How to Build a Fitness Brand

Tara Massouleh

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May 18, 2021

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category

minute read

PUblished

May 18, 2021

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the phrase, “I’m Lovin’ It”? What about when you see the silhouette of a checkmark? Can you recognize an Apple commercial before the tech giant’s signature logo flashes onto your screen?

Each of these instances is an example of a company with excellent branding. Successful branding is all about building recognition, awareness, and a positive reputation.

For consumer-driven businesses, creating and cultivating a strong brand identity is one of the single most important factors effecting growth and success. In the hyper-competitive fitness industry, the same holds true. In the following section, we’ll provide a comprehensive guide to fitness branding for health clubs, including the basics of health club branding, why branding matters, and where to use it.

What is Health Club Branding?

Your health club’s brand consists of many things. It’s your identity, perception, and reputation all rolled into one. Your brand transcends the colors you use or even the messaging you deliver through marketing. Rather, it’s the essence of who you are as a company. It includes what you stand for and what your mission is. In short, it tells customers what you do and why you do it.

Everything that touches your club is a reflection of your brand identity. From the emails you send, to the towels you use in your locker rooms and the experience people have in your fitness classes, people should be able to easily identify your club via every touchpoint. Think of your brand as a “signature sauce” that goes on everything you create. Creating and maintaining your brand requires diligence, vigilance, and considerable thought.

Why Does Branding Matter?

When you think about your club’s end goal, everything likely falls into one of two categories. You want to inspire and help the members you serve, and you want to become a profitable and successful business. Your brand plays an important role in achieving both.    

One of the ways your fitness branding does this is through trust. For current members, overall satisfaction is largely dependent on trust. Can they trust you to deliver what you promise? Can they rely on you to help them achieve their fitness goals? Their faith in the service you provide is greatly influenced by your brand. With a polished brand that clearly defines your mission, you make it easier for members to trust your expertise and have a better overall experience at your club.  

Trust is also a huge factor in influencing people to join your club, which contributes to your profit and goal to have a thriving business. Brand awareness (someone’s prior knowledge of your brand before research) builds trust, which in turn instills confidence in buying decisions. The more familiar someone is with a brand and the more positive things they hear about it, the more likely they are to choose it.

In short, don’t underestimate the power of good branding. Surveys have found that 82% of people choose wine based on the appearance of labels. In other words, it’s not uncommon for someone to make a decision based primarily on the way your club presents itself through branding. For example, a logo design that looks like it was made in Microsoft Paint rather than by a professional graphic designer, might decrease your club’s credibility and cause you to lose business.  

The same holds true for messaging that lacks inspiration, seems disingenuous, or says the same thing everyone else is saying. Your messaging should help you stand out from your competition and create a rallying cry or common mission for your club. If your mission is to “change lives through fitness,” your branding should help everyone (both staff and members) believe in that mission and want to contribute to making it a reality.

How to Build Your Brand

Now that you know what fitness branding is and why it matters, it’s time to break down the basics of how to create a successful and effective brand. In the ultra-competitive fitness industry, setting your club apart from the pack is essential to not only your success but your survival. Follow these five simple steps to develop a strong brand for your club that will inspire current members, attract new ones, and put you on the path to long-term success and prominence in the market.

1. Brainstorm Who You Are

The first step in developing your brand is to define who you are, who you’re for, and who you want to be. The most successful brands have clear points of view that speak directly to their target audiences and inspire action. Instead of thinking purely about what you want your club to be, think about what you want your club to be for your members. This begins with a deep dive into understanding all the different people who make up your audience. Create member personas based on the types of individuals you hope to attract. As much as possible, put yourself in their shoes. Think about their motivations for joining a health club. Think about what features will be most important to them. Then, work backwards to determine how to present your brand in a way that answers their questions and meets their needs.

The second portion of defining who you are requires a bit of introspection. Think about why you started a fitness club in the first place? What do you want members to take away from the experience and service you provide? What sets you apart from other fitness business, either in terms of experience or philosophy? The answer to these questions will inform multiple parts of your brand, from the colors you choose to the tone in which you communicate with your audience. For example, a brand that’s defined by a competitive spirt might use more challenging language and bolder colors than one that’s focused on body positivity and overall wellbeing.

The best brands are able to meld these two schools of thought to create one cohesive brand with an original point of view and clear direction on who they’re targeting.

2. Market Research and Strategy

After determining a direction for your brand, the next step is to see what else is out there. That’s where market research comes in. Evaluate your competitors’ health and fitness marketing. What do they do well? What could be improved upon? Use their successes and failures as benchmarks for your burgeoning branding strategy. Is there something most competitors are missing? That’s your opportunity to fill a gap. Is there an audience they’re not reaching? You could design a component of your brand strategy to reach that group.

3. Messaging, Positioning, Tone, and Voice

The third part of the brand creation process revolves around your messaging, positioning, tone, and voice. In other words, what do you have to say and how are you going to say it? The goal of this phase is to speak for your brand when you or another representative from your club cannot.

Messaging and positioning are informed by the first two steps of brand creation when you determine what your target audience needs to hear and what you want to say to them. In this step, you’ll put those ideas into action by creating compelling copy for all the channels that help you communicate with current and potential members.  

Tone and voice are the flair that make what you say distinct to your brand. Your voice can be playful, youthful, bold, friendly, authoritative, knowledgeable, or even aggressive. Just keep in mind that the voice you choose should reflect the rest of your brand. For example, a really playful voice might not pair well with stark or traditional design. Some examples of creative and distinctive voices that have amplified the brands they represent are Wendy’s with their quippy Twitter banter and Dollar Shave Club’s blunt practicality mixed with humor. When deciding on a brand voice, start by choosing three words to define your voice’s overarching character. From there you can create a style guide with rules for how to communicate. Things like when to use an exclamation point as punctuation or whether or you not to speak in third person. With both of these points of reference in place, future copywriting becomes a much easier task.

4. Visual Expression and Design

The complement to choosing just the right words is creating the perfect visual expression to amplify your brand. In this case, the popular saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” applies. Many of the places your audience interacts with your brand are primarily visual. Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook emphasize images over text, and often visitors to your website will give your page only a quick scan before forming an opinion and moving on to the next site.

Your brand’s visual expression encompasses a number of elements, including

  • Logo
  • Color palette
  • Typography
  • Icons
  • Photo style
  • Graphics
  • Design

When determining each of these elements, think of the three words you chose to define your brand and make sure all your visuals reflect those ideals. In addition, think about how each element interacts with the other visual components of your brand. Your look can be simplistic and clean or loud and eye-grabbing—and both can be equally effective when executed properly. In this step, cohesion and consistency are key.

5. Experience

The final stage of brand creation involves taking everything you determined in steps one through four and applying it to each and every aspect of your business. Take Disney World, one of the world’s most recognizable brands, for example. When you thoughtfully examine their business model, you quickly realize that their business is less about selling theme park tickets and more about selling an experience. Everything at Disney World is designed to inspire wonder and magic in its visitors, and the brand’s signature Mickey Mouse ears (seen throughout the park and beyond) constantly point back to the brand. The experience of being fully immersed in Walt Disney’s awe-inspiring imagination is something you can’t put a price on—and it’s worth far more than the price of a standard amusement park ticket.    

You want your club to be the Disney World of fitness businesses, but achieving that status requires a lot more than just slapping your logo on every last surface in your building. It means thinking about the entire member journey experience at your club and applying your brand to each step. If your brand identity prioritizes being a cutting-edge club of the future, you need to create that experience inside and outside your club. Maybe that means implementing contactless court registration or virtual class programming. If your goal is to be an inclusive and body positive facility, your instructors should represent a diverse range of body types and use positive affirmation instead of more aggressive tactics to motivate members.

Where to Use Branding

When you think about branding, the first thing that may come to mind is your physical space. Maybe you’re imagining bold walls painted with your slogan and logo, or a sophisticated sign out front. However, what members see when visiting your club is just the tip of the iceberg when considering places to incorporate your branding. Here are some other places you can highlight your brand that go beyond the four walls of your facility:

Applying your distinctive branding to each of these elements provides a cohesive overall experience that can increase brand awareness and sales. As the public becomes more aware of your club, you’ll build brand loyalty and a reputation for being a top health and fitness club.

Learn from the Pros

Branding is a big project that deserves considerable time and attention. It’s better to get your brand right the first time around rather than risk confusing customers or losing members after a rebrand. The good news is that even though you want to create unique touches to help your brand stand out, you don’t necessarily have to recreate the wheel. Here we review three clubs in the top 10 of Club Industry’s 2020 Top 100 Health Clubs. Ranging from high-volume, low-price gyms to luxury multipurpose facilities, you can use these club brands as inspiration when creating your own.  

Life Time Fitness

Life Time has made a name for itself as a luxury athletic resort with more than 150 locations across the country. Their brand was built to motivate, inform, and empower people to live healthier lives. With a self-described personality of being inviting, passionate, understanding, smart, honest, dynamic, and ambitious, each of their branding elements reflects these characteristics.

Their website design features light-and-bright photography showing authentic emotions of happy people working out, swimming, and living their best lives in Life Time facilities. Their simple yet strong block-lettered logo is consistent across all use cases, with small additions for specifics like branch locations and internal teams. Messaging like “Believe in yourself. You are stronger than you think,” fulfills the brand’s inspirational aspiration.

Equinox

Equinox is an American luxury fitness company that operates several lifestyle brands including Equinox, Equinox Hotels, Precision Run, and more. The premium health club brand is known for being led by risk-takers, rebels, and provocateurs, and its brand has the edge to match it. With the goal of connecting with a small, yet elite audience, Equinox pushes boundaries and embraces the notion that their brand isn’t for everyone.

Their brand expression is built around the tension of the company’s three seemingly disparate elements: a luxury brand, a soul in performance, and the mind of a provocateur. Their design mimics that tension with large fields of black and white dominating layouts and adding drama. Oversized logos are placed over full-page imagery and photos are obscured with a steam effect, evoking a steam room or hot exercise studio. Challenging, forward copy like “Be Bolder. Be Greater,” and “For Runners and Haters,” inspires members to push past doubt and become something greater.

Planet Fitness

With more than 2,000 locations across all 50 states, Planet Fitness is ubiquitous in the health and fitness space. The low-cost, high-volume clubs are best-known for their low bar for entry. Planet Fitness is dedicated to providing a workout environment where everyone can be comfortable. Planet Fitness’s yellow-and-purple color palette is friendly, non-intimidating, and fun. Similarly, the company’s signature logo of yellow thumbs up at the center of a gear provides a sense of encouragement to those who may be apprehensive about joining a gym.

Planet Fitness often plays on its name and reinforces its passion for inclusivity with campaign slogans that emphasize a “Judgement Free Zone” and “The Best Value on the Planet.”

Maintaining and Propelling Your Brand

Once you’ve created an unrivaled brand for your club, the work is far from over. It takes continuous maintenance, monitoring, and innovation to keep your brand in the limelight and at the front of peoples’ minds. With limited hours in the day to complete tasks and accomplish goals, one of the best ways to ensure that your brand management doesn’t get pushed to the wayside is to leverage technology or enlist outside help.

Digital marketing and branding work hand-in-hand to make the public aware of your club, inform them about what you offer, and convince them to become members. A partner like Club Automation can provide tailored assistance with digital marketing and websites to ensure that you’re making the most of a multitude of communication channels, from email and social media to digital ads and blogs, to reach your target audience. With a team dedicated to reputation management, you’ll never again have to worry that online requests and reviews are going unanswered.

Conclusion

A good brand can make or break a business. With detailed research, a well-thought-out plan, and a bit of creativity, you’ll be well on your way to creating a health club brand that will stand out from the crowd and stand the test of time. With the right technology partner, you can maintain and push your brand to new heights.

Ready to amplify your brand? Schedule a demo below.

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Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

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A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

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A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

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