Sophie Harriet is a Unity Allstars Competitive Cheerleader who has been training in gymnastics for the past 15 years. With the UK Cheerleading team beating 13 other nations to bag the Gold medal at the World Championships in April, and the mixed team winning the Silver medal in their category, England is now recognised as a powerhouse in the sport.
As we learnt when we spoke with Sophie, this surge in popularity has significant implications for operators and the fitness industry as a whole.
Where has the recent interest in Cheerleading come from?
Cheerleading has historically been viewed as an exclusively American sport, but over the last decade, British universities have done a fantastic job of driving participation which is now filtering through to all other age groups. The stigma around cheerleading still exists, but people are realising how beneficial it is for fitness. The cheer sessions we offer are a mix of gymnastic training, strength and cardio. We train with the cheerleading group twice a week for 3 hours and take our broader exercise and nutrition habits extremely seriously. Without that our cheerleaders wouldn’t be able to perform the routines safely.
Why should gyms consider hosting cheerleading classes?
It’s no secret that many of the biggest trends in the gym world right now are centralised around one thing – community. Whether that be dance, or yoga, CrossFit, or Fitness Festivals. Cheerleading is a huge opportunity for gyms to help women get fit by placing the emphasis on learning and perfecting new skills in an inclusive and supportive environment. The new consumer of fitness wants a more fulfilling experience.
There are all sorts of ways to incorporate strength, gymnastics and cardio into a cheer regime, which means a cheer class can be varied and adjusted to the needs of your specific gym community.
Who can the gym market cheerleading to?
Cheerleading appeals to all sorts of groups and a gym could design a range of programmes, some competitive, some social and some strength based.
The biggest increase in sports participation in the past decade has been among the 45-54 age group. The classes they are going to include Zumba, Yoga, and even Tango, but now we are also seeing Silver Cheerleading become increasingly popular so it is a missed opportunity to not include this within your overall timetable.
How can gyms market cheerleading?
Taster sessions are absolutely key. You need to make the sport accessible so that people can’t create an excuse for not giving it a go. Alternatively, find out who the local cheerleading team is and collaborate with them to showcase their skills at your gym or in your local area.
You should reach out to cheerleading associations via email or twitter as they will want to support anything happening in their community. You can then set up a page or a group on Facebook exclusively for your cheerleading offering in order to begin the community engagement as you mean to go on.
And in pure content terms, Instagram will help you to show pictures and videos and generate a community around the sport, while your blog should be used to show the training programmes, nutritional information and to detail events.
The most important thing is to use video correctly as it is the most powerful marketing tool you have, both in terms of showing routines to prospective members and celebrating the new skills of your members.