For an increasing number of us, working out is no longer a chore; it’s a way of life that also encompasses healthy eating, fitness trackers, activewear apparel and all the other sports gear. In 2015, the global health club industry alone was worth $81.2 billion, according to Statista.
Reflecting this trend, Hitwise found that searches for gyms and fitness terms have increased by 66 percent in the past three years. We also found a 26 percent increase in the overall audience size of people searching for and joining gyms.
More of us are heading to the outdoors for our workouts, according to The Guardian. It’s all about multitasking: enjoying the park or the beach, while getting stronger. At the same time, brands are as important to consumers in this sector as in every other.
This convergence of consumer interests helps explain the heightened participation in branded workouts like Tough Mudder from men and women. In fact, despite its macho marketing, more than half of Tough Mudder enthusiasts are women, while women and men run marathons in equal numbers.
As the mania for fitness goes mainstream, the audience has widened beyond the usual suspects. Here’s a look at the growth in searches and differing demographics for three types of challenge:
CrossFit is another hugely popular workout (which has evolved into one of the largest gym chains in the nation), so we thought it was worth taking a deeper dive into the characteristics of its fans.
Since its founding in 2000, CrossFit has evolved from a popular fitness regimen into a $4 billion brand, with 13,000 gyms globally. CrossFit is not just an exercise routine. Adherents have an almost cult-like devotion to the brand. The company’s mantra is, “Forging elite fitness”, and it demands participants to learn the basics of weightlifting, gymnastics, biking, rowing and swimming “hard and fast.”
Despite its focus on hard core strength-building activities, such as dead lifts and pull-ups, it’s interesting that there are more women than men engaged online with the CrossFit brand.
Looking at the attitudes of CrossFit fans also reveals opportunities for brands that are not directly fitness-related.
They are 30 percent more likely to seek out organic or natural food. This could relate to CrossFit’s dietary admonitions, which are part of the brand’s dogma.
They also want environmentally friendly products — and they’re prepared to pay more for them.
Another noteworthy and perhaps counterintuitive characteristic is that they are early and enthusiastic adopters of technology. They love to buy gadgets and appliances.
Finally, although they’re happy to conform to CrossFit’s training program, in general they are more likely to see themselves as nonconformists.
Connecting with Fitness Freaks
Creative sponsorships can be a win/win in this category. Many industry watchers think that the success of CrossFit is in part thanks to a series of strategic, cross-industry partnerships. For example, some argue that Reebok’s sponsorship of the CrossFit games revived the shoe brand’s waning relevance, while Reebok’s infusion of capital allowed CrossFit to boost the stakes of its CrossFit Games with millions in prize money.
That prize money spiked participation, drawing media attention. The Games were picked up by ESPN for broadcast, spreading the word and expanding the advertising opportunities.
Tough Mudder recently signed a deal with the British cable channel Sky Sports Mix to broadcast its obstacle races, following a similar deal in the U.S. with CBS. According to Business Insider, it wants to grow its advertising and sponsorships along with its content.
These advertisers don’t have to be limited to traditional sports brands. As our analysis of the interests of CrossFit participants shows, there is opportunity for a wide variety of brands to become part of the cult.
Advertisers can also reach exercise aficionados using targeted media – looking beyond fitness sites. We found variances in the online activities of participants in various activities. Tough Mudders like Deadspin, ESPN and Slick Deals. Marathon runners prefer USA Today, Yahoo Finance and BBC. Ironman enthusiasts over-index for more entertainment and gaming-focused websites, such as 4Chan and Twitch.
The attitude that fitness is an integral part of life is part of a bigger trend we call “clean living.” To read the entire 2017 Clean Living Report, click here.
Source: Hitwise search data based on weekly search variations around gyms and fitness, measured year over year for 2014 and 2016. Audience data for fitness challenges and CrossFit audience pulled over 12 weeks ending December 12th, 2016.