Gymshark's Winning Strategy: UGC and Community for Growth

Gymshark's Winning Strategy: UGC and Community for Growth

Julie Cauville

Julie Cauville

April 28, 2023


If you're a fitness enthusiast or follow the fitness industry, you've probably heard of Gymshark. Gymshark is a UK-based fitness clothing brand that has taken the industry by storm. With a turnover of around £500 million in 2022 and over 1000 employees, Gymshark has become a global fitness brand that ships to over 130 countries. But how did Gymshark become such a successful brand in a highly competitive market?

In this article, we'll deep dive into the key factors that led Gymshark to become a leader in the fitness industry. From its early beginnings to its present-day success, we'll explore how Gymshark's fierce focus on building a community and leveraging user-generated content (UGC) has been key to its growth and success.

Short History: How it Started

Gymshark was founded in 2012 by Ben Francis, who was a 19-year-old student at Aston University at the time. Francis initially used the Gymshark website to sell fitness supplements, but soon realized that profit margins were poor. He then explored the world of fitness clothing and used his savings from working as a Pizza Hut deliveryman to purchase a sewing machine and screen printer. With this equipment, he started creating the first Gymshark products.

Gymshark's step in the right direction started at the end of 2012 with the BodyPower Expo, a top fitness trade show. Francis spent nearly all of his savings to get a good spot at the event on behalf of Gymshark. He made a point to talk to as many people as possible at the Gymshark booth and managed to get his vision out there and convinced many enthusiasts into becoming fans.

Gymshark capitalized on the buzz from this event and sold out on all of their new products at launch within just 30 minutes. Gymshark had more traffic and sales in less than an hour than they ever had before. The company made over $42,000 in a single day, which was far beyond the $400/day they usually made at the time.

Following this success, Ben and his team started scaling the company, and Gymshark has experienced immense growth over the past decade. Now, Gymshark is a global brand that ships to over 130 countries and has over 1000 employees.

Growth and Figures

Gymshark has had an incredible growth trajectory over the years. The company's turnover has grown to around £500 million in 2022, with a 68% growth in sales to £437.6 million in 2021, up from £260.7 million in 2020. The orders increased by 52% YoY.

The US market contributed the largest share of sales with £179.6 million, while the UK is now Gymshark's second-biggest market with sales of £86.5 million. The rest of Europe and the rest of the world contributed £84.4 million and £48.2 million, respectively.

In August 2020, Gymshark became the first DTC brand in the UK to achieve unicorn status with no external funding. Indeed, US private equity firm General Atlantic purchased a 21% stake in the company, which valued the company at more than £1.4 billion.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where we'll explore Gymshark's fierce focus on building a community and leveraging UGC to fuel its growth and success.

How Gymshark Builds a Strong Community

Gymshark's success can be attributed to its strong community, which has been a key focus since the brand's inception. From the very beginning, founder Ben Francis had a deep understanding of his target audience and their needs, as he himself was a gym enthusiast. He spent countless hours talking to people at fitness events, learning from the community and building connections.

Obsession with Customer Relationship

One of the core factors that led to Gymshark's success is their obsession with the customer relationship. The brand places a high emphasis on connecting with their customers and creating a sense of community. They do this through various means, such as:

  • Expos and meet-ups: Gymshark participates in fitness events and meet-ups, where they feature fitness influencers and brand ambassadors. This allows them to connect with customers in person and build a genuine connection.
  • Gymshark World Tour: In 2016, Gymshark went global with its Gymshark World Tour, documenting the whole event on their YouTube channel. This further cultivated a sense of excitement and community among its fans.
  • Data-driven approach: Gymshark launched its Gymshark Insiders community, where customers provide honest and open feedback on marketing campaigns, product innovation, and more. This allows Gymshark to understand its customers better and create products that exceed their needs.

Throughout Gymshark’s marketing, the concept of community is really important for example, the brand welcomes you to their “family” as soon as you sign up for their mailing list or purchase a product.

Throughout Gymshark’s marketing, the concept of community is really important for example, the brand welcomes you to their “family” as soon as you sign up for their mailing list or purchase a product.

Turning Influencers into Ambassadors

Another key factor in Gymshark's success is their use of influencer marketing. The brand was one of the early adopters of influencer marketing on Instagram, and it has remained a core part of their marketing strategy.

Gymshark carefully selects influencers who share the brand's core values and vision. This ensures that the brand is reaching consumers who hold those same values and principles, which helps to build a community of like-minded people. They have an entire dedicated team whose job is to manage influencer marketing, allowing them to focus on finding the right people to work with and making sure their campaigns are effective.

Gymshark takes it a step further by turning every influencer they work with into a brand ambassador. This means that each influencer signs a long-term deal with Gymshark, pledging to promote their clothing exclusively. This gives fans of influencers confidence that the person they follow truly cares about the company and improves their trust in the influencer and the brand.

TikTok Move

Gymshark has also made a move into TikTok, which has proven to be an incredibly successful platform for the brand. They have over 4.2 million followers and 65.7 million likes on the platform, with an incredibly well-executed TikTok marketing strategy.

UGC has been key for scaling Gymshark, and TikTok represents it perfectly. They always involve customers in their posts and campaigns, and the hashtag #gymshark has over 8 billion views. Gymshark's entry into TikTok followed their success on Instagram and other social media channels. They made a conscious decision to partner with fitness and lifestyle influencers on TikTok, and their content strategy aligns with their community's preferences and sense of humour.

💡 Example of the #Gymshark66

Gymshark announced in 2018 its yearly **66 Days to Change Your life** challenge. Customers had to select a personal goal and upload an initial photo/video. 66 days later on the 8th March, the user had to upload that initial content with an updated one, for a chance to win a year’s supply of Gymshark goods.

Running for roughly two months, the campaigns resulted in a flood of user-generated content, and still is a big success every year from January to March

Killer Content and Marketing Strategy on All Platforms

Besides Instagram and TikTok, Gymshark has developed a killer content strategy on many other platforms, consistently providing value to their community. Their YouTube channel has over 440,000 subscribers, with a video output of one video every 2 to 3 days. They focus on gym tips and tricks, as well as influencer videos or TikTok compilations showing a slice of life in the gym.

They also have a strong presence on Snapchat and Twitter, where they engage with their followers and share behind-the-scenes content. Gymshark's marketing strategy is consistently focused on its community, always looking for ways to engage with them and add value to their lives. Their community is at the heart of everything they do, and this has helped them to build a strong and loyal following that continues to grow.

Frequently asked questions
Everything you need to know.
What made Gymshark so popular?

Gymshark's popularity is underpinned by impressive growth figures, with a turnover of around £500 million in 2022 and a 68% sales increase in 2021. Their strategic presence at fitness events and effective influencer marketing campaigns have propelled Gymshark to become a global leader in fitness apparel.

Who is Gymshark's target market?

Gymshark targets primarily 18-25 year-olds of any gender who are fitness enthusiasts, particularly those engaged in gym workouts and active lifestyles. With over 5.3 million TikTok followers and a strong Instagram presence, Gymshark resonates globally with individuals passionate about fitness and fashion.

What is Gymshark's unique selling point?

Gymshark's unique selling point lies in its ability to blend fashion with functionality in activewear seamlessly. With over 573,000 YouTube subscribers and a robust content strategy across multiple platforms, Gymshark offers stylish yet performance-driven clothing, catering to the needs of fitness enthusiasts worldwide.

What type of marketing does Gymshark use?

Gymshark predominantly employs a digital-first marketing strategy, heavily leveraging social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok. Their approach includes influencer collaborations and user-generated content (UGC), contributing to their online success.

What is the influencer strategy of Gymshark?

Gymshark's influencer strategy is data-driven and extensive, with a dedicated team managing collaborations with fitness and lifestyle influencers. They transform influencers into long-term brand ambassadors, amplifying brand visibility and consumer trust. This strategy has contributed to Gymshark's rapid growth and sustained success.

Why is Gymshark so successful on social media?

Gymshark's success on social media is evident in its engagement metrics, with over 65.7 million likes on TikTok alone. Leveraging UGC and influencer collaborations, Gymshark cultivates a vibrant community of like-minded individuals, fostering loyalty and brand advocacy.