The fitness industry has been flipped upside down and forced online. Many have been quick to adapt – and you’re likely reading this in between planning, running, marketing, and selling your now virtual fitness business.
While you must find your rhythm in this new digital space for your business to survive and grow, there’s also a need for more than running online classes as a means to an end to get through this time.
It’s always been true that exceptional member experience is built upon more than fitness alone: it’s workshops, social events, Q&A’s and more to nurture and develop your community. This side of your business can’t take a backseat just because you’re now online. If you want to maintain, motivate, and inspire your community virtually – you need to deliver more value than ever.
But it’s also a time to think of the big picture: Even when this is all over, we know that the fitness industry will never return to what it once was.
The Future of Fitness
Before the coronavirus pandemic, many feared that digital fitness would take over and replace the physical need for gyms and studios. Ironic – considering that now, digital fitness has, in fact, been the savior of the industry.
We have always believed that digital fitness would complement the physical gym, rather than replace it. Now we’re seeing it happen – albeit more rapidly than anyone anticipated. We can expect a hybrid future of gyms and studios offering both online and real-life workouts. So it’s crucial to strengthen your digital presence and brand now: online workouts are here to stay because consumers will expect this hybrid offering.
Beyond the fitness industry, the whole world will be a different place when we come out on the other side of this – and people will remember what brands did during this time.
At the moment, virtual workouts are offering people a means to an end. A vast majority of fitness businesses have adapted to provide this service – everyone is doing it.
And so the reality is, your members won’t look back and talk about your online classes. They’ll recall the actions that made your business stand out in a sea of virtual fitness services – the steps you took to do more.
In this article, we’ll take a look at three brands that are stepping up to the challenge, and will be remembered long after this trying time for more than their product or service alone. We’ll also explore the different ways that you can do more now to strengthen your brand for the future. Skip ahead to:
3 Brands That Are Stepping Up
There are many examples of brands that are reaching out to help keep their communities safe and support people at this time.
While it’s the right thing to do, it also makes sense for a business to acknowledge and take action in this way – because people will remember. Below are three brands making an impact that will last.
Dove realized that conversations around beauty that may have been relevant before would seem superficial in current circumstances. It’s #WashToCare campaign is a 20-second long advert encouraging people to wash their hands to help prevent the spread of infection. Rather than using the campaign simply to promote its own products, the ad comes across genuine and authentic with the line “we don’t care which soap you use, we care that you care.”
Alongside #WashToCare, Dove has recently released its “Courage Is Beautiful” campaign, showing the faces of healthcare workers marked by the protective equipment they’re wearing while working through the coronavirus.
Dove’s parent company Unilever has made a global commitment to donating approximately $108 million in funds and supplies to help with the impacts of COVID-19. To reflect this, the U.S. version of “Courage Is Beautiful” uses a tagline that includes Dove’s donations to Direct Relief to help care for healthcare workers.
The brand’s actions acknowledge the bigger picture – while remaining true to its values and staying relevant.
2. Under Armour
With infection numbers rising and the increasing demand for medical equipment, various sportswear companies have stepped up to contribute resources. On the 31st of March, Under Armour became the latest brand to pivot its production to help the fight against coronavirus.
Announcing that it would be ‘leaning in to stop the spread’ of COVID-19, the brand outlined its plans to manufacture and distribute over 5000,000 face masks and 5000,000 specially equipped fanny packs to support the University of Maryland Medical Systems’ 28,000 staff.
As well as contributing to the production of medical supplies, Under Armour has pledged $2M in donations to provide community support to those impacted by COVID-19. $1M has been donated to Feeding America, and a $1M 30-day fitness challenge is supporting Good Sports.
Nike and New Balance are also making efforts to assist in the crisis, with Nike prototyping protective equipment including face shields and New Balance producing prototypes for face masks.
You only have to look at Gymshark’s social media to see how the brand is responding to COVID-19:
Gymshark emerged in 2012 as a stand-out brand in the athleisure wear market following its rapid global growth. It stands out again now, publicly explaining how the company is investing in both its internal and external community during coronavirus.
In a recent YouTube video, company founder, Ben Francis explains, “In times like this, in times of hardship, I think it’s so important that globally, all of us as a community pull together and we support each other. Because it’s going to be extremely tough and extremely stressful for everyone involved.”
The Customer Engagement Playbook for Your Fitness Business
The video highlights the measures Gymshark has in place to protect and support it’s employees, customers, and fitness professionals. It’s referenced in the YouTube video that the company is processing orders on its usual quick turnaround and that it’s business as usual for those wishing to place an order. But the brand’s message at this time is clear: their community is their priority.
Understanding that it’s a difficult time for personal trainers, the brand also invited those struggling for work during coronavirus to reach out and where it could, Gymshark would pay them an hourly rate to teach some of its online fitness classes:
“While on the one hand, we knew that the consumer wouldn’t be able to go to the gym and would be working out from home a lot more, we also realized that PTs, which are the backbone of the fitness industry, would essentially struggle to do their day-to-day jobs.”
4 Ways You Can Step Up
The examples above show that there are different ways that brands can step up right now. Gymshark’s actions, in particular, highlight that you don’t need to manufacture medical equipment or donate millions of dollars to contribute. Instead, you can invest in the bigger picture: invest in your community, and you’ll come out stronger, together.
This video from Stuart Brauer, micro gym owner and founder of WTF Gym Talk, is also an excellent resource for ideas on strengthening your brand during coronavirus. In the next section, we’ll outline four examples of how you can step up.
Create Partnerships With Other Local Businesses
It’s a challenging time for every business across every industry – so take action to support the businesses around you. There are different ways you can work with another business to benefit both parties. Take local restaurant businesses, for example.
At this time, many of these businesses are operating on a collection or delivery-only basis. As a result, they likely have fewer customers than usual. And while various government schemes are helping small businesses, many will still have outgoings that outweigh their income.
As business owners, everyone is in a similar position – so reach out. Partner up with a local deli to offer your members a discount and, in return, offer their existing customers a trial of one of your online classes.
- Drive more business for the deli and give your members more value.
- Gives your members a wider sense of community.
- Build long-lasting relationships with businesses in your area.
- The reach of a previously untapped audience builds brand awareness for all the parties involved.
Bring the Community Together
It’s a given that the various government lockdowns in place pose challenges for businesses – but they’re impacting people too. Self-isolating and social distancing rules mean people are confined mostly to their own homes, unable to socialize with friends or family.
Now more than ever, people need something to look forward to. Classes aside, you can bring your community together for virtual events, something light that gives everyone a chance to socialize, like a quiz or ‘fitness bingo’ evening.
If you’re hosting a quiz, give members the option to invite the people in their household to join in too – it’s a great opportunity for your members to get to know eachother better, as they’ll be sharing a more personal side.
Plan for a maximum of 90-minutes, any longer than this and the quiz will start to feel stale. Your best bet is to do no more than six rounds and try to come up with questions with your members’ different age groups and interests (outside of fitness) in mind, so everyone can get involved.
- Brings the community together for a reason outside fitness.
- A chance for your members to get to know eachother better.
- Gives people an event to look forward to!
Raise Money For a Cause
As a brand, paying it forward now is an investment in your future. Just because you’re not seeing your members in person, doesn’t mean you can’t rally them together for a great cause.
Themed classes are a great way to raise money for a charity. You can either set a participation fee that you donate or set up a direct donation page using a host like Just Giving. Use the ‘questions’ feature in Instagram Stories to gauge interest and get your community excited to be involved. Ask them for theme suggestions, or for charities they’d like to support. When you have a few responses, choose the three most popular answers and put it to the community to vote from those options.
Social media is also a great source of inspiration for ways you can raise money for a charity. Virgin Money Giving’s ‘Run For Heroes’ campaign has raised over £2m for the NHS in the UK. The campaign invites people to run 5k, donate £5 (or more if they wish) and then nominate 5 people on their social media to do the same. It’s a simple idea that engages people and gets them moving – and all for a worthy cause.
- Brings members together for a reason outside working out.
- Strengthens your community by giving members a reason to socialize and get behind a cause.
Champion Your Members
Whether it’s the results they’re getting from your workouts, reviews and testimonials, or anything they might be doing personally to contribute to their community – there’s never been a better time to call out your members for their efforts.
Encourage members to share their progress, or personal contributions with you and acknowledge it within your community. You can create a segment for shining the spotlight, like sharing a weekly newsletter featuring your ‘member of the week’ and sharing their progress.
Take it a step further by encouraging members to nominate each other for some recognition. Again, Instagram’s questions feature is a great way to get this going. We’ve laid out a simple example below, making use of the free templates on Canva:
- Engages your members and encourages them to engage with each other.
- Strengthens your brand image – you’re encouraging other people to step up.
- Motivating for your community – sharing reviews and member progress will motivate members and remind everyone they’re in it together and have support.
These unprecedented times are an opportunity to step up and contribute to something bigger, no matter how big or small the business. If you make efforts to do this now, your brand will be remembered for its contribution and come out the other side stronger than ever.