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4 things for personal fitness brands to consider in building their brand

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We’ve looked at how brands provide virtual support for fans and followers of all levels looking to live an active lifestyle, and wanted to look at how personal brands approach the same audiences.

It’s challenging to connect to an audience across levels of interest and ability that might be drawn to a personal brand for different reasons; everything from just liking how the person behind the brand presents themselves, to respecting their work ethic, sense of humor, a combination of all three, or something else entirely.

There are takeaways for non-personal brands here too, the least of which is understanding how personal brands operate if you’re a traditional brand looking to partner with one in a current or future campaign.


1. Show shared values.

Increasingly customers want to spend their money on brands who share the same values as they do; a 2013 Edelman brandshare study said “92 percent of people want to do business with companies that share their beliefs”. This is somewhat easier to achieve as a personal brand- after all, your audience is relating to you as a person rather than a logo or a corporate entity- but that also makes the stakes higher if your audience discovers you aren’t authentically living up to your values.

Decide what’s most important to you as a personal brand that you want to communicate to your audience and design creative ways to share that, both visually and with written content. (What does that look like? We’ll cover it with some examples in #4.)

2. Choose carefully who you partner with in a campaign or sponsorship deal.

Shared values become even more important when brands and personal brands are looking to partner up for a campaign or in a sponsorship deal; either risks alienating their audience if that audience feels the partnership isn’t born of genuine, shared values. (That’s when the term “sellout” starts getting thrown around a lot.)

Both brands and personal brands should do their research to vet each other out as a good match on a campaign or sponsorship deal, figure out where their audiences overlap, and especially what parts of their audiences don’t overlap so they can discover how best to reach each of these segments with inspiring content of value for them.

3. Add a personal touch.

The advantage of being a personal brand is that it’s automatically more, well, personal. You’re free to let thoughts and feelings shine through, particularly during tough training sessions, setbacks, and winning moments that come with living an athletic lifestyle. Personal brands can communicate this in ways that are difficult for traditional brands to master. After all you’re just one person, talking to your audience about the same issues they deal with during their own athletic journey.

Use this to your advantage and be authentic without oversharing unnecessary personal details.

4. Look at who does it well.

We mentioned Tone It Up as a great example of an inspiring lifestyle and fitness brand in the previous post, and the two women behind it are an even better example of personal brands coming together to create a bigger brand with a strong community they’ve inspired behind it.

Separate from their Tone It Up Instagram account, they have a joint personal account that shares photos of the two of them shopping for healthy foods for a week’s worth of meal preparations, celebrating big moments in the community, behind-the-scenes shots for upcoming TIU events, and just being themselves and relating to their followers over common interests and indulgences, like in this image:

TIU wine

Image via karenakatrina on Instagram. 

The TIU brand is the two women behind it, and they work to make themselves as relatable as possible while still posting images that keep their community inspired.

A similar approach comes from Kelly Roberts of Run, Selfie, Repeat. Her blog is all about her personal experiences with running and she’s very open and honest about every missed run, every difficult run, and her tactics for getting through those tough moments (a lot of selfies and singing Taylor Swift). She’s currently asking her community of fans and followers to help her get on the cover of Runner’s World.

Run Selfie RepeatImage via kellykkroberts on Instagram

For an example of a professional athlete with a well-executed personal brand, look no further than ballerina Misty Copeland, a soloist with the American Ballet Theater. Her recent partnership with Under Armor in the I Will What I Want campaign is a fantastic example of shared values and inspiration in action.

On her Instagram account, she reposts images from collaborators and her community, a great way to further engage with fans and followers and share across audiences (remember that overlap we mentioned earlier? Here’s a great way to reach across it).

Misty CopelandImage via mistyonpointe on Instagram 

The bottom line?

Personal brands have an edge over traditional brands in connecting with their fans and followers over shared values around a fitness lifestyle, but the stakes are also higher if the audience ever feels like they were mislead about the authenticity of those values. Personal brands should share what honestly inspires them, and never be afraid to share difficult moments in their athletic journeys. These serve to make the audience feel like they can really connect with the person they’re following behind the “brand” because they’ve had the same experiences.

Written by Sarah

June 22nd, 2015 at 11:10 am

Just do it, online: How brands can provide virtual fitness support

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Everyone’s motivational style is a little different, but everyone loves getting encouragement for the hard work they do, especially if they mostly train alone for races or other sporting events. Many fitness-related brands have figured this out and work motivational and supportive content into their visual marketing. It looks a little something like this:


Clockwise from top left: Tone It Up on Instagram, Clif Bar on Instagram, Lululemon on Instagram, and Nike on Instagram

All of these examples hail from Instagram, but visual marketing doesn’t just exist on image-based platforms so we’ll cover some examples from other platforms as well as pointing you to some more in-depth visual content marketing advice resources.

Types of motivational visual content

As you can see from just a few Instagram examples, different brands approach motivational images a little bit differently: Some superimpose inspiring quotes or other text over images, some pair motivational images featuring regular people or well-known athletes or fitness models with inspiring captions, some run campaigns with brand-related hashtags, and some do a mixture of all of these. What remains consistent across these images are their striking, professional quality, the minimal branding present, and the tone that intends to push the viewer farther while still feeling achievable.

Any one of these types of visual content isn’t necessarily better than any of the others; it just depends on what resonates with your particular audience. Even if your audience overlaps with the audience of all of these other brands- and that’s very possible in this space- the types of visual content that perform best for you may not necessarily look just like what performs best for Nike.

So how do you figure out what works well for you? Start with these five steps:

  1. Look at best practices in the industry— and lucky for you we have examples of brands who do this well in the next section.
  2. Plan your visual approach based on a mix of best practices and where there’s room for a new approach.
  3. Test. Test different images with text and without, posted at different times, across different networks.
  4. Measure. Use tools like our Instagram Account Checkup to measure your progress, or even our Union Metrics Social Suite if you have more resources.
  5. Plan new content based on what’s performing well.

And then? Keep testing new ideas, measuring, planning, testing again, and generally repeating these steps.

So first things first, let’s look at who does it well beyond the examples at the top of this post.

Brands who do it well

All of the brands whose Instagram accounts we featured at the top of this post do well in executing professional, motivating images to support their audience in reaching their goals- and hopefully using some of their products while doing it- across platforms.

Tone It Up has a whole Pinterest board dedicated to inspiration:

Tone it Up Pinterest


Nike Women has a Tumblr that taps into the fitness community on that site:

Nike Women Tumblr


Lululemon includes motivational, supportive images in their tweets:

Lululemon Tweet



And Clif Bar shares inspiring images from their sponsored athletes on Facebook, cross-posted from their Instagram account:

Clif Bar FB

What makes these good examples?

Inspiration is all about evoking a feeling in your audience; in this case that you empathize with the struggle audience members face in their unique fitness journeys and goals. Whether an audience member is a yoga beginner or has run three triathlons, there will still be days when they are tired or don’t believe they’ll ever make it over that next plataeu. Including these kinds of motivational, inspirational images is a form of support because it says I know that feeling, I have felt it too. But oh, look at how it can be worth it. or We’re all in this together; I believe in you. This isn’t a quick fix, this is a lifestyle. 

When you can connect with your audience on an emotional level it leads to brand loyalty from them. There’s also an aspirational element in that many of these images reflect the kind of lifestyle audience members wish they had or are working to have.

Room for improvement

So here’s where brands who aren’t yet executing an established visual content marketing plan can create one that will help them stand out. You’ve seen the best practices, so start thinking hard about your brand, its values and its target audience and start asking yourself these questions:

  1. Where is there a need for something new? A new visual presentation, perhaps; video does appear in a lot of these accounts, but it has hardly been maximized yet. A new voice or tone? There isn’t a whole lot of humor present. Would that make sense for your brand? Thinking about the common elements you see in communicating a fitness lifestyle can also show you what hasn’t been done yet.
  2. Is there a part of the fitness community that isn’t being reached? There’s one post about a visually impaired runner (we realize the irony of including that in a post about visual content marketing, but representation across audiences is important to keep in mind) but what about other disabled athletes? Consider plus-sized athletes or other underrepresented and underserved audiences; they’re hungry for quality products and brands who support them.
  3. What does your brand do that can fill that need? Even if your products don’t immediately cater to niche markets, think creatively about how your products could be used in new ways, tweaked to meet new needs, or even upgraded. Or simply how you can communicate an inclusive fitness lifestyle message across target audiences.

The bottom line

It’s about communicating that you’re supportive of your target audience’s lifestyle. Create a manifesto- like Sport England did for #ThisGirlCan- and work from it.

Written by Sarah

May 26th, 2015 at 10:50 am

Pump your fitness up with social media support

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Social networks evolved out of a desire to connect and share in a new way with people already in our lives, then further evolved as a way to reach out to new people we want to add to our lives, sometimes both online and off. Using these networks to seek out those with similar goals and struggles for both accountability and support is a natural extension of this; finding advice, commiseration, or just about anything else having to do with health and fitness is now just a couple of clicks away.

Every social network is what you make of it, and we wanted to take a look at how people are using them for support networks.

Using Twitter to support fitness endeavors 

January is the month we all promise ourselves we’re going to get back into shape after an extensive treat-yourself-holiday-season, but most of us don’t follow through even though support is just a tweet or post away. In fact, one study showed that Twitter helped participants lose more weight. Fitness bloggers create Twitter lists of other fitness-centric accounts to follow, and join in fitness tweet chats like #FitBlog and #FitStudio.

And what about other social media?

Communities of fitness enthusiasts exist on every platform. On Tumblr and Instagram you can find like-minded fitness folks to follow, particularly through exploring hashtags related to fitness. Fitness-focused Pinterest boards cover everything from suggested workouts of the day to healthy meal recipes, desired fitness equipment, and more.

One of the most popular fitness-related tags on any site is #fitspo, meaning fitness inspiration. A quick search on Instagram alone shows over 6 million #fitspo-tagged photos, and we’ve looked at the size of the Tumblr fitness community- or “fitblr”- before as well. While the basic premise behind fitspo is to stay motivated by sharing inspiring photos of fit models, athletes, or regular people (along with meals, progress, inspirational/motivational phrases, and more), the practice has come under fire for focusing more on the aesthetics of the bodies being shown rather than the physical work and accomplishments of the people to whom the bodies belong.

A social media counter-culture has arisen to combat this, however. For example, Tumblr user The Exercist works to combat problematic fitspo by using a tag the blog invented- #reclaimingfitspo- and encouraging other Tumblr users to post photos that show athletes or other people in action and relating their accomplishments below. The Exercist also writes posts to combat harmful or dangerous fitness myths, shares sources so readers can find more information, and points out when popular fitspo images have been Photoshopped.

On Instagram, many fitspo posters will share photos with those who belong to the same gym or running group as them with the tag #fitfam, meaning “fitness family”. This brings real world support in the form of workout buddies to social media; your fitfam might now include people who are several states or even countries away, offering an extra dose of support. Other tags often used for fitness include: #MondayMotivation, #TuesdayTransformation, #WednesdayWorkout, #Fitness, and #FitnessAddict.

As for social platforms that solely focus on fitness, there are options like Fitocracy (which has both a site and an app), MyFitnessPal, or the new Instagram-compatible app FitSnap that adds workout stats to your photos you can then share on Instagram or elsewhere. Wearables with social aspects are also hitting the market: Fitbit, Nike+ FuelBand, Jawbone Up, and a host of others. You can even put your money where your mouth is with GymPact and earn cash for your workouts– or pay out when you don’t.  CNN covered a whole range of fitness devices and apps in an article last summer, along with discussing the psychological motivation that comes from social fitness shares.

If it’s accountability you’re looking for in your fitness journey, you no longer have to look much further than the device screen nearest you.

Written by Sarah

January 23rd, 2014 at 8:40 am

Posted in Trends

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