By the late Nineties, the buffed-up image of gym bunnies in spandex was feeling a little passé. Health and fitness had moved on, becoming less about how you looked and more about how you felt. Less steroids and Mr America, more lifestyle and balance.
And in South Africa, where out-door living, sport and exercise are a way of life, only a small percentage of people were actually using gyms.
So the obvious question was why?
Virgin Active, new to the market, could sense the opportunity. The starting point was to look beyond the category and dive deep into the culture of wellness in South Africa. We spoke to western doctors and traditional healers, sports scientists and stress relievers. And we explored the places people might go to get their dose of endorphins, from walking clubs to health centres, yoga retreats to sensory spas.
The work revealed a cultural shift, from iron man fitness and the quick-fix diet to a desire for holistic health and lifestyle management.
And the insight?
“People want to feel good, but exercise feels like hard work.”
Gyms, as they were, felt like muscle Meccas. For Virgin Active, this opened the way to differentiate themselves from just another gym brand to a more holistic health partner.
The next step was to understand attitudes to gym. The members, the non-members and those who’d rather stick pins in their eyes than go to an aerobics class.
Because while people might want to watch their shape, talking to them didn’t mean one size would fit all.
Mapping the market through segmentation revealed another key insight: “Not all people go to the gym to exercise.”
The gym was a place to relax. To unwind. To meet people. And to feel better about themselves.
For Virgin Active, seven clear consumer typologies opened up a range of ways to connect with people – the old faithfuls and the new potentials.
It meant having more focus when planning gyms – from the high energy stress and fitness focused hubs of the city to the pamper and indulgence clubs of the leafy suburbs.
It meant being better equipped to choose new locations, create premium service offers and design new products. Like Mind and Body studios for yoga and Pilates and high energy dance-based classes designed to make moving more fun.
How did we Add Value?
We looked further than the gym floor to understand the culture of wellness, helping shape the Virgin Active positioning and creating a common consumer focused language within the team. A shared vision that let the right people make the right decisions and helped Virgin Active become much more than just a gym.