5 lessons from Gymshark: the $1.3bn social media success story

Athletic clothing brand Gymshark, founded by (then 19, studying by day and working for Pizza Hit by night) Ben Francis is now a $1.3 Billion brand.

His company materialised out of his parents’ garage.

Using social media to succeed

Gymshark was one of the first brands to use social media influencers – it sent clothes to popular bodybuilders which in turn, turned them into brand ambassadors.

Already ahead of other brands, Gymshark DOES NOT use traditional advertising and high street promotion. Instead, it relies on support from a network of athletes and social media “influencers” on Instagram and Facebook – and that is the secret ingredient to their success.

This is clearly illustrated in its significant social media following. On Instagram, the brand has 4.7 million followers, 266K followers on Twitter and 1.7 million Facebook fans.

So how did they do it?
5 lessons from Gymshark
  1. Target a niche market

Ben spotted a gap in the sportswear market –affordable and desirable workout gear for younger gym-goers.

Back then, brands were either selling baggy body-building gear or designer gear that was more about the look than the functionality.

Gymshark started with the aim of creating fitness gear for people who wanted to look good in FUNCTIONAL and PRACTICAL gym wear.

I guess you can’t get more practical than the below…

2. Transform influencers into ambassadors.

Gymshark started small.

They turned to social media to raise awareness about the brand.

The brand contacted a number of fitness influencers (including high-profile body-builders like Nikki Blackketter 1.8 million Instagram followers), sending them free Gymshark apparel in the hope that they would wear and promote the products on their respective social media channels.

It worked – those influences created mass exposure.

Back then, health and fitness social media accounts were only just starting to grow on social media.

3. Combine online and offline

Gymshark is known for connecting its online and offline world through meet-ups and ‘expos’ – events where fans are able to meet their favourite fitness influencers. Locations to date include Germany, America and Australia – all documented on YouTube ‘vlogs’ to create even more hype around the brand.

Those events became impossible to run because of the chaotic queues. So now those events are ticketed, creating that ‘exclusive’ vibe among its consumers.

4. Involve consumers

Gymshark actively encourages user-generated content to help motivate others. It makes the brand more relatable and authentic. It knows that working out isn’t meant to be flawless, so it uses that as its driving force and asks for authentic pics from its consumers which Gymshark then share, retweet and regram. In turn, this creates a sense of community among consumers as they share their ‘getting fit’ journey with each other with zero judgement.

They also regularly use social media polls to measure sentiment among its consumers – this helps to inform them of what content they should be putting out there.

Gymshark tapped into Tik Tok by teaming up with fitness and lifestyle influencers. They announced their “66 Days | Change Your Life” challenge on their site and other social media platforms. Followers were asked to choose a personal goal and upload an initial photo of themselves. 66 days later, they had to update their photo for a chance to win a year’s supply of Gymshark goods.

After a few weeks, the #Gymshark66 hashtag flooded Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The hashtag currently has 190 million views of its content.

5. It’s not about the money

Gymshark does not prioritise sales or deals. It focuses on building valuable relationships with its consumers on social media instead.

Gymshark also has a Gymshark Community Facebook group, dedicated to strengthening the connection with their followers. Every member can share their fitness journey and get inspired by the stories of others.

However, when it does come to campaigns – they know exactly how to target potential shoppers. They demonstrated this on a Black Friday campaign when they turned all of its imagery black, which is a stark contrast to their usually light and over-exposed style. Sheryl Sandberg, CCO of Facebook even cited the brand as an example of best practice for advertising on Facebook. She reportedly quoted the fact that, by targeting lookalikes of people that had previously purchased, as well as those that had browsed but not bought, Gymshark saw a 9.3 times return on investment for the period. (Source).

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