These are Gymshark numbers for FY 20-21. Enviable much?
Fitness apparel is a tough category to crack. And big players like Adidas, Nike, and Puma have perfected everything from production to marketing to branding. This leaves little space for a new entrant. But that didn't deter Gymshark from launching and thriving with a cult-like following.
Gymshark is a UK based company started in 2012 by then-19-year-old Ben Francis. He operated from his mum’s garage in the early days. Initially, they only sold gym vests and shirts, sewn by Francis and some of his friends after Ben's grandmother taught them how to use a sewing machine.
It grew from a mere screen printing and sewing operation in a garage to a company worth £1 billion in 10 years. They now have customers in over 130 countries. The key factor to the success was recognizing the power of influencer marketing and creating brand ambassadors from the early days.
Let's find out how Gymshark runs its ambassador program and what you can take away from it for your own influencer marketing programs.
8 Lessons from Gymshark to run your ambassador program
1. Send out gifts to your favorite creators
When Gymshark started, Ben would watch a lot of YouTube videos about fitness, gym culture, and exercise. He had built a list of YouTube personalities he liked to learn about building a healthy body.
As a fan of these creators, he sent them Gymshark apparel to show appreciation for their content and YouTube channels. These athletes started wearing the clothing in their videos. And this sparked interest from their subscribers wanting to wear the same apparel.
The only expense he incurred was the cost of the items and shipping. Check out how to do product seeding with a step-by-step process and make the most of this affordable method to get started with influencer marketing.
Later, Ben entered into a partnership with fitness YouTubers Nikki Blackketter and Lex Griffin. They agreed to wear Gymshark products exclusively in their YouTube videos. As they were (and are) one of the top fitness YouTubers, this meant that Gymshark got huge exposure in front of millions of people who saw these videos. That convinced Ben to invest more in influencer marketing & make it a core pillar of Gymshark's marketing strategy.
2) Give creators an identity
Instead of calling its brand advocates ambassadors or affiliates, Gymshark calls them 'Gymshark Athletes.' That's more powerful than a generic bucket used by every other brand. Gymshark gives these athletes an identity by helping them associate with a community that 'gets them' and supports them wholeheartedly in their journey.
A strong sense of belonging will encourage ambassadors to recommend your brand whenever someone asks for a suggestion because now they feel invested in the relationship with your brand. This can propel word-of-mouth marketing, and that means loyal customers and revenue without any expensive ad spend.
3) Use creator-generated content
Gymshark uses the images and videos from ambassadors as promotional and educational content for its social media channels.
Here's an example of a creator @ libbychristensen. She is a Gymshark athlete as you can see from
Gymshark posted Libby's image in their workout clothes on their social channel to drive traffic to the website so people can shop for these clothes. They also tagged her in the post to give her social recognition.
The image is high-quality and shows a real athlete in the brand's apparel. Creating the same image in-house would have been a lot more expensive and time-consuming.
Here's an example of another content creator and Gymshark athlete Asha.
They leveraged her in-depth knowledge about running to create educational content for their audience. And of course, they tagged her in all the posts.
This show that you can utilize the partnership with a creator for much more than just sales. The content they've created for you once can be used for social media posts, product pages, reviews, and even ads. By repurposing your influencers' authentic content, you can maximize the benefits of your influencer marketing spend.
4) Collaborate with creators on products
As guys, Ben and his team didn't know how to empathize with the struggles of the female body when working out. So when they wanted to launch female fitness wear, they collaborated with their original creator, Nikki Blackketter for feedback and input.
Nikki’s perspective helped the Gymshark team create a great female workout clothing line. But it also helped Nikki authentically endorse the products after the launch.
They used the same formula again when they collaborate with a TikTok creator @whitneyysimmons to create a line of female fitness apparel.
The creator also gave them content (photos, videos) for the launch. And we know that when people see a familiar face using a brand's product, it's more effective for sales than an unknown model wearing it.
The creator also has the incentive to hype up the launch since their name is associated with it. So they also end up posting about it on their social media channels, thus increasing brand awareness.
Gymshark knows how to maximize the benefits of influencer marketing. So they went beyond social media and created blogs highlighting the creator as well as the collection.
Gymshark is not the only brand to utilize this strategy. Pura Vida also launched bracelet packs in collaboration with their top ambassadors.
5) Explore beyond Instagram or TikTok
Rarely does anyone work out without a playlist or a podcast. Gym-goers hang out on Spotify as well. Gymshark recognized that and used Spotify to create motivational, creator-themed playlists. Some playlist names focus on the creator with their name and image.
They provided content to their audience on Spotify plus showcased their association with names that fitness enthusiasts can trust.
Gymshark Spotify playlist
💡 Lil homework for you and your team: Figure out where your audience hangs out other than the usual channels (Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter) and find ways to mix influencer marketing and the platform's content. Brainstorm this for 10-min in your next marketing meeting.
6) Give creators a chance to be the face of the brand
Gymshark doesn't have to hire models to showcase their products in the best light possible. They have creators who live the brand values of fitness and love the brand. And those are perfect candidates to represent the brand in front of the public.
Hundreds of thousands or millions of people who follow the creator on social media channels see the creators' posts about the brand collab. Thus, they are much more likely to trust the brand because now it has a face they can recognize rather than a model's face they have never seen before.
Gymshark Athelets's face on a big billboard!
If you are a small business that's just starting out, you might not have the budget for a big hoarding or video advertisement. But you can be creative and maybe try something small-scale like a gift package created in collab with the creator, host an event with them or invite them for a webinar. You can also partner with creators as your models to do a product shoot for your website or a new youtube video.
7) Give a shoutout to creators on social media
Gymshark regularly posts a picture, video, or milestones of their ambassadors and tags their social media accounts.
This not only gives the brand content to post without creating something from scratch, in-house but also benefits the creators. Creators always look forward to gaining a new audience in their niche. When a brand that has similar audience posts about them, they gain new followers plus the credibility of being associated with a reputed brand.
It helps build long-term relationships and affinity by the creator towards your brand.
8) Leverage creator bio links
You should be building long-term partnerships instead of getting into a one-off, transactional relationship with creators you can incentivize them to add your website link in their bio. This would be 24/7, everyday marketing of your brand to anyone who visits the creator's profile vs a one-off post that gets lost in the feed most of the time.
Gymshark's affiliate link in the creator bio
Takeaways to scale your influencer marketing
Gymshark is an incredible example of the power of creating ambassadors for your products rather than just engaging in one-time influencer posts.
Here are 3 key ideas you shouldn't miss if you want to succeed at influencer marketing:
- Give creators a sense of community instead of making them feel like they are a means to an end. It can be via a special label, invite-only groups, or access to exclusive events where they can meet each other. Give them social recognition via shoutouts and freebies, from time to time.
- If you don't have the budget to sponsor a creator or pay upfront, explore other ways to incentivize creators. Start with product seeding to generate revenue and test out the market. Try to get creators onboard as affiliates or ambassadors.
- Look where your audience is hanging out and figure out how can influence them on those platforms. Look for influence, not influencers. Hint: It might not be Instagram or YouTube.
Paid ads are expensive, content marketing takes months to show results, event marketing is not easy to pull off, and offline marketing is probably not suited when trying to generate sustainable revenue. All these have major pros and cons.
But influencer marketing is the one type where your downside can be limited and the upside can be huge. The only condition is you have to approach it strategically without throwing money at people with the most number of followers.
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