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Campaign magazine stirred up a good debate around the inclusiveness of fitness marketing recently, something we need to consider more deeply as a sector if we are ever to engage the 85% of the population who don’t currently use a health club or leisure centre in the UK.

The article (here) highlighted Nike’s new marketing campaign featuring women at various stages of motherhood, including black and Muslim pregnant women, another woman breastfeeding and another in a wheelchair. It called for fitness brands to redefine how they target a more diverse audience.

We completely agree the fitness industry needs to limber up and do more to reach out to more people; our sector must stop falling back on pushing out the same marketing messages through the same marketing channels to broadly the same audience. It also needs to be less intimidating.

This can come from the marketing content itself, but also the sales process, where customers are often still pushed to come in for a tour, with the implied consequence of a hard sell.  The fitness sector as a whole needs to accept that people are now used to making buying decisions from the comfort of their home and in many cases prefer to. It can also be down to the in-club user experience. 

For example, take access turnstiles, which can present a physical blocker for people that are overweight, or open changing rooms, which are off-putting for people that are body conscious.

From a sales and marketing perspective, operators need to consider the consistency of their marketing content, the sales channels they use, and the in-club experiences they provide.

If they get this balance right they will be more successful in getting people into their facilities, thus reducing member acquisition costs and also creating happy customers, which ultimately increases customer tenure and lifetime value, too.

ukactives mission statement of more people, more active, more oftenis a calling the sector needs to take more seriously. Covid created a reset moment for our industry – one that puts gym operators at a crossroads: do something new, brave and relevant or fall back on what you have always done.

We need to go beyond the 15% of the population who respond to similar ad content, pushed through the same marketing channels, to the same people.

Try new content, be more inclusive, be bold and use new marketing channels more aligned to how customers want to make buying decisions, and analyse your in-club experience to make sure it really lives up to expectations.

Jamie Owens, Director of Fitness Partnerships