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As a population we are consistently being confronted with messaging which both directly and indirectly references weight loss and fitness. And while the marketing around weight loss is something was has come under great scrutiny in the last few years with more and more industries rising up against negative imagery and wording which could be considered ‘fat shaming’, the fact is that fitness trends and the incentive to look and feel good is such that gyms and fitness clubs have never been busier.
A lot of this is down to the rise in gyms which have been designed to cater to different target audiences: including vouchers and deals for seasonal memberships, discounted prices for off peak visits which fall within the traditional working hours, and high end gyms which provide an experience built on luxury rather than mere functionality.
One of the most interesting and shocking facts about the gym and fitness club’s industry is the sheer number of individuals who sign up to join, pay the membership fee, and then never set foot inside the gym again. In fact, a whopping 80% of American’s who have a gym membership don’t actually go to the gym.
The difference between gyms and fitness clubs lies largely in the way that consumers use and engage with them, with gyms mainly being used for independent workouts and exercise, while fitness clubs tend to offer a slightly wider variety of activities including swimming pools and workout classes as well as the independent gym and all its equipment. Other distinctions vary between location and brand, though on the whole fitness centres tend to attract a slightly more varied demographic due to their wider offering; encompassing more of a community feel within their spaces when compared with a standard gym.
In the early days, a gym was known as a ‘gymnasium’, and it was the place where the Ancient Greeks used to go to train for their various sports, learn to box, engage in self-defence, and learn the art of self-care (you’ve probably seen examples of the Ancient Greeks statues and wondered at their muscular physiques! Well, this is why!)
From there, gyms were used both for activity and education, with teachers of wisdom and philosophy using the spaces to preach to gym-goers and help them with ongoing enlightenment and learning, and soon the Olympic athletes were using gyms for training – dedicating entire spaces and even specialist centres to their advanced routines.
The first gym in the USA was opened in 1825 by a German immigrant, coinciding with the launch of physical education in school curriculums and learning programmes and encouraging a variety of activities and sports in order to keep pupils and young attendees engaged with the idea of sports and physical games. What followed was playgrounds and designated sporting pitches, workout centres designed for specific activities and routines (for example CrossFit), the expansion of gyms into hotels and holiday resorts, and eventually home gyms being set up and created in personal and private homes around the world.
To look at the top brands in the gym and fitness club’s industry is to ascertain not only what the most popular sports and workout regimes are, with some of the most prominent styles of workout and fitness session operating under their own brand due to the popularity, but also to establish the most popular gym brands and centres which serve communities all over the nation and beyond.
Some examples of popular workout trends which have worked their way into gyms and fitness clubs and now make up part of the industry through their brand name alone include:
While some of these are words you will associate with specific styles of working out, others are franchise names of classes being held across the globe under an umbrella heading.
And then we have the gyms and fitness club’s themselves; largely operating as the venue for various workouts, with each gym marketing itself in a slightly different way whether it be appealing to the 24 hour gym goers, the high end and luxury gym users, those looking for an affordable gym membership, or those seeking a gym which invests more heavily in classes and communal training rather than providing basic equipment. Some of the top global examples of gyms and fitness clubs include:
For some users of this industry, you may be wondering why this list doesn’t include sporting venues like popular golf clubs and tennis courts. For the most part, specific sporting activities tend to be held in specific clubs designed for a singular purpose, whereas gyms and fitness clubs are much broader and offer the mass market a space in which to workout with sport-specific activity.
We have already explored how so many of the gyms and fitness clubs in the industry operate and provide their services to a niche target group; getting to know their target audience through market research and providing them with the facilities that they expect. A lot of the results are then celebrated and identified through the membership fee – with the high end gyms and fitness clubs operating under the largest monthly fees and providing spa-like experiences to members. In terms of marketing, the biggest driver for these fitness clubs and gyms is word of mouth and the power of recommendation, as well as targeted advertising on sites frequented by the target group.
Meanwhile, the more affordable gyms are tiered based on the complexity and breadth of equipment they have available; with staggered membership fees ranging from under £10 a month to upwards of £50 per month. These more affordable gyms tend to be regarded as community spaces, with one of the overwhelming trends in the industry and the reason for its expansive growth being the idea that individuals are increasingly viewing the gym as a social place to go and meet and workout with their friends. This is helped by the fact that these gyms are open longer, welcome a broader audience of users, and create comforting spaces with the help and support of trainers and experts.
As well as targeted advertising in terms of the consumer and ideal audience, gyms and fitness clubs also use seasonal marketing as part of their campaigns to generate membership – utilising the January push for fitness as a means of offering discounts and deals for new members, offering a variety of short term membership packages to those looking to get fit for the summer, and even offering worktime and off peak membership solutions in city centres for those looking to get fit during a lunch break. Adapting to trends in the industry and finding new ways of providing functional and useful equipment helps different gym stand out from their competitors, with some using influencers and virtual tours online and on social media, while others purely rely on the value of word of mouth and recommendation.
As we have already touched on, one of the most prominent trends in the gym and fitness clubs industry is the development of fitness fads and trends – be they workout styles, influential faces providing and supporting workout routines, or entire new areas of focus which lend themselves to different equipment. By way of an example, CrossFit is one of the trends we mentioned earlier, which employs not only a new range of equipment and requires lots of empty space, but also really draws on the community spirit and companionship of workout partners and groups of friends training together. Another similar example can be seen in the rise in Zumba which was designed a number of years ago as a way of incorporating dance into exercise and combining up to date chart music with structured routines and professionally led dance routines.
The rise in home workouts is another trend which has had an impact on the gym and fitness clubs industry, with more consumers turning to basic equipment and online videos to create their own workout routines and regimes scheduled around their own time allowances and lifestyles. What this trend does is highlight one of the challenges of gyms and fitness clubs, particularly with regards to classes and group workouts: that is the reliance on specific timings in order to gather consumers together. While gyms can and are combatting this through the inclusion of increased technology to livestream workouts to those joining in from home, the simple fact is that with classes happening at set times, the industry is inevitably cutting out a vast proportion of those who cannot commit to the allotted time.
Technology is of course a key driving force in many industries, and the gym and fitness club industry is no different. Technology innovation and intervention can be witnessed across a variety of touchpoints around a gym or fitness club, from the use of membership cards to check in and access the gym itself, to the wide use of wearable fitness technology in order to track progress. Consumers now are also using technology as a means of enhancing their workout and gym experience, for example taking part in group virtual cycles and Spin workouts which rely heavily the atmosphere created through technology and electrics.
One of the best ways for small businesses to get involved in the gym and fitness club’s industry is through innovation and creating new ways for consumers to get the most from their gym experience with the least effort possible. The simple fact is that gyms and fitness clubs are popular due to a strong brand name and presence – with many consumers selecting their gym based on location and convenience as much as anything else. For those smaller independent creators and retailers looking to break into the fitness market, using popular gyms to start advertising your personal training services, hiring space in the gym to host a weekly class, or even using the gym reception to market and sell your new energy drinks and snacks are all great ways of speaking to and getting your ideas in front of a captive audience. Success then depends on how the brand is able to adapt to and adjust in line with industry trends – recognising the importance of different workout styles and types, and feeding the flame of healthy snacks and protein filled foods after a workout.
Another prominent trend in the gym and fitness club industry is the rise in the consumer experience: highlighting the need for gyms and clubs to be providing hygienic and clean spaces for members to workout in and get changed in. Those clubs which benefit from additional services and facilities like sporting courts and swimming pools should be using the growth of all these areas of focus as a means of promoting the gym, but without forcing members to pay higher fees to use facilities that they are not interested in. We tend to find that the most successful gyms and clubs are those which provide tiered membership deals and fees in line with what the consumer wants, using a membership card with tailored access tuned into it to allow the user to get into the gym, access the pool area or use the spa facilities. Another area of the consumer experience lies in the way that the gym or fitness club promotes socialising, supports workout goals, and creates a rounded experience both before and after the workout is complete.
Pulled together, the gym and fitness club industry provides a service which speaks and directly links to one of the most prominent trends in modern society: the rise in the importance of health and fitness. As such, the industry around gyms and fitness clubs is one which is likely to continue rising as demand continues; with the variety of gyms and plethora of seasonal and annual offers making sure that the mass market is catered to and offered the tiered membership that suits them.
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