Because of COVID-19, thousands of gyms and fitness studios around the world have been forced to close their doors. This has led consumers to seek out ways to exercise at home, which is essential to staying healthy, a sense of normalcy and daily routine, to help ease anxiety or stress, and even offer much-needed social interaction.
This shift to at-home fitness has added fuel to some of the biggest trends already occurring within the fitness industry. Below we outline these trends and look at what brands can do to remain top-of-mind during this time.
Fitness Instructors Are Gaining Influence, Fast.
While almost 45% of global consumers are devoting more time to social media, over 10% are also creating and uploading content themselves. This is especially true within the fitness industry, where more than 350,000 fitness instructors and trainers in the U.S. alone have had to shift their businesses online, with the majority pumping out workout content on social media in an effort to restore some level of normalcy.
This has rocked business owners and fitness instructors, alike. As Renee Scott, the founder of Women’s World of Boxing, the first-female owned boxing gym in New York and most popular workout in Manhattan on ClassPass said, “It’s life-changing. Going from having brick-and-mortar, an established clientele, an established flow of business to all of a sudden I have to be very creative and launch a virtual business online in less than a week.”
In order to keep their businesses running, fitness instructors have turned to streaming options, typically through Zoom or Instagram Live, to provide their clients, fans and followers with some level of normalcy. For now, many of these classes are being offered for free – as a way for trainers to stay connected while they work out the kinks and figure out how to monetize their services for new and existing clients. Some of these individuals, however, are providing their followers with an option to contribute whatever amount of money they feel comfortable with via Venmo.
Brands and Influencers are Coming Together
During a time when the majority of gyms are closed indefinitely and millions of people are facing their new realities of at-home life, fitness brands and influencers have come together to provide live-streaming and on-demand workouts.
- Lululemon x Gabby Bernstein: Although Lululemon has temporarily closed all of its retail locations, that’s not stopping the brand from staying top-of-mind during this time. Lululemon has continued to live its community-driven mission by tapping one of its Global Ambassadors, Gabby Bernstein, to host a meditation on the brand’s IG Live. Leading up to the event, both the brand and Gabby drove awareness by posting about the upcoming session, encouraging followers to tune in and follow the brand for more ways Lululemon plans to bring workout offerings online.
- Macro-Influencer Melissa Wood-Tepperberg: Melissa Wood-Tepperberg’s on-demand streaming workouts already have a cult-like following and now, her following is expanding even more with subscription sales up 10 percent for the first two weeks in March. Wood-Tepperberg, and many other fitness influencers who own their own fitness studios or brands, have started leveraging Instagram Live to open up workouts to the public, resulting in not only new followers, but paying customers, as well.
- Micro-Influencer and Equinox Pilates & Fitness Instructor Ali Baldassare: At the micro-influencer level, boston-based Equinox pilates & fitness instructor Ali Baldassare of @mslali1 has begun offering up daily live Instagram classes to replace her in-person fitness classes she teaches. No equipment is necessary for her workouts, allowing everyone at home the opportunity to participate. Like many other micro-influencers who have now started offering live workout classes on Instagram, Ali asks her followers to contribute what they are comfortable with ($1, $2, $5, etc.) for each class through Venmo.
Shift From Instagram to YouTube
As fitness influencers continue to crank out new workouts — both live-streamed and on-demand —we could begin to see a shift away from Instagram Live towards YouTube, as YouTube is more easily accessible and synced with smart TVs.
As well, YouTube allows for live videos up to 12 hours, where Instagram Live only supports videos for up to one hour.
The Opportunity for Brands
For many brands in the brick-and-mortar fitness industry, COVID-19 has brought new financial challenges, it has also brought these same brands opportunities to innovate and engage with new audiences online. Where influencers are already on the front lines of this shift, brands have the opportunity to tap into individuals to host community workouts on brand-owned channels.
Below we offer a few ideas of how fitness brands can activate influencers during COVID-19.
1. Activate Social Influencers for Good
Activate influencers who share your social good value to call for donations from their followers and offer a matching donation for each one. If it’s a cause the influencer feels strongly about, some may even waive their fee to post. Make sure the matching donation amount is sizable enough to make an impact and can mobilize people to give.
Already, ClassPass, a subscription service that partners with local boutique fitness classes, launched live workouts with more than 500 studios, with 100% of livestream proceeds going directly to the studios. The company is also encouraging users to donate directly to their favorite studios through the ClassPass app, and the company is matching $1 million in donations.
ClassPass has partnered with influencers to amplify this message, along with their new streaming services offerings.
2. Co-Host Instagram Live Workouts
Work with influencers to identify the types of workouts that can be completed with minimal space and no equipment. Crowdsource ideal class times through Instagram Polls, and create a schedule for the week and activate influencers to host different live workouts each day, either on Instagram, YouTube or Twitch.
Bandier, the fitness apparel brand, invites a variety of fitness trainers to host live classes through Bandier’s Instagram every weekday. Each fitness trainer also posts on their own Instagram account leading up to the class, encouraging their followers to head to Bandier’s Instagram to join. Each lineup is revealed on Bandier’s Instagram feed on Mondays and includes dance, strength, and boxing classes.
3. Create a Virtual Community
Work with influencers to create an online community through a dedicated Slack channel or Facebook group to fuel motivation, loyalty and excitement. CycleBar, for instance, has created a closed Facebook group in which they are hosting live workouts for paying members. And listen to your community: Jumpstart community engagement by having influencers (i.e., community leaders and fitness instructors) ask what type of classes consumers want to see or what music they want to hear during class.