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Why fitness influencers are worth their weight in gold

by Emma Potter

8 September 2020 10:29am

With many fitness brands navigating uncharted waters, and gyms and other sporting facilities only just reopening (albeit in a limited way), the #homeworkout and #homegym have come into their own. But how have brands and fitness influencers adapted their content and offerings to sate this appetite?

On the 23rd of March ‘The Body Coach’, Joe Wicks, began delivering live PE lessons to families of all ages, all over the world, pulling in 15 million viewers in one week. He tapped into a clear desire for positive, personal content that boosts community spirit and morale — and fitness — and unearthed an opportunity for brands to build brand advocacy and participate in the conversation in an authentic way. It officially heralded the age of the fitness influencer, or ‘fitfluencer’.

From nano and micro influencers to mega influencers, the wealth of sports brands launching fashion lines, wearable tech or nutrition products, are increasingly partnering with fitfluencers to motivate us to get fit and healthy, especially in an increasingly virtual world.

Fitness Influencers: giving brands extra strength and reach

There are several drivers. More and more internet users are using Adblock software, while we have also undeniably entered an era of peer recommendations — word of mouth is our number one tool for making a buying decision. But social media adds another element; it has allowed us to develop ‘virtual relationships’ with fitness influencers, who, in turn, recommend us products. It all boils down to an influencer’s apparent ‘relatability’, prompting us to think: ‘If they can do it, so can we.’

In 2015, Mediablaze worked on Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ campaign. It went on to inspire over four million women aged 14-40 to exercise more. But five years on, a survey of almost 2,000 women has revealed that less than a fifth of them find fitness influencers ‘relatable’. This finding has prompted Sport England to relaunch its campaign with a television advert showing ‘real’ women exercising. After all, people are desperate for fitness role models they can truly connect with.

Just look at Instagram. To date there have been over 272,000 uses of #fitnessinfluencer, over 192 million uses of #gym, and over 408 million uses of #fitness. The many people following these hashtags are crying out for inspiration, and are often eager for both recognition and endorsement (tellingly, the hashtag #gymselfie has also been used over three million times).

Getting the brand fit

But how do you determine if an influencer is actually a good fit for your brand? It’s a problem highlighted in a 2019 study by Mediakix, which found 61% of marketers struggle to find the ‘right influencers for a campaign’.

We determine the actual reach of an influencer by dividing their followers by the number of likes and comments. Generally speaking, the higher the number of followers, the lower the engagement percentage.

Take, for example, the Australian ‘mega influencer’ and personal trainer, Kayla Itsines (@kayla_itsines) who, with 12.2 million followers on Instagram, is one of the most ‘influential’ fitfluencers in the world. She and her husband have best-selling books, several apps and, according to Forbes, a combined net worth of $486 million. However, with many of her posts getting around 25k ‘likes’ and a couple of hundred comments, her engagement rate is a paltry 0.2% — well under what’s considered to be an acceptable 3-6%.

By contrast, a ‘macro influencer’ (500k to 1m followers), such as British adventurer and bodybuilder Ross Edgley (@RossEdgley), has a similar number of likes per post as Kayla. But with 579k followers on Instagram, his engagement is closer to the 5% mark. Interestingly, he’s also an ambassador for Gymshark, a fitness apparel company which has exclusively used influencers to market its products.

This is why sometimes the ‘micro influencers’ — those with as few as 1,000 followers and up to as many as 100k followers — can not only be a better fit for your marketing campaign, but also give you a higher level of engagement. They’re more ‘relatable’ as they often have real jobs and aren’t constantly trying to sell something. And they’ll cost you less to acquire.

There is also a growing number of older fitness influencers (aged 35 or over) who are filling a yawning market gap…

Take Joan MacDonald (@trainwithjoan) for example. The 74 year old American fitness influencer has amassed 429k followers on Instagram and has become an ambassador for Women’s Best (another company that exclusively leverages influencers) as well as a personal trainer.

Staying power?

Evidence suggests that influencer marketing might not be a fad. Mediakix found that 80% of those marketers who have used influencer marketing have found it to be effective, which explains why 61% were going to increase their influencer marketing spend in 2019. So, with confidence high and a potential 6-11x Return on Investment, it seems influencers are here for the marathon, not the sprint.

Talk to digital marketing specialists, Mediablaze about to find the right fit for your brand.


Content strategy