Decoding GymShark's Marketing: How a Fitness Brand Navigated Sales vs. Communication Goalsby@rimaeneva
1,510 reads
1,510 reads

Decoding GymShark's Marketing: How a Fitness Brand Navigated Sales vs. Communication Goals

by Rima EnevaApril 12th, 2024
Read on Terminal Reader
Read this story w/o Javascript

Too Long; Didn't Read

Gymshark's marketing strategies are primarily communication-oriented, focusing on building a loyal community through content creation, influencer partnerships, and community-driven campaigns. They prioritize audience engagement, brand visibility, and social impact, aligning their marketing goals with long-term company objectives while exploring new avenues like AR/VR experiences for future growth.
featured image - Decoding GymShark's Marketing: How a Fitness Brand Navigated Sales vs. Communication Goals
Rima Eneva HackerNoon profile picture

I recently started a Digital Marketing course - a field I know close to nothing about. Since I spend a considerable amount of time writing each assignment, I didn’t want to keep it tucked away in a folder somewhere. I’ve decided to share them here on HackerNoon. Hopefully, you’ll find them useful and if not, it’ll allow me to connect with the community and grow through your feedback ♥️

The Task

Choose a well-known company or brand and describe the marketing strategies used by this company or campaign. Answer the following questions in the provided template:

  1. Would you classify these strategies more as sales-oriented or communication-oriented? List out 3-5 reasons that you think identify that.

  2. Find and select some results that this company or campaign achieved. What do you believe were the primary goals of these marketing efforts? What do you think some of the Goals as Metrics could have been for those campaigns? List out 3-5 that you can identify or you believe that were used. Describe each one if you think it was valuable and why.

  3. Based on your analysis, do you think the marketing goals were in line with the overall company goals? Is it short-term or long-term thinking? What would you have changed or suggested to better align the marketing strategies with the company's objectives?

Comms-Oriented Strategy

I chose to analyze Gym Shark's (GS further) Marketing Strategy. I believe GS has successfully chosen and executed the Media Marketing business model which Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose described in Killing Marketing: How Innovative Businesses Are Turning Marketing Cost into Profit as one of the most successful models in the modern marketing landscape. The core of media marketing is communication, therefore GS strategies are communication-oriented.

In fact, in the beginning, GS decided to build a community by turning to fitness influencers over spending money on social media ads, since they had a limited budget.

Core principles of GS:

  • Content is King - instead of directly selling to its consumers, GS chose to create content spanning across multiple social media platforms as well as editorial portraying to be a lifestyle blog.

  • Being spread out across multiple social media channels allows GS to capture a diverse audience. Although their target audience is 18-25 y.o of both genders, they are active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest, potentially aiming to reach demographics beyond their target. When I checked each account, they perfectly matched the voice of the platform. For example, on Pinterest, GS shares motivation-related posters + workout routines, on Twitter, they adopted a cool gym-bro vibe, Facebook is more light-hearted and meme-oriented, whereas Instagram is the most product-oriented with athletes wearing GS clothing, with most CTA being a link to BIO to shop. Finally, YouTube acts as a valuetainment TV channel, even producing its own dating show, ultimately focusing on fitness culture.

  • Audience-centric approach - a lot of their content revolves around the fitness community, their goals, challenges and relatable experiences. They don’t sell products, they:

“Create a loyal audience. Once we learn the deep-rooted needs of that audience, and we deliver value to the audience consistently, and the audience (reader) becomes a fan (subscriber), we monetize that relationship in multiple ways.” - Joe Pulizzi\

  • Building a loyal audience by providing value. Value-first approach over buy-my-product approach. Even in their About section, it says: We're Gymshark. We exist to unite the conditioning* community. Not a word about the product they sell, but the community they serve.

This suggests that the company is communication-oriented (marketing-first) because the majority of its business model (=marketing strategy) is based on a long-term growth strategy over a short-term sales boost. But as I analyze later, performance marketing is very much a part of their approach.

Gym Shark Campaigns and Goals

Gym Shark website reads: “Our Gymshark family of employees, athletes and followers is now over 10 million strong, with a total social media following of over 18 million and customers in over 230 countries across our 14 online stores.”

For the sake of the task, I will choose to analyze:

  • GymShark’s TikTok strategy (5.4 million followers and close to 100million likes)
  • Influencer Marketing Strategy (Used at the startup stage of the company to increase sales and brand visibility)
  • GymShark mental health campaign (PR and brand visibility)

TikTok Strategy

Primary Goals:

  • Community building and customer insights (18-25 y.o fitness enthusiasts of both genders). Since TikTok's audience is Gen Z who care about social causes, it allows them to position themselves as community-first (with their #gymshark66 challenge for example, additionally producing user-generated content making sure the brand stays top-of-mind for longer when multiple people share their progress for 66 days straight).
  • To understand their ROI (including ROAS and conversions)
  • Market share acquisition (being top of mind, preferred brand)

Primary Metrics:

  • Engagement Rate: Measures interactions (likes, comments, shares) with Gymshark's content and user-generated content from challenges like #gymshark66. This shows how well the content is performing (helping with content strategy), fosters community interaction (supplementing their audience-first strategy) and increases brand awareness.

  • Conversion Rate: In this case, how often did a user take the action GS wanted, like sharing, participating in challenges, adding company-relevant hashtags, etc? Another conversion metric could also measure how many people ended up clicking on the link in their BIO sending them to the site where they sell products. This metric is key to understanding the ROI and effectiveness of TikTok campaigns in driving sales and conversions.

  • Hashtag Performance (#gymshark66): Analyzes user-generated vs brand content's reach (so people don’t get fatigued to hearing from the brand only. It’s well-known in the marketing world that genuine referrals (in this case they masked as challenges, not referrals), still drive sales), engagement, and frequency under campaign hashtags. This also reflects the success in market share acquisition and the extent to which Gymshark remains top-of-mind.

Secondary Metrics:

  • Follower Growth: Monitors the increase in Gymshark's TikTok followers over time. While a vanity metric (even though GS has more followers on TT compared to Nike, they’re not doing as much as Nike in revenue but this could also be for other reasons) and not a direct indicator of sales, it's a valuable metric for brand awareness and potential market share expansion among the target demographic of 18-25-year-old fitness enthusiasts.

  • View Count and Completion Rate: Provides insights into content popularity and viewer retention. High view counts and completion rates indicate that the content is engaging (performing well or not-so-well, helping with future campaigns) and successful in keeping the audience's attention, contributing to Gymshark's goal of being a preferred brand among Gen Z. As GS social media intern shared: “TikTok captions are just as important as the content of a video. "A video will get pushed based on the ratio of watch time to likes views, comments, shares … so you need to keep people watching until the end," she says. "This is why a lot of videos that are captioned 'Wait for the end' tend to perform well because you're putting a call to action in there that has told people to watch it to the end, which will help watch time" (source).

Influencer Marketing Strategy

GS was one of the first brands to engage in influencer marketing. As a new company, they didn’t have the marketing budget to spend on ads, so they decided to reach out to their admired Youtubers to wear their gear in the videos. It helped build credibility among their audience and rapidly increased brand awareness, generating early traction.

Back then and still to this day, GS collaborates with fitness influencers and bloggers for more reach. I propose that it helps them stay top-of-mind. If the user, especially a new user, hears about GS from GS they might be less inclined to buy compared to when they hear it from a trusted source (A YouTuber affiliated with GS in this case).

Primary Goals:

  • To increase brand awareness and establish credibility among the fitness community through authentic influencer endorsements.
  • To drive engagement and conversions by resonating with the target audience through genuine and relatable influencer content.
  • Conversions and growth in sales

Primary metrics

  • Conversion Rate: Tracked (through affiliate marketing code) the percentage of consumers who purchased GS products interacting with influencer content. This directly correlates to drive engagement and conversions, showing the effectiveness of influencer endorsements in motivating consumer action.
  • Reach and Impressions: Assess the total number of unique users exposed to the influencer content (Reach) and how many times the content was displayed (Impressions). Reach helps with user acquisition (gets eyeballs of the target audience who didn’t know about the brand but is into fitness lifestyle) and understanding brand penetration within the target market. Impressions provide a measure of the scope and reach of influencer content, indicating the potential audience size exposed to GS brand through influencer collaborations.
  • Performance metric: Engagement Rate (ER) - the level of audience interaction (likes, comments, shares) with influencer posts related to Gymshark. Demonstrates how relevant the influencer content is to GS and whether the influencer’s audiences align with the product GS sells.

Secondary Metrics

  • Follower Growth on Influencer and Gymshark Channels: Observe the growth in followers on both the influencers' social media channels and Gymshark's official channels following the collaboration. While not directly tied to sales, an increase in followers can indicate heightened brand interest and potential for future conversions.
  • Outcome metric: Frequency - how many times on average a single user is exposed to influencer content. It helps to balance out brand exposure with audience fatigue.

Gymshark Mental Health Campaign

In 2022 GS partnered with the mental health charity Calm to open a barber shop seeking to encourage mental health conversations among men, citing suicide as the lead killer of men under 45. Although it only lasted a week, the campaign was the talk of the town (both offline and online).

Primary Goals:

  • Brand building and growth in the UK according to their CBO.

  • To strengthen brand loyalty and enhance visibility by positioning GS to care about its community's well-being beyond physical fitness (Their target audience, mainly Gen Z cares about social causes as mentioned before).

  • Views and Reach - how many people saw the mental health campaign content, shared it and followed GS on social media, driving the follower count and brand visibility.
  • Impressions - number of times their mental health campaign content was displayed, indicating the campaign's visibility, helping GS understand whether the campaign resonated with their as well as wider audience.
  • Engagement Rate (ER): what the interaction (likes, comments, shares) with the campaign-specific posts was like, indicating the physical campaign’s success in the online world.

Are Their Marketing Goals in Line With Company Goals?

I believe so. As discussed, GS is a media, therefore communication-oriented company, seeking to build an audience by providing value. Their TikTok content, Influencer-generated content as well as offline mental health campaigns all point out to the customer-first approach of marketing. Building an audience requires time, therefore it’s long-term thinking.

One area they could look into could be targeting audiences across similar fields to fitness, like wellness or outdoor consumers, maybe through influencer marketing. This could broaden their audience.

In the book, Marketing 5.0: Technology for Humanity Philip Kotler suggests that the future of marketing will be employing new technologies like AR/VR. So GS could explore virtual fitness experiences, like workouts and community events. Also to improve the online shopping experience, they could offer try-ons via AR.