Why Gymshark has handed over creative control of the brand to an influencer
After years working with a bodybuilding influencer with 3 million Instagram followers, the DTC fitness brand has handed him creative control.
David Laid appointed as Gymshark creative director / Gymshark
Gymshark has appointed a bodybuilding influencer as its creative director in a bid to bring the brand back to its roots.
The DTC fitness retailer has hired David Laid to lead its creative and brand strategy reporting to chief brand officer Noel Mack.
His appointment comes amid a resurgence in celeb creative directors. Louis Vuitton recently appointed Pharrell Williams as creative director, and other notable tie-ups include Kate Moss for Diet Coke, Cardi B for Playboy’s influencer platform Centerfold and fellow influencer Molly-Mae Hague's work with Pretty Little Things.
The industry has historically been cold toward this strategy, seeing it more as a PR stunt that undervalue the hard work it takes to reach a creative director role.
But Mack tells The Drum that influencers understand audiences better than a marketer can. “Marketers sometimes think the word influencer can be a bit of a dirty word but what David doesn’t know about the bodybuilding audience isn’t worth knowing. So, who better to be curating the products, curating the imagery and digital experience,” he says.
Gymshark’s appointment of Laid is the “next frontier” of influencer marketing. “People used to see influencer marketing as bottom-of-the-funnel marketing,” he says. “But the next stage is allowing an influencer to actually input on the product before he even gets created.”
And Laid, who began his influencing career with Gymshark when he was 17 years old, will be involved in product development, the marketing executions right through to curating social content.
The appointment was born out of a need to protect Gymshark’s bodybuilding roots while the brand pushed into new areas and diversified its audience.
Gymshark was set up in 2012 initially selling bodybuilding supplements before expanding into fitness apparel. The business owes much of its early success to its use of bodybuilding influencers through deals with the likes of Nikki Blackketter and Lex Griffin.
Now, though, the business has expanded its products and marketing beyond lifting and into other areas of fitness. Mack says it's important while pushing the business into new areas that Gymshark doesn’t “take the foot off the gas with the people that put us here in the first place.” He adds: “It’s a shoring up of where we came from, and making sure we stay connected to our roots.”
“We wanted to make sure that we very much still owned bodybuilding, the area that we're from. A lot of people in the UK know us as more of a general-purpose fitness or sportswear brand. But Gymshark was born in the gym,” Mack declares.
He expressed respect for brands that have diversified but “stayed true to the brand DNA". He gave the example of The North Face which used to be “all carabiners and rope” but now collaborates with the likes of Gucci and ASAP Rocky. These collaborations are “quite far from the mountain part of the business", Mack says, “but if you were to climb Everest you would still be wearing North Face. It’s still the brand of choice.”
With that in mind, Laid has also been tasked with launching and then curating a dedicated Gymshark lifting social page. Mack says the account will improve the current “fragmented” user journey that leaves bodybuilders hitting unrelated content on Gymshark’s main social pages.