In the last 5 years, Cheryl Hersey has been part of the duo who have built Action PR into one of the fitness industry’s leading PR agencies. They put their success down to a complete understanding of the industry, and keeping their finger on the fitness pulse at all times.
We met with Cheryl to learn about:
The importance of monitoring market trends
Some of the most interesting trends taking place ahead of 2016
How any fitness company, no matter how small, can keep its finger on the pulse
The Fitness Network:
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has just released its annual fitness trend forecast. How important do you feel it is for companies to monitor these kind of trends?
A lot of the time we’re so “in” our business that we’re not aware of what’s going on around us. We need to take a step back and look at the broader market. If you don’t understand the key trends going on around you then how can you expect to make the right strategic decisions?
That’s not to say you should align yourself to every trend. Absolutely not. Often the things you don’t do are as important as the things you do, but the key is to be informed.
“If you don’t understand the key trends going on around you then how can you expect to make the right strategic decisions?”
The Fitness Network:
When it comes to analysing trends there are lots of places to look; competitors, technology, consumers, etc… Can you give examples for some of the biggest trends that you think are likely to shape people’s strategies over the next 12 months?
Product – Wearable tech
It’s no surprise that Wearable Tech has taken the No1 stop in the ACSM study this year. Technology is now a core part of the fitness market and companies ignore it at their peril. What’s most exciting is the opportunities which open API is presenting, I think there is a huge opportunities for suppliers and operators to connect with wearable tech in a much more seamless and integrated way. The industry is just waiting for someone to create a really straightforward and easy solution that joins everything together. We’re starting to see it with the likes of PulseMove and MyZone Moves but I think this is just the beginning.
“Technology is now a core part of the fitness market and companies ignore it at their peril”
Consumer – Calisthenics
Calisthenics is taking the bodyweight training trend – No2 in the ACSM study – and making it really cool. Calisthenics is a bodyweight training system best known for its iconic moves including the muscle up and the human flag. It’s still considered an ‘undergound’ or ‘urban’ sport but operators and gyms should pay close attention as it’s got the potential to be a huge sport – even bigger than CrossFit. Calisthenics or ‘Street Workout’ has a social media reach of 48 million users daily and it is estimated that there will be over 158 million practitioners worldwide in the next five years.
“Calisthenics is still considered an ‘undergound’ sport but it’s got the potential to be even bigger than CrossFit”
Competitor – Developing partnerships
I think that developing partnerships has become a go-to activity when creating a marketing plan as companies are recognising the value of partnerships in raising profile, reaching new audiences and creating a springboard to launch new products and services. Partnering with trends is a sure-fire way to get noticed – look at Virgin Active’s partnership with Tough Mudder, or Spartan Race with LAX.
“Partnering with trends is a sure-fire way to get noticed”
But first, understand exactly who you are…
The first step before analysing the broader market is to analyse yourself. There are so many trends that you cannot possibly tap into them all, and you wouldn’t want to. You must understand your core values and the reasons why your clients have bought into you in the first place. Only then can you choose which trends to align yourself with.
Ultimately these trends will shape your point of difference. So many companies assume they have a strong differentiator when in reality it’s either the same as everyone else’s or not what the consumer is looking for, because they’ve completely lost touch with the market. You need to be clear your point of difference is right before you start shouting it from the rooftops!
The Fitness Network:
How do these trends tie in with PR?
Companies that have their finger on the pulse are almost always better at PR as they understand the mood of the consumer. You only have to look at the impact that the film 300 had on ‘spartan-style’ bootcamps and adventure racing, to see the benefit of being current. Tapping into trends can be as simple as running a Strictly Come Dancing themed class. The content could be the same as another class you’re already running, but you package it up a little differently, suddenly you have something that not only offers a really fun experience, but lends itself to PR and social media.
“Companies that have their finger on the pulse are almost always better at PR”
Presumably the barrier to all this for most companies is simply time. What would you recommend for companies that don’t have someone dedicated to this kind of market research?
Change your mindset, this needn’t be a big task you just need to be smart about it. Set up rss feeds, subscribe to relevant newsletters and set up diary alerts to remind you to check major annual publications and reports, such as the ACSM fitness trends forecast. You also need to collaborate. Each person in our team reads different titles shares a brief round-up. Each of our clients gets the information that matters to them.