Nike is the tester brand in Fitness First’s experiment for in-gym advertising

Nike gets experimental with DW Fitness First

Sporting goods retailer DW Fitness acquired Fitness First’s chain of 62 gyms in September 2016. In its ongoing merger of the two businesses it is experimenting with how to better sell work out gear to gym-goers – and Nike is the brand being used to trial in-gym adverts.

Last year, the group set out to "bring the dynamism of the gym into stores” and make sportswear shoppable in the gyms. It’s pushed hard on the former, introducing things like Run Labs and ‘pop-up’ gym-classes into stores.

But it’s hit a brick wall on how to introduce more retail elements and Nike has spotted this as a potentially lucrative opportunity to experiment with how to get its wares in front of people in a gym setting.

To do that, Nike recently hired Manchester-based creative agency The Market Creative, that’s promised to use ‘behavioural economics’ to help it better understand where these opportunities might be.

Nike would posit that there are few gyms in the UK that have a retail operation at any sort of scale, and this makes the DW Fitness First experiment one worth investing in.

“[Nike] is looking to work with key partners, almost in a consultancy way, to support them going after these opportunities. Of course, there's a benefit for us as a sports brand as they open up opportunities, are more profitable and growing in a competitive marketplace,” said Adam Sutton, strategic account director at Nike.

The first place Nike and DW Fitness First started was with consumer research into how appealing an ad placement during a workout would be.

“You have a retailer with half a million gym members and not all of them are aware or buy, or understand, the authenticity that DW as a retailer has,” continued Sutton. “It’s a great sporting goods retailer and has a gym business that it hasn't been able to unlock.

"Is that because gym goers don't want to be served gym products at any point – or was it a tangible link that wasn't in place and that we could help to create?”

The Market Creative ran various focus groups with different demographics of people who attend Fitness First gyms to discuss a long list of hypotheticals; from the appeal of being able to order a pair of trainers that a PT was wearing and have them delivered to the gym to whether they would switch off a Nike ad appearing on the interactive screens now embedded within training equipment.

It knows that it can’t “interrupt” the key reason people are in the gym – to work out – with a commerce experience. But, it’s certain there are ways to bring more “product awareness” into that environment with “storytelling and educational elements"

“It's where the line is – where it's not a hard sell," Sutton added.

Though it’s looking to “create a seamless journey between product and workouts” within Fitness First gyms, Nike has stressed it is early days.

In the coming months, it will look to trial a handful of the concepts that came out of the focus groups before scaling across the network before scaling those with the most promise.

“We're cautiously optimistic on the commercial opportunities," said Sutton. "We got some validation that there is a consumer need, and expectation, to be served the best gym product and they would feel comfortable purchasing from that entity."

Lee Pinnington, director of marketing at DW Fitness First, said the company was "looking forward to seeing how the project develops to bring the Nike DW Fitness First experience to life for members."

Nike has been enjoying the fruits of its latest 'Just Do It' advertising campaign, which have featured stars from Serena Williams and Colin Kaepernick to Raheem Sterling.

According to a recent report by Brand Finance, its brand value has risen 16% since last year on the back of healthy sales growth.

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