exercises, with the example of the brand’s latest launch The Exercise Dress. In just 5 years, the brand has positioned itself as an industry leader in fashionable activewear and has raised almost $57 million in venture funding.
Through building communities on social media, it has cultivated a loyal following, with its playful slogan “Doing Things” promoting its version of Nike’s infamous “Just Do It.” The tagline is short for the brand’s full slogan “Doing Things Is Better Than Not Doing Things”. It caters to the growing interest in today’s society for overall health and wellbeing.
“Instead of sponsoring professionals, we’re sponsoring recreationals.” Says Haney, when comparing the brand to Nike.
Rather than focusing on aspirational athletes, the brand’s marketing makes its customer the hero. Outdoor Voices takes time to engage with its audience and relies heavily on user-generated content for advertising. The brand uses stories from the community and its #DoingThings hashtag, which has almost 160,00 mentions from followers. A scroll through the tag reveals users taking part in a range of “normal” and fun activities; as opposed to a specific workout.
The brand uses Instagram to involve its followers in the community and provide more than a product; they give their customers an experience.
“People aren’t wanting to buy something that doesn’t have some kind of experience,” says Haney. “While we are making apparel, the best part about it is that it can be activated — the community piece, the experience piece, and the connection piece are ultimately what is important.”
The Takeaway: Make Your Customer the Hero
The company has a unique positioning in the activewear market and conveys this through its inclusive social media advertising. The content promotes consumers enjoying an active lifestyle – and they look good while doing it. Seeing others “Just Doing It” is what encourages followers to upload their content, to be part of the community. In a recent episode of our podcast, WTF Gym Talk founder Stuart Brauer talks about influencer marketing in the fitness business. He suggests an approach similar to Outdoor Voices is an excellent way for gyms to turn their members into brand ambassadors and increase referrals.
Outdoor Voices focus on providing customers with stylish, comfortable clothes to enjoy life has paved the way for incredible brand loyalty. The brand leaves the ‘workout like a pro’ messaging to long-standing sports brands like Nike. It isn’t trying to appeal to the same customers as its global competitors, and it’s chosen a niche channel to advertise on. The brand’s marketing efforts focus and excel on Instagram; because that’s where their customers are.
Outdoor Voices is storming the activewear market because it’s tapping into an entirely different audience and inviting them to be part of a community.
Gymshark has grown incredibly since its launch in 2012. Over the last 3 years, the UK based company has reported an annual growth profit of 152% and generated sales of over £100m in 2018. But how did Gymshark snowball from a small online retailer to a globally-recognized brand?
A driven entrepreneur at just 19, founder Ben Francis created GymShark because of his passion for fitness. Francis realized there was a gap in the fitness apparel market. He wanted to sell clothing that he would want to wear himself, and at the time, that didn’t exist. So he invested in a screen printer and sewing machine and began creating it himself.
Gymshark’s rapid growth began once the brand’s started using influencer marketing. In 2012 ‘influencer marketing’ wasn’t the popular marketing strategy it is today, but it occurred naturally to Francis. Initially, he sent Gymshark products to his favorite high profile bodybuilders in the hope that they would wear and review the brand on YouTube.
“At the time, no one else was doing it. It came totally naturally to us because we were just fans of the guys.” Francis explains in a YouTube video. “The concept has always been around, but people just weren’t doing it with YouTubers and people like that at the time. It wasn’t really a planned thing, but we were one of the first people to do it in our space, and then we lead.”
The strategy was an immediate success and the brand quickly pursued a further 18 influencers who had a combined following of over 20 million people. To engage and build larger communities, Gymshark held influencer events – where followers could come and meet their Instagram idols. In the lead up to the event, the influencers would connect with their followers by promoting the event and conveying their excitement to meet the fans.
The influencers, now known as ‘Gymshark athletes,’ naturally became brand ambassadors after developing a genuine affinity for the products. Since realizing the benefits of influencer marketing, the tactic remains a substantial part of the brand’s marketing strategy today.
The brand’s 3 Instagram profiles have a combined following of over 5million users, with the hashtag #Gymshark tagged over 7million times.
The Takeaway: Utilize Influencer Marketing
Gymshak continues to leverage the followers of influencers through the Gymshark Athlete program, which now includes high profile fitness influencers, including Elliot Burton and Georgie Stevenson. The brands’ success is built entirely on influencer marketing, and it’s a strategy that every fitness business can utilize. The overwhelming popularity of the Gymshark grew from using aspirational athletes, and the sense of community the brand created with them.
One thing is clear with all of these examples; successful fitness brands share a message with audiences. They invite them to be a part of something bigger than themselves. The brand’s voice and core values are always conveyed consistently.
Nike tells stories, Outdoor Voices fosters communities, Gymshark inspires.
As highlighted in the ultimate 5 step fitness studio branding framework; every fitness business needs a set of values that sits at its core. It creates a message and a voice that you’ll use to resonate with your target audience through all of your communications.
So if you haven’t already defined your fitness business values, now is the time to find your voice.