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How brick-and-mortar gyms can compete against in-app fitness

Gen Z health and fitness marketers of the world, meet Kayla Itsines.

The 27-year-old fitness instructor and self-made millionaire from Adelaide, Australia has turned herself into one of the most-recognized fitness influencers on Earth. Analysts forecast that her fitness app, “Sweat: Kayla Itsines Fitness,” will garner around $77 million in revenue in 2018 alone. Her 8.9 million Instagram followers include the likes of well-known supermodels and gold-medal Olympic swimmers.

Itsines is just one of a crop of up-and-coming fitness influencers who’ve become social media superstars — and whose popular workout routines pose a challenge to long-established, brick-and-mortar fitness brands. For more established companies in the wellness industry, this is the kind of thing that should make you stand up and pay attention.

Exercise apps like hers appeal to Gen Zers’ desire to get more value for their money, offering the kind of training they’d receive at a health club for only a fraction of the price. Another major plus is their app-based business model, which appeals to the 43 percent of Gen Z college students who say they prefer working out at home.

If you were hoping to partner with someone like Itsines to get Gen Zers’ attention, you might be out of luck. The reality is that she doesn’t want your sponsorship money because it diminishes her own personal brand.

So what’s a fitness company to do? The good news is, there are other ways to appeal to Gen Zers in this changing fitness landscape.

Tips for gyms and fitness programs to win over Gen Z

Partner with micro-influencers: While the Itsines of the world may not want to partner with you, smaller “micro-influencers” may be much more interested in collaborating. And using a built-in Gen Z following of 10,000 - 100,000 Instagram or YouTube followers to get people interested in your brand is not small change. A recent UNiDAYS study about Gen Z’s attitudes towards health and wellness finds that 71 percent of Gen Zers discover new fitness opportunities on social media, 45 percent of which come from blogs and social media influencers.

Gyms like CrossFit already have an elite team of social media influencers working on their behalf to drive brand awareness on their behalf. Whether you’re looking to get into acroyoga, improve your functional fitness or add to your powerlifting, CrossFit’s brand promoters have enough collective clout to reach a global audience on Instagram, YouTube and other Z-frequented social channels.

But, brand marketers beware! Vet your influencers carefully. You want to make sure they’re representing the same values you espouse as a brand. You probably don’t want to hire the next Logan Paul to be your micro-influencer, even if they’re asking for considerably less money than Logan does.

Go digital with your workouts: Influencers come with risks, and sometimes it pays to grow your following organically. Live-streaming fitness classes or providing online one-on-one training sessions can provide an alternate route to attracting Gen Zers who aren’t interested in expensive, annual gym memberships.

Crunch Gym is good example of a gym that’s headed in this direction, offering basic, free workout tips for its 27,900 Instagram followers. Accessible via Crunch Gym’s Instagram “Stories” feature, all tips are presented by certified Crunch Gym instructors, demonstrating best practices for doing planks and foam rolls.

Give them something more than just exercise: Gen Zers appreciate brands that break the rules of what a vertical normally offers. “Think outside the gym” by offering Gen Z gym goers with products and services that promote a lifestyle geared towards mind-and-body wellness — not to mention physical attractiveness.

Think how Equinox has partnered with Glossier, a favorite beauty brand among Gen Z women, offering free sample of Glossier products after workouts. By adding a touch of beauty to a fitness class, Equinox offers additional value to Gen Zers who associate beauty and health as inseparable components of the same, holistic lifestyle.

Gen Z is reshaping fitness

Social media mega-influencers may have helped brands win over Millennials, but capturing Gen Z requires a different approach. Through the use of micro-influencers, online workouts and lifestyle-oriented products and services, you can compete for Gen Z’s attention in a changing fitness landscape.

John Wheeler
John Wheeler
Managing Editor, Gen Z Insights

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