UK fitness brand Gymshark grabbed headlines this year after it was announced that the company was being valued at over 1 billion dollars, making business leaders desperate to know the secret to the company’s astounding growth in a market that’s dominated by advertising giants like Nike and Adidas.
It was Gymshark’s early adoption and unique strategy to influencer marketing that allowed the company to gain a foothold and establish themselves as a major player in the fitness wear industry.
Tapping Into A Community
“I was obsessed with YouTube. I remember watching (the fitness vloggers) Matt Ogus, Chris Lavado, Jeff Seid... I’d watch them all the time” founder Ben Francis said on his YouTube channel. “As massive fans, we decided to send them the Gymshark product.”
In 2013, Ben was able to use influencer marketing to get the brand’s name out there before “influencer marketing” was even a thing. “At the time, no one else was doing this… it just felt totally natural to us, as we were a fan of these guys,” Francis said.
Ben set a high bar for himself and was determined to make quality products that also looked great. Consequently, many of those YouTubers were more than happy to shout out Gymshark’s apparel as they genuinely preferred it to other brands. Many of the bigger names in the online community started wearing the clothes in their videos, and the Gymshark team were able to build on these relationships as the brand grew.
Gymshark Founder, Ben Francis (Image source: https://www.birminghammail.co.uk)
Gymshark was then able to build up more brand awareness by attending the Birmingham bodybuilding expo Body Power in 2013. Their small stall was inundated with customers, many of whom had seen their products being worn by their favourite fitness YouTubers online.
After that event, Head of Sponsorship for Gymshark, Callum Watson, knew that tapping into these communities could form a crucial part of their marketing strategy going forward. In an interview with Tubular Labs, he said, “That’s the importance of digital video, niche YouTubers… they have communities, (Ben Francis) was just one of the many people who gave up their time every week to watch their videos on YouTube.”
Gymshark attended more expos like this over the next two years and, as their business grew, they hired well-known YouTube fitness stars to appear at their stall. This allowed them to build up a recognisable name within the fitness community without having to open brick and mortar stores.
Engaging Customers Online And Offline
Over the next few years, Gymshark continued to nurture relationships with key influencers in the fitness world. The team took on 18 brand ambassadors, including athletes like Matt Oges and David Laid. Those two in particular had been amongst the very first people that Gymshark had sent their products to, demonstrating just how vital those early relationships were to the business. Both are still representing Gymshark today, meaning that they have been involved with the brand for over seven years, which is an incredible achievement in today’s influencer market. This organically grown influencer loyalty would set Gymshark apart from other companies going forward.
David Laid is a renowned bodybuilder (Image source: https://samuelallenscott.net/)
Their ambassadors were at the top of their game and had already been producing high-quality content on YouTube. The Gymshark team were able to capitalise on this and solidify the partnerships with their ambassadors through their Gymshark Athletes branding. Rather than simply being shown as being sponsors of the brand, Gymshark created loyal, long-standing relationships with their ambassadors. The athletes BECAME the brand and were inseparable from Gymshark’s ethos, style and values.
This was fully utilised when a selection of Gymshark Athletes took part in various branded fitness videos and events. 2016 saw the launch of the Gymshark World Tour series, where they hosted various meet-and-greets between fans and the Gymshark founders. The athletes included some of the biggest names in the world of fitness, such as Nikki Blackketter, Lex Griffin and Robin Gallant. Their presence gave these events a huge boost as they were able to attract fans from their online followings (tip: watch the video below to see how grateful the Gymshark fanbase was to be able to access these meet-and-greets).
Gymshark’s YouTube channel allowed them to connect with fans and create authentic influencer-led content in a unique way. They were able to effectively reap the benefits of using ambassadors in both an online and offline setting. During the first two years of creating content on YouTube, their annual sales rose from $16 million to $103 million.
What Can We Learn?
A recent study from Mediakix found that 61% of marketers struggle to find the right influencers for a campaign. Gymshark’s knowledge and position within the fitness industry had allowed them to form relationships with influencers who genuinely care about their product, and who possess genuinely loyal fitness-interested followers.
Having an interconnected community of influencers and brand ambassadors has allowed their brand to push effective social media campaigns to millions of users simultaneously. Their Gymshark Athletes brand ambassadors currently have well over 10 million Instagram followers between them, and the standalone Gymshark page has over 4 million followers.
Their #Gymshark66 Instagram campaign demonstrated the huge reach that their strategy has afforded them. In this online challenge, they encouraged their followers to work out for 66 days and post their results online. The results were incredible, as the hashtag was viewed over 34 million times in 90 days.
One of the biggest lessons from Gymshark is that spending time sourcing the right influencers for your campaign can hugely pay off in the long run. When choosing who should promote your product, focusing on the quality of their follower base rather than just quantity is essential.
In an interview with Forbes, founder Ben Francis said, “From the point of view of the athletes we work with, we want to create a real, strong team that speaks to our values. And we work with them for a long sustained period of time”. Creating quality brand partnerships with influencers that have a strong relationship with their followers has been the key cornerstone of Gymshark’s impressive growth.