The new year might see a surge in gym memberships, but spring time is when things start to get serious.

Thanks to social media, there’s a constant stream of motivation to draw on, with a plethora of fitness and sports brands capitalising on our ongoing quests for self-improvement.

While other industries might concentrate on a multi-platform approach, also using the likes of Facebook and YouTube to reach an audience, fitness brands seem to typically concentrate on Instagram to drive social strategy.

So, which fitness brands are winning on the platform, and why exactly does it work so well? Here are a few reasons and examples.

Offers instant gratification

Visual content is an incredibly memorable medium, with people typically recalling 65% more of a piece of information if it is paired with a relevant image. 

Another reason it is so effective is that it also provides instant gratification without the need for any wider context. For fitness brands, this means it is a low effort but a highly effective medium, allowing them to reach followers in moments of real-time need. This is most often a motivational quote or image that taps into the user’s specific goals.

With fitness hashtags also incredibly popular on Instagram, brands know that users will search specifically using keywords like ‘fitness’ or ‘fitspo’. Under Armour Women often uses this approach, using motivational and empowering quotes to engage users but also demonstrate its own brand values and beliefs.

Builds communities

68% of Instagram users are said to engage with brands on a regular basis compared to just 32% of users on Facebook. This demonstrates how the platform is highly effective for building and maintaining a strong audience, with many brands fostering a sense of real community.

SoulCycle has garnered a reputation for being more of a cult than a brand – a fact emphasised by how it engages with fans on Instagram. It regularly posts videos and images that are localised, showcasing activity in various gyms or pop-up events across the US. This gives users the sense that they are part of the brand, simultaneously providing motivation and an incentive to get involved.

Capitalises on influence

SoulCycle also capitalises on the fact that its instructors are seen as mini-celebrities in their own right, often with huge audiences on their personal accounts. This approach is popular across the board, with fitness brands commonly using influencers as a key part of their Instagram marketing strategy.

With research suggesting that 92% of consumers now trust an influencer recommendation over an ad or celebrity endorsement, it’s a great way for brands to build authority. Meanwhile, many are also realising the power of micro-influencers – those with a smaller but highly engaged audience – to establish a highel level of credibility.

While it’s not a fitness company per se, sparkling water brand LaCroix has recently been tapping into the health market by getting involved in Whole30 – a month long clean eating program popularised on Instagram. As well as using hashtags like #whole30approved, it has also been partnering with fitness and health micro-influencers to help expand its own customer base.

Promotes a lifestyle rather than a product

Finally, the most successful fitness brands on Instagram take a subtle approach to selling, focusing on posts that tap into the user’s desire for a certain lifestyle – not a product.

It’s pretty likely that if a consumer is interested in sport, they’re also going to be interested in nutrition, health and general well-being, too. Consequently, it’s important that brands view users in this light, ensuring that their posts aren’t too repetitive or dull.

ClassPass regularly mixes up its feed with a combination of actual exercise, food and pop culture references. From smoothies to movies, it demonstrates a real understanding of its audience as well as what type of posts they’re engaging with elsewhere on the platform.

Related reading:

Nikki Gilliland

Published 12 April, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (2)

Brooke Harper

Brooke Harper, Marketing at Tenfold

Great observation, Nikki! I, myself, am seeing more and more of these fitness-related ads on my Instagram account. And yes, it's pretty effective. I think one thing is INFLUENCE. I follow some celebrities and sports personalities and they occasionally endorse fitness brands along with their diet regimen or workout routine; and for me, that's effective marketing.

2 months ago

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Vicky Gardner, Social Media Manager at www.bulkpowders.co.uk

I think the main benefit of Instagram is it gives the brand a personality in pictures which other apps just can't rival. You can get a feel for the brand ethos without even reading any of their content or site!

2 months ago

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