One of the key motivations behind health and fitness is based on our innate desire to win – the Darwinian gene in us all. This insight has led to decades of brilliant communications from brands like Nike and Lucozade Sport inspiring countless other health and fitness companies to up their game.
After all, the difference between winning and losing is serious stuff.
It was no surprise that when we started working with the sports nutrition brand Maximuscle in 2008, all the competitive brands carried almost identical, gritty imagery. But they were missing a fundamental trick – sport should be fun. Getting in good shape and being healthy makes you feel happy and great – an almost opposite emotion to being driven, dedicated and serious. Just go down to any gym or follow conversations in social media about working out and there will be banter and jokes – especially in younger groups. So we found that a little irreverence can help unlock this audience for a brand.
The more that working out is considered a serious activity, with serious goals, the more it is a means to an end (for example, to get back in to shape after Christmas or get the bikini body for summer) rather than a fulfilling lifestyle. We saw in countless research groups that some people didn’t want to associate themselves with “those gym types who take themselves too seriously” despite confessing to going to the gym themselves. Our task with Maximuscle was to normalise getting into shape and taking sports nutrition. Advertising proudly but with irreverence was the clear solution and it worked.
Nike utilised this strategy as part of their Find Your Greatness campaign. It aimed to break the mold of the stereotypical gym-buff the brand is arguably responsible for creating by featuring an overweight kid pushing for a healthier lifestyle and putting the full weight of the Nike brand behind it. For health and fitness brands to keep people motivated, they must be relevant, aspirational yet attainable.
We also must realise that, to a large degree, the brands in the health and fitness space perpetuate their own problem. They concentrate their marketing efforts around seasonal trends, such as gyms promoting New Year sign-up offers, then wonder why sales back off the rest of the year.
The biggest cause of fitness regime failure is loss of motivation. The best way to keep that motivation up is to make fitness fun and the goals achievable. I quite like to be in good shape in May. I don’t mind being fit in October either. Brands must make it a normal, fun part of a healthy lifestyle to maintain consumer engagement. And I am not alone on this.