Fitness First to use technology to 'redefine' gym experience and bolster brand trust

Fitness First is looking to use technology to help "redefine" the gym experience and bolster brand trust, in the latest part of its £225m transformation plan.

The health club group is actively engaged with Apple and Samsung over the potential use of beacon technology and has outlined a road map aimed at combatting the gym industry's previous innovation inertia, according to its UK marketing manager David Jones.

It has partnered with Team GB as it looks to replicate the growing success of fitness schemes such as Zumba - with the launch of the Team GB Pro Athlete programme, designed to let people train in the same style as athletes.

The health club group has unveiled the programme alongside the launch of its new technologically advanced London Bishopsgate club, the first to open in four years, as it continues its mission to re-establish consumer trust in the Fitness First brand name.

Speaking to The Drum at the unveiling of its new Team GB Pro Athlete earlier today, David Jones, marketing director said the programme will provide innovation to consumers in an industry which has been “resting on its laurels”.

“We’ve seen other fitness trends, Crossfit and Zumba and these kind of things go from nothing up to huge followings and we suspect that athletes are a good set of role models to follow too. This could be a movement that we get going,” he said.

“Whether our athletic concept takes off to those levels or not the beauty of it is it gives us something different to put in our clubs…That’s one of the big things that we found we need to do to keep people’s motivation and keep them coming back; who knows how big we can get.”

The launch of the new club follows a rebrand at Fitness First comprising a complete overhaul of its brand identity as part of a £225m transformation plan.

The idea of the Bishopsgate site is to “redefine” how different areas of the gym work. For example the Move studio introduces new technologies in the form of virtual classes, a digital mood wall, and a 'class-cam' for live feeds while music and lighting is controlled by movement.

Jones said this technology, along with a training app to be released in January called Custom Fit, will be the focus of its marketing campaigns at the start of 2015.

“Over the next 12 months we will really push the innovation agenda to all areas of the gym that no-one has really done anything different to.

“The industry has suffered from resting on its laurels, so we’re going to be deconstructing all the individual parts and building them back up - sort of redefining what those areas are known for and the way they work.”

The partnership with Team GB will see a number of different programmes pushed out in the run-up to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, which managing director Martin Seibold sees as an opportunity to create engaging content for customers.

“There’s lots of opportunities to show how we work together. We will create many launches, like today with the Team GB Proactive class which is one of four or five training programmes and we will relaunch them quarterly. This will give us the opportunity to market and communicate those,” he said.

Since the rebrand and launch of a new website in June Seibold said that engagement numbers have “skyrocketed” with the number of ex-members rejoining Fitness First up by 50 per cent.

“Every brand communications journey and every brand angle is up, so we have more visit frequency, we have less members leaving, we have more members joining, particularly ex-members, so the trust is back in the brand.”

Seibold also revealed that Fitness First is experimenting and testing technology such as beacons and is "in talks" with Apple and Samsung to understand how it can use their platforms.

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.