The fitness industry is undergoing a renaissance.
Driven by a desire to connect to a group of consumers who have grown wary of traditional fitness techniques, brands from Reebok, Under Armour to 2XU are making sweeping gains by tapping into a fitness mindset that is vastly different from what we have previously seen.
Working out has never been more scientific or sophisticated thanks in part to a massive rethink of fitness studios which incorporate a diverse range of styles from aerial yoga to CrossFit, mixed martial arts, gymnastics and even, in some cases, pole dancing.
Earlier this year Hong Kong’s Pure Group unveiled its vision of a connected, game-led future of fitness, where technology and experience sit at the core of a new six-floor studio in the heart of Lan Kwai Fong.
The new studio is the first in the world to offer an immersive fitness experience, which has been driven by a partnership with experiential fitness group Les Mills.
The move, says Pure Group CEO Colin Grant, taps into this growing idea of a “gamification of fitness”, that aims to make exercise more fun to attract a new wave of Millennials and fitness enthusiasts.
“We don’t build gyms, we build nightclubs. It’s a social experience,” he says.
“We’ve brought together entertainment, technology and fitness and they have merged and basically it’s the gamification of exercise. If it’s fun and if it’s engaging, you will work out more often and harder.”
One brand at the core of this fitness revival is Reebok, acquired by adidas in 2005, but which has really struggled to find its own identity within this new sporting arena.
Earlier this year, Reebok launched its biggest marketing campaign in more than a decade and introduced a new slogan: “Be More Human.”
“Be More Human” is being referred to as Reebok’s rally cry to consumers, urging them to live up to their full potential.
Barbara Ebersberger, VP of the business unit studio at Reebok, says it was also giving Reebok a clearer identity in this new sports industry.
“It was very clear from the beginning that Reebok had its own brand identity. Over the last three years it really became clear that the brand direction for Reebok was in this fitness area and the engagement we have has been clear,” she says.
“As a brand we are focusing on fitness in all different shapes and forms. Obviously we are embracing and engaging with consumers and encouraging them to be more human and do what their body has been built for.”
As part of its new mantra, the brand struck a global deal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship to fit out its roster of athletes.
“When we were doing research over the last two to three years, we were looking very much at our target audience – Millennials or the Fit Gen – they are doing very diverse fitness activities.
“They are doing fitness three to four times per week and they are doing three to four different activities. They go to yoga on Monday, they take up boxing on Wednesday – there are no longer those buckets that we sometimes want to put people in.
“When we got talking to these people, mixed martial arts was a sport that came up pretty often. They felt that it was a simple, but very effective form of training that allows them to get rid of any aggression, and others said it was a fantastic way to get fit.
“We feel those people who are fitness enthusiasts are athletes and should be treated like any athlete in a competitive sport – regardless of whether you are a soccer player or into track and field.”
She says that another key part of its “Be More Human” campaign was to be more authentic in its marketing.
“Our customers want to see real people in a real environment. You can’t have someone doing a fake yoga pose or have a model hitting the punching bag. They are going to see right through it.”
Vaughan Schwass, CEO of Les Mills Enterprises, says the Fit Gen – a group largely led by the Millennials – are driving much of the change in the fitness industry.
“A lot of the reasons why people are doing newer types of sport is almost a rejection of the boring fitness club. The younger generation are not interested in fitness clubs like they used to.
“They see them as big boring boxes. Our view is that experiential fitness is where the future is. It’s why the UFC is really cool and have taken off like they have.”
He says the features built for the new Pure Group in Lan Kwai Fong are a perfect example of how technology is crossing over to fitness sector.
“Attracting young people to clubs is hard. What we are trying to do is create almost a form of disguised fitness where fitness is the outcome and not the sole purpose of doing it.
“We want to shake up the industry. If the fitness industry doesn’t change it will be obsolete. Gyms are not the playgrounds they should be, they are big boring boxes.
“What we are trying to do is lead a bit of change. The industry needs it.”