Fitness brands look to organic, short-form video to connect with remote consumers

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Fitness brands that once relied on foot traffic and in-store shoppers are leaning into organic video strategies to keep consumers engaged. 

RXBar and Blink Fitness are doubling down on their organic video content creation across platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. It’s a move made in an effort to keep up with pandemic-induced consumer habits shift as in-person activity now takes place online, marketers at these brands say.

Snack brand RXBar has leaned into a digital-first approach, pushing wellness-focused content, like follow along, at-home workouts, across its social media channels in short video clips. Blink Fitness has moved to do the same. However, the fitness company has produced video content by way of its mobile app, which includes virtual personal training.

Even post-pandemic, as mass vaccination continues and more people venture outside — and away from screens — both brands say they’ll continue to incorporate digital content creation into their core strategy.

Recent research from eMarketer shows that “nearly three-quarters of U.S. internet users said they spent at least 30 minutes per day watching short-video content.”

Ramping up short-form organic content tracks with shifting consumer behavior, according to Jose Aniceto, svp and head of behavioral science at MullenLowe U.S., who added that consumers are still at home bored and that’s impacting their daily behavior, leading to an uptick in short-form video consumption.

According to Aniceto, brands could afford to be spending time and media dollars in the digital video space even post-pandemic.

“They can use video for more than just brand building and awareness, adding it to their lower-funnel and e-comm spend mix too,” Aniceto said.

Just 48 hours after Covid-19 lockdown orders went into effect last spring, RXBar launched a digital initiative, offering free, at-home workouts to their social media followers. According to vp of marketing Julia Adams, it started as an organic effort, when the brand took to Instagram to announce RXercise, a series of at home workouts via livestream.

“We want to make sure that we’re showing up where [consumers] are most engaged,” Adams said, “So I think for us, that lends itself really nicely to digital platforms.”

The initiative garnered an estimated 155,000 views and has been repurposed for other channels such as TikTok. RXBar has also tapped into working with social media influencers. And for the first time in almost two years, the snack brand launched its first campaign with paid digital efforts.

According to a RXBar spokesperson, currently, 31% of RXBar’s digital ad spend is dedicated to programmatic marketing. Video takes about 29% with paid social at 23%. Search spend sits at 10%, followed by 7% of ad spend dedicated to audio. Digiday previously reported RXBar spent $228,000 on marketing during the first 10 months of 2019. In the past, RXBar has worked with influencers, dedicating about 20% of its marketing budget to influencer initiatives, per previous Digiday reporting.

It’s unclear the level of growth the brand has seen, as it declined to provide specific details on website sales. However, Adams said the brand has seen significant growth in website sales, quoting sales are up 16% in 2020 versus 2019.

Blink Fitness’ story is similar to that of RXBar. Within 72 hours of gyms closing at the start of the pandemic, Blink Fitness pivoted to Facebook live streaming to offer at home workouts to current members, according to Michelle Horowitz, svp of marketing and communications. 

The brand also launched new features within their app such as virtual personal trainers and leaned into snackable, organic fitness videos (both user generated and curated) across its social media platforms. TikTok has also piqued the brand’s interest. 

“Digital is the biggest part of where we spend our dollars and our time,” Horowitz said. “For us, it’s really important. We’ve definitely doubled our content creation.”

Currently, Blink’s media makeup is 40% dedicated to social platforms, another 40% for performance marketing and the final 20% aimed at display ads. 

According to Intelivideo CEO Adam Zeitsiff, short-form, organic videos on social media has become one of the most utilized forms of social media. The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown with upped screen time has only accelerated that, and Zeitsiff said the trend will continue in coming years, especially for health and fitness brands.

“The content is very dynamic and can quickly relay a message,” Zeistiff said in an email. “Using video effectively throughout a marketing funnel will prove the most effective campaign strategy.”

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There are three primary reasons Zeitsiff outlines as to why the pandemic significantly increased the creation and distribution of short-form fitness videos: First, shuttered stores moved consumers to online channels, secondly, those consumers are looking for ways to stay active, a need fitness and health brands can fill. And lastly, short-form video builds value and trust before a sale is made, Zeitsiff said.

Blink Fitness, as well as other gyms and retailers, have reopened as the pace of the vaccine rollout across the country has hastened. Post-pandemic, Zeitsiff predicts health and fitness brands will continue to incorporate digital offerings into their in-person, in-store marketing efforts. 

“Virtual fitness content allows members to try multiple different workouts, and also allows members to try something new without any in-club or in-studio pressure,” Zeitsiff said.

Horowitz sees the Blink Fitness app and the short-form video it features allowing members to participate in workouts that begin at home via the app and finish in the gym or vice versa. Maybe the app becomes a partner for Blink Fitness members running in their neighborhood or virtual trainer in the gym, she said.

“I do believe it’s become a real tool,” she said. “Right now, we have it set that we’re going to continue to create this digital content.”

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