With the fusion of fitness and tech being all the rage in the sports industry, Dan and Ophelia attended ukactive’s SWEAT event in London to determine where the boundaries lie for Fit-Tech and what the future holds for sports marketing in this rapidly evolving sector.
ukactive’s SWEAT event, Powering Boutique Fitness, kicked off in the Studio Spaces in East London on the 26th February. With the future of boutique fitness being thrown onto the dissecting table, discussion of the potential risks and opportunities for growth in the industry complemented talk of emerging trends and evolving business models. Brandwave’s Founder and CEO, Daniel Macaulay, conducted a masterclass with 13 industry professionals to discuss the future of technology and trends in marketing, and we have drawn up a summary of the insights gleaned from the roundtable discussion.
What technology is going to have the greatest impact in the years to come?
From OTT (over the top) media to wearable tech, the sport and fitness industry is integrating itself ever deeper with new technologies. Streaming OTT giants like Amazon Prime and Facebook are muscling their way in to traditionally terrestrial and Pay TV territory with a deal to broadcast Premier League matches and an exclusive deal to show La Liga matches in the Indian subcontinent, respectively. Along with changing the sports broadcasting landscape, the latest developments in VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality) and MR (mixed reality) will redefine the way we watch sport, with Pepsi Max’s Unbelievable Bus Shelter an example of the potential of AR and gamification to enhance the sports viewing experience, and as for the boutique fitness world, increase engagement with customers by improving the class experience.
Customisable experiences are very much on the horizon in both sports broadcasting and fitness tracking. Wearable tech, such as fitness watches and heart-rate monitors integrated into sports apparel, have the potential to further tailor the already copious amounts of stored biometric data into a truly personalised advice service. Much of the wearable tech on the market today goes beyond collecting workout data and now tracks sleep cycles and stress levels to feedback on the wearer’s lifestyle. In future, the data analytical capabilities of Fit-Tech will be able to positively impact consumer’s mental health along with their physical health, helping to cut through the conflicting advice on nutrition, training techniques and lifestyle programmes out in the public domain by offering tailored and informed advice based on biometric data instead. As Steven Ward, CEO of ukactive, mentioned in his welcome notes at SWEAT, the future of Fit-Tech is all about “meaningful metrics that make a difference”.
What about using technology to encourage community support and build trust?
Dark social and the impact of micro-influencers have the potential to be more effective than more traditional marketing platforms. Dark social channels are digital pathways invisible to analytics software, including encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook messenger, and according to RadiumOne, these dark social channels account for 84% of online referrals. Going forward, it will be crucial to harness the hidden power of dark social, as purchasing intent is ultimately built on trust. A WhatsApp from a friend recommending a certain sports watch is likely to have a much greater impact on a consumer than a multi-million pound marketing campaign. Equally, a social media marketing strategy combining several micro-influencers who typically have a deeper and more authentic relationship with their followers than macro-influencers is seen to be more effective. According to Digimind, Micro-influencers generally produce higher conversion and engagement rates than macro-influencers and celebrities, and importantly help to build brand loyalty and a sense of community spirit amongst consumers.
How does segmented marketing feed into this?
The rise of a segmented approach to sports and fitness marketing has fostered a growing trend of micro-communities infused with an esprit de corps and sense of belonging, affecting societal attitudes towards working out and mental health. Campaigns such as The North Face’s ‘She Moves Mountains’ and Nike’s recent advert ‘Dream Crazier’ with Serena Williams are part of a wider movement to encourage women to get out there and get active, helping to build positive communities of female empowerment in the fitness world. It is this notion of inclusivity that drives segmented marketing and helps to change cultural attitudes towards sport. ukactive has introduced the idea of encouraging pensioners to train as fitness instructors in its report Reimagining Ageing, in the hope that this will inspire their retiree friends to get active, helping to combat inactivity and obesity and offload some of the increasing burden on the NHS.
We’re also likely to see a growing effort on the part of fitness professionals to become ambassadors of not just physical health, but mental health too. RunTogether, part of England Athletics, has set up the #RunAndTalk programme supported by Mind, the mental health charity, encouraging people to get out and run a mile or further with friends, family or colleagues. This programme is helping to break down stigma, raise awareness of mental health problems and aims to build the mental and physical resilience of participants.
Key takeaways from the masterclass
The future of sports and fitness marketing looks bright, with a wealth of digital trends and an increasing emphasis on authenticity, community and mental health driving positive change in societal attitudes to fitness. OTT media, the enhanced reality suite of technologies (VR, AR, MR) and wearable tech will radically change how we view, consume and engage in sport and fitness. The use of dark social and micro-influencers teamed with a segmented marketing approach will be instrumental in building trust and brand loyalty in a digital age of information overload. In an industry undergoing so much change like so many other disrupted markets, marketing strategies will have to be proactive, not reactive, to the latest technologies and trends, and embrace the new.