Community Case Study: Gymshark

How do you sell a product and become one of the largest fitness brands in the world without a single physical location? Fitness wear giant Gymshark did just that despite starting out from a garage with nothing but a screen printer and a sewing machine bought with savings. 

Let’s dive into how Gymshark grew their FAM and became a worldwide business and powerhouse in their industry all without a single physical store — and how you can implement their strategy when building your own brand community.

At a glance 

  • Gymshark started in 2012 in a garage on the savings of Ben Francis. 
  • Today it’s worth $1 billion. 
  • The brand took off through word of mouth at conventions and exhibitions and created a community of fans in its earliest days.
  • Gymshark was one of the first brands to use influencer marketing. 
  • The Gymshark community are brought together through fitness and support for each other. 
  • The brand holds online and offline events and host themed months for their community, such as Women’s Month.
  • The brand has 5.5M followers on Instagram and the tag #gymshark has over 12M posts. 

Gymshark is a fitness apparel and accessories brand based in the UK. Founded in 2012, it had humble beginnings and operated from founder Ben Francis’ parents’ garage, where he made all the apparel with a single screen printer and sewing machine. 

Working on a drop shipping model, the business soon began making up to £500 a day. 

Gymshark stands out as being one of the first brands to tap into creator marketing. By partnering with fitness influencers such as YouTube bodybuilders Nikki Blackketter and Lex Griffin, their product range is promoted to massive online audiences that reach far beyond a single physical location. In 2022, Gymshark has 5.8M followers on Instagram, and is considered to be a $1 billion company. 

And, in a first for Gymshark which operates online with occasional pop-up stores, the brand is set to launch its first ever permanent physical store location on Regent Street in London on October 29, 2022, hailing a new era for the brand and its community. 

It’s going to be incredible, it’s going to be experiential, and we want to bring as much of that Gymshark vibe and community into this place.” – Ben Francis

Strategy

Francis planted the seeds for Gymshark’s success soon after launching the brand, spending most of his savings on securing a booth at a BodyPower expo event, where he represented Gymshark. He committed to speaking to as many people as possible. 

And this strategy paid off. Within 30 minutes, Gymshark had sold all of their products — despite having just launched. 

This event was just the beginning and Francis realized he had found the key that would catapult his tiny online business to become a household name. 

That key was to turn potential customers into fans of the brand — a strategy which elevates interaction to an entirely new level. 

Unlike other fitness apparel brands like lululemon that uses its store space for community events, Gymshark didn’t have a physical space to reach out to customers and turn them into a community. 

And so, they instead turned to a platform that was changing the world: social media. 

Influencer Marketing 

Gymshark tapped into the growing space of social media influencers and creators, and focused on building relationships with fitness icons in the community with established audiences and channels.

The very same audiences that Gymshark needed to reach. Francis reached out to fitness creators to collaborate, where the creators would feature Gymshark apparel on their channels and provide affiliate links to Gymshark’s online store. 

Influencer marketing had been virtually unheard of before 2012, and Gymshark was one of the first brands to realize the potential of this marketing strategy. Francis has said that “at the time it just came totally naturally to us because we were just fans of the guys.” 

That was in 2012. 

Ten years later, influencer marketing is estimated to be worth a whopping $16.4 billion. And it just keeps growing! Since the popularity of short form video content, endorsement from social media influencers has become one of the most effective ways to get the word out, reach audiences and, most importantly, create a community of fans your brand can connect with on a very personal level. 

Sign up for free today

    Today, Gymshark stands as a brand all on its own, but it’s retained its connections to the people that turned them into a household name. Gymshark calls its community a family, or FAM as they like to call it (and yes they insist on the capital letters it’s very important). The FAM are the people who keep the brand alive through social media posts and creating content about fitness. 

    And, by emphasizing that their community is a family, Gymshark has created a brand voice that’s warm, welcoming, and approachable — a tone that’s appealing for newcomers to both fitness and the brand, as well as hardcore brand enthusiasts who have embraced the Gymshark family as their own. 

    Gymshark For Women 

    It’s hard to believe that Gymshark started out as an apparel brand for men only. Since they branched out into women’s apparel, women make up 3/4 of their customer base. And that’s no accident! Gymshark has made a lot of effort to bring women into their community all while ensuring their voices are heard.

    To do this they’ve created events that focus on women, such as a virtual Athlete Chat featuring women active in the community as they talk about navigating fitness spaces as women. 

    During Women’s Month they redirected their community efforts to creating awareness around the challenges women experience.

    In  2021, these initiatives took the form of: 

    Twitch Takeovers: Gymshark’s official Twitch channel was taken over by female creators in the Gymshark community for exposure and awareness. 

    Athlete Q+As: This event took place on Instagram, where female athletes in the community opened up about their experiences at the gym.

    Tips, Tricks and Motivational Quotes: Tips and tricks geared at helping women on their fitness journeys while helping them with common issues like gym-intimidation. 

    For a company that started out in a garage and barely scraping by with savings to the fitness apparel powerhouse it is now, Gymshark is one of the most inspiring and interesting brand success stories out there. 

    With 12.1M Instagram posts in the #gymshark tag and 5.8M followers on their main brand account, Gymshark is thriving on Instagram. 

    Lessons to Implement 

    For a company that started out in a garage and barely scraping by with savings to the fitness apparel powerhouse it is now, Gymshark is one of the most inspiring and interesting brand success stories out there. 

    Ben Francis did a lot of things right when starting out: he recognized a niche he wanted to use, he spotted an opportunity, and he understood the power of word of mouth. Most importantly, he saw the potential of a new way of doing things, and got in on the ground floor. 

    Gymshark has focused on one strategy — online communities —and are doing that strategy really well. It’s why they’ve managed to thrive for a decade despite not having a physical store. Their events are online AND in-person, and they’re constantly looking for new ways to engage their communities in meaningful ways that make their communities feel like they’re involved. 

    Here are some key takeaways any business can use: 

    • Narrow down your niche and stick to perfecting it instead of going for a bunch of different ideas at the same time and not getting any of them right. 
    • Find new opportunities to spread the word. 
    • Don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth and don’t be afraid to grow your audiences. 
    • Understand the needs of your market and learn how to speak to them so they feel heard. 

    Want to build your community? Nas.io is the perfect place to start. We have all the tools you need to create an incredible community, just like Gymshark’s, and all the support your brand needs to start building right now.

    You might also like

    How Much Do Life Coaches Make
    28 Feb 2024
    8 min read
    Read More
    How to Create a Telegram Channel: Step...
    24 Feb 2024
    5 min read
    Read More
    creator holding a smartphone with telegram logo in the background
    How to Make Money on Telegram
    24 Feb 2024
    5 min read
    Read More

    Join our Newsletter Community

    Created by community managers, for community managers.