How do you know a brand has achieved massive brand ambassador marketing success? When they create an official guide on spotting fake ads, websites and social accounts! Like activewear social sensation, Gymshark.
You’ve surely seen at least one person decked out in their workout gear online. No doubt they also linked their discount code to the post. But how did Gymshark become a social media sensation? Especially when other activewear brands like Gymshark did not.
Ambassador Marketing! Chief Brand Officer Noel Mack had words to share with Marketing Weekly. “Instagram is a huge part of our story because of the communities we create, but the challenge is always how to stand out among so many online businesses vying for consumers’ attention.”
He went on to say, “We have been building our following organically since day one of the brand. We like to think a Gymshark Instagram post is very recognisable because of our unique photography style, almost over-exposing pictures to create a really ‘aspirational’ look, drawing particular attention to the athlete and our product.”
Gymshark organically grew their following from a grassroots level. The brand nurtured and built brand loyalty with their customers, fans and followers. These same customers started posting about the brand on their social media platforms. This key attribute of their social success is a foundational tactic of any good ambassador marketing program.
In their own words, “Gymshark is a fitness apparel & accessories brand, manufacturer and online retailer based in the United Kingdom, supported by millions of highly engaged social media followers and customers in 131 countries."
The transparency around their success achieved through the Gymshark ambassador program is admirable. They never hide the fact that they’ve used their community of highly engaged social media followers to propel their brand forward and expand their revenue streams.
Gymshark's Ambassador Marketing Success
Gymshark's Startup Story
Gymshark was founded in 2012 by 19-year-old Ben Francis and a group of his high-school friends. At the time, Ben had already successfully sold license plates via an eCommerce store he designed himself. He also managed four mobile phone apps, which he developed amid his studies. Two of those apps were based around fitness – an interest of his. This is when Ben discovered a market gap that Gymshark could fill.
Ben and his friends exercised often. But they couldn’t find comfortable activewear that met their workout needs. So, they decided to create a solution. They started a screen printing and sewing operation where they could make the activewear they wanted.
As an entrepreneur, Ben advises other eCommerce brands to give front and back ends of their sites equal attention. Gymshark began with no capital. As a result, Ben and his founding partners made dropshipping arrangements with suppliers. This allowed them to continue selling via their online store despite having no goods in stock. This afforded the team the chance to buy materials to make and sell custom Gymshark apparel.
At this stage, gym-goer Ben watched a lot of health and fitness YouTube videos by athletes and fitness personalities. As a massive fan of these personalities, he sent them Gymshark apparel in support of their YouTube channels. This marked a turning point for the activewear brand. YouTube personalities and athletes sponsored by Gymshark started wearing the clothing in their videos. Organic interest sparked from viewers wanting to wear the same clothing.
The idea of smaller brands gifting online influencers with products was still an entirely new concept. But today, promoting your favourite brands online is known as ambassador marketing.
Gymshark recognised the success of fitness influencers across social media. They timed the launch of Gymshark to collaborate with top creators, growing social buzz around their products and expanding their reach. Ben Francis knew his niche. And his use of activewear brand ambassadors made Gymshark one of the world's leading fitness apparel brands.
Currently, Gymshark works with several athletes and online fitness influencers. These online personalities wear and promote Gymshark at pop-up events across the globe and on social media. Ben has shared how the relationships they’ve formed with different athletes have also helped tailor the brand’s clothing quality. His clothing ambassadors wanted to help make Gymshark's activewear the best it could be. So, the influencers provide feedback to Gymshark after wearing the clothes that help inform improvements.
For instance, when Gymshark first ventured into female fitness wear, they relied on the feedback of fitness personality Nikki Blackketter to learn what felt comfortable from a female perspective. Nikki’s input helped the Gymshark team finesse their female workout clothing in a hands-on way. Having a say in the clothing's design allowed Nikki to authentically endorse the products after their launch.
Your Ambassadors Should Share Your Vision
Gymshark's athletes and fitness ambassadors, "believe in the Gymshark vision. They, "inspire people to improve themselves both mentally and physically,” says Ben. Ensuring that your brand’s vision aligns with the values of a potential ambassador is incredibly important when selecting someone to promote your brand.
Fitness personality Natacha Océane is one of Gymshark’s former ambassadors. She left Gymshark when she found her values no longer aligned with the brand's vision and principles. Natacha ensures she still loves the company and will continue to wear their workout clothing. But the influencer didn’t agree with some ambassador relationships and content that Gymshark enlisted. She ultimately decided to leave in support of her personal vision for the health industry.
The Gymshark affiliate program has lost and gained ambassadors over the years, but they've remained loyal to the Gymshark community from the start. Gymshark has published helpful free health and fitness content for their customers. This has inspired their activewear brand ambassadors to create their own content for their followers, producing user-generated content and involving their community in their brand journey.
Gymshark affiliates have helped the brand grow from a mere screen printing and sewing operation in a garage to one of the fastest-growing and most recognisable brands in fitness. This growth comes from the brand's devotion to producing innovative, effective performance wear and an ever-expanding social presence.
Without ambassador marketing, Gymshark may not have achieved the global success and million-dollar turnover that it currently holds. It’s an incredible example of the power of investing in people who love your products. Regardless of how many followers they have. It’s for this reason that ambassador marketing promises an elevated return on investment that influencer marketing can’t always guarantee.
Ambassador Marketing is a Powerful Social Tool
Another brand that took advantage of the rise of social media when many others were slow to the uptake, was Onepiece - a brand built and fuelled by social media marketing to grow to almost $200 million dollars in online revenue.
In its fledgeling years, Onepiece had no money but tons of products. Redbull was also on the rise with their ‘Redbull gives you wings' campaign. This inspired Onepiece's founders, Thomas and Ole, to give all the coolest people free products. They approached clubs across London and created Onepiece parties where everyone wore their merchandise.
Through their events network, a few very influential people, and tapping into the start of social media, Onepiece’s ambassador network expanded exponentially. The likes of P Diddy and Julia Roberts have all been spotted in their trendy jumpsuits.
Established brands didn’t understand the power of social media back in 2010, but Onepiece did. Suddenly they had thousands of ambassadors they needed to manage, which started the Onepiece ambassador program.