Brands Not Keeping Fitness First

Just yesterday while at the gym, I saw Reebok’s rather awkwardly placed gym wear vinyl in the lounge area . The latest range and a life size image of shiny gym clothes on a sculpted body.

Even though the sculpted body was serious distraction, what struck me even harder was  the half-heartedness of the brand. What was Reebok trying to realistically achieve by sticking up 2 vinyl’s of their latest range? It smelt of a regional marketing guy’s activation target excel. The big problem thankfully is that the consumer isn’t an imbecile to be led by a static vinyl like the pied piper’s rat and spend moolah on slinky dry fits at a store located on the other side of end town.

Why was this vinyl here at the first place? Captive Audience Duh!

“Cant be that simple, no”. So I had this little private conversation with myself. If you have to know, while in the gym normally I restrict myself to “yo can do it!”, but his was uncontrollable. Professional hazards I guess.

Anyway, it’s no secret that Gyms and fitness clubs are evolving into social hubs.

It’s one of those offline places you just can’t take online you see. However, our marketers seem to be falling woefully short in appreciating this idea, grossly underestimating the power of engaging a consumer when he is in the “you can do it” mode.

The World is a Dumb- belle

Globally since the 1960s (like for everything else) gyms have become synonymous with urban culture. Every few years there is a new trend that helps this juggernaut rolling. From strength training in the 80s to Yoga in the 90s and Pilates in the new millenium. Most importantly it’s natural for the body to demand of its occupant to keep the premises proper and adequate. Hence, the alpha male and the queen bee respond to this call and the hoi polloi follow.

There are derivative phenomenon, such as the global food supplement industry, which is a byproduct of of gyms in urban and suburban America. Then there are specially designed trainers to tone your butt and gym Ts that labor like the weatherman.

The fitness cult has also led to development of mainstream consumer products such as Diet Pepsi, Tropicana 100% juices, sports drinks and a whole load of health snacks and food bars.

Such is the obsession now that even brands which have no fitness link, have ad campaigns which focus on consumer’s growing awareness on fitness. Here Carlsberg takes itself real lite:

Having identified the opportunity we wonder if enough is being done on the brand front. Globally Fitness & Sports apparel brands are taking their industry association to the next level. Reebok for instance now has fitness clubs. One look at their website gives you an idea of how the fitness industry is evolving.


Can one say that about the evolution in India?

The Indian Muscle Cramp

There is no denying that India still lacks behind the rest of the world when it comes to passion for fitness. Growing urban centres means that the answers will stop coming from the akhadas, yoga ashrams and cricket. It means we have to push the idea of fitness in the growing cities, and do it in a modern way. Bollywood, thankfully has been up to speed and is one of the reasons a six pack is obsessed over in colleges around the country.

Just to throw a few statistics around. The fitness industry in India is estimated to be worth around 1500-2000 crores. With popular dinosaurs like Khan’osorous sporting 6 pack abs now, the growth rate is close to 35%.-50%. Brands like Gold’s Gym, Talwalkar’s, Fitness First, Snap Fitness and Ozone fitness are well placed with over 150 fitness centers across India., and we haven’t considered other stand alone and neighborhood gyms yet.

Approx  1.5% of the urban middleclass and above populace in India has at some point enrolled in a gym. One might think that’s not much. But here’s the math:

Let’s say about 10% of our total population lives in the top urban centres.

1.5% of that 10% is only about 2mn young and conscious folks clamored into these gyms burning cals and discussing fitness, sport, fashion, films, lifestyle in the gym and outside of it! Surely, that’s a market.

Still, apart from a few half hearted efforts of putting up vinyl’s, throwing around a few pamphlets, a benign branded fridge of a health drink next to the water cooler and a personal trainer trying to peddle whey protein or a fat burner compound slyly to  a customer in the parking lot of a gym we don’t really see an organized effort to capitalize on this emerging marketplace?

On speaking to some folks of the gym marketing manager variety we  understood that they do have many (as many as 4 vinyl paying tie ups) corporate marketing tie ups but fail to substantiate anything.

So it’s even clearer now that no real consumer engagement has been done by the brands so far.

When one digs deeper empathizing with the marketing folks on both side of the value chain the only prevailing reason one can fathom for this lack of interest is that gyms cannot be used as POS ( Point of sale). To us that’s just one big brain muscle cramp, in other words a flawed philosophy.

So here now we shall lift the weights, the ones that lie in the corner of the gym, those that everybody thinks must be for the professionals. Guess they are.

No Pain – No gain

1. Apparel &Footwear

Rather than putting up a vinyl if there was a trainer wearing those clothes and shoes, conducting a special floor exercise class to highlight the benefits of shock absorption or sweat evaporation benefits of the apparel and shoes. Wouldn’t it be better? What’s better than a live demo of a product you want the consumer to use? You don’t even need to tie up with the gym. Or you could the Brand can play it the way they want to.

 2. Energy Drinks

Be generous now, rather than throwing a pamphlet of your instant hydration and mineral replenishing drink , give out a free sampler on the floor to a sweaty gym goer who has his heart in his mouth? Quietly walk away with your brand name at the back of your T-shirt.  He’ll make the noise for you.

3. Food, Fruit &Fibre

Branded gyms have dieticians who write you a diet plan, which in most honesty 99% don’t stick to. Apart from one or two, virtually no gym has a smoothie bar or a salad shop on the floor. A healthy snack or a diet, right when you need it. When I’m hungry, I’m hungry, I don’t need no pamphlet or a discount coupon . I need a snack. I get out of your gym and hit nearest Haldiram’s coz it’s there and then I blame you for the lack of results. Who else must I ? Why wouldn’t a marketer want my money, when I’m willing to spend it pronto? I would even market my oatmeal on the gym floor if I was selling it. Brand the diet chart, why not?

4. Supplements & Muscle Builders

Supplements are being sold slyly or on the side, it’s a huge market. Only growing. Why there is no concentrated effort to sell them in an organized way to the right consumer so people use it under guidance and don’t end up looking like a mass of sore inflamed muscle is anybody’s guess.

5. Spa & Wellness

If you want to snap deal, do it here, what about a 5 minute massage session to a tired gym goer. A neck and shoulder deep tissue. If you still have to throw in the pamphlets do it on small towels (Just your website, www.pehelvaan.com and the discount on 1st visit), after the massage .

6.  Creating specialized Sub brands just for fitness clubs

It’s potentially a niche market with super returns if done properly. Even if you forget over crowded segments like apparel & footwear. Specialized accessories like knee , elbow  muscle injury guards, gym accessories like a shoulder  holders trap for mp3, a whole range of products can be developed or marketed through fitness clubs or by them.

It’s not just brands that can gain from sustained consumer engagement of the highly segmented, captive target audience. Its fitness clubs too which stand to gain by making offering a more holistic experience for their consumers. They can augment their income with different relevant streams and ensure consumer stays loyal because coming to the gym cannot just mean fitness these days. Another way to look at it is, coming to the gym is not complete fitness.

Agreed, that Salman’s buffed neanderthal look is what fitness means to many a front benchers, but the Adhd-ed get bored rather easily. Ideas of fitness are evolving and you will have to be on your toes if you don’t want to cramp up. As for those pamphlets, you can still use them to take notes, make plans or wipe sweat, the choice is yours.



2 thoughts on “Brands Not Keeping Fitness First

  1. Very relevant topic. Nothing beats a product demo. However it can be done slightly differently – set up an interactive kiosk that highlights the advantages for different genders and exercises. No need to sot up time for a demo or worry about low turnout.

    Overall a nicely thought article looking into a niche space where not many have ventured.

    Could you include some actual numbers so that it is easier to cite them. Would work perfectly for us all.

    Posted by Udaibir | January 6, 2012, 11:28 am
    • Great point Udai. I think interactive kiosks is definitely a solution to be explored at gyms.
      We’ve mustered whatever macro numbers we could. The big boys usually don’t let the specifics out.
      But what kind of specific numbers would make your day? We’ll try and dig them out.

      Posted by thinkrasta | January 6, 2012, 12:57 pm

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