While it’s hard to attribute the rapid expansion of F45 to a single thing, a large part of the brand’s success can be filed under a constant drive to innovate.
And it's not just technological innovation—although F45 specializes in that, too. The F45 Training product was largely born out of a need to innovate across its business model. Luke Armstrong, F45's Global Head of Sales, recalls F45's beginnings:
“We saw a seismic shift happening in the industry with the rise of boutique fitness and we identified a gap. When you move beyond a traditional big-box, cookie-cutter approach to fitness, your running costs often increase as well. With more personalization and service comes the need to upskill staff, relook training methodology and programming, and often spend more money on specialized equipment, too.”
There was a gap in the market, but other start-ups couldn’t get the model 100% right—especially because a young business’ first few months balancing running costs and revenue are vital. The spartan beginnings of F45 created a necessity to innovate, both in terms of the first studio’s training system as well as how the business itself was run.
“We were working with very few resources, operating out of a 2,000 square foot room in a run-down tennis complex that was quite hard to get to,” continued Armstrong. “We didn’t have a lot of money for equipment, so we had to get innovative and really break the mold in terms of how we would plan and deliver our workouts.”
Innovative training—innovative franchising.
It was an approach born out of necessity, one that really provided the genesis of F45’s approach to training as well its unique franchise system: “The other side of F45 is our business model, which also doesn’t rely on a lot of resources. You don’t need large floor spaces, loads of equipment or an army of staff. It’s what’s fueled F45’s global boom and we’re finding that the more accessible we make our product, the faster our network grows.”
As with many success stories, sometimes being in the right place at the right time helps. One of the aspects of the F45 experience that's clear from the moment you first walk into a studio is a real sense of community.
With the advent of social media and the global rise of an influencer-led approach to marketing, Armstrong says that it’s community that helps retain members and encourage word of mouth advertising: “F45 studios typically have about 200-300 members, training in teams of around 27. It’s inevitable that there’ll be some sort of social interaction; members will get one-on-one attention from coaches and know most of their teammates on a first-name basis. In a world where we’re often more connected via technology than in a physical space or meaningful activity, it gives people something that’s sometimes missing from their normal day-to-day and, ironically, makes them more likely to share their experiences in the digital space as well.”
A real human truth is that we’re genetically wired to share our success and what we love—this goes for F45 members and franchisees, both of whom often make the best ambassadors for the brand. The modern world of social media marketing is perfectly suited for the F45 Training product.
Embracing technology and change.
Of course, the use of tech is also part of F45’s commitment to innovation. From wearable tech and in-studio screens to training apps and cutting-edge social media content, technology adds to the F45 member experience at every possible touchpoint.
Armstrong explains, “Our approach is to embrace change rather than fear it. This applies to the use of technology as well as training—we draw on different modalities and ways of thinking, which means we can stay agile to changes in the industry rather than being set in our ways.”
Technology has also helped the business grow without compromising quality or watering down that precious member experience. While the use of in-studio technology helps ensure a consistent, high-quality training experience, the F45 global network makes it easy for franchisees to stay in touch with HQ and one other. This makes sharing learnings and experiences easy, and also means constant support for franchisees. New marketing material, social media content, industry news, innovations and market insights can all be shared with a click, making life much easier for studio owners and staff.
“Making technology work for us has meant that we can scale efficiently,” said Armstrong. “We’re not a big, bloated corporate structure and those high boutique levels of service and personal care are vital for members and franchisees.”
Using influencers to create awareness and brand affinity is a hot topic at the moment. Many brands are scrambling to align themselves with people who have large and loyal fan bases and social followings. For this method to be effective, though, brands must choose influencers based on relevance and alignment with their values and vision, instead of just numbers and reach.
Some big news for F45 Training was Mark Wahlberg coming on board as an investor and partner in early 2019. “Mark’s first contact with F45 was as a customer,” said Armstrong. “He saw the value of what we were doing and, as an astute businessman, realized the potential of our product and brand.”
“Mark shares our passion for fitness and continual improvement, and it’s because of these shared values that the partnership really makes sense."
It’s a relationship that reflects F45’s commitment to innovation and maximizing the value the business gets from its influencer relationships, rather than simply chasing numbers and likes.
Where to next?
F45’s success in established markets speaks for itself, but its ability to enter emerging territories is something that really excites Armstrong: “By staying agile and open to opportunity, we’ve had great success across emerging markets. China, India and the Middle East are key focus areas for us and proof that our approach works across different and diverse cultures.”
“New markets and new products are big for us going forward,” continued Armstrong. “In addition to targeting emerging countries, we’ve launched our own sneaker range with APL, will soon be moving into nutrition and sports supplements, as well as looking at new opportunities in already established markets.”
“Corporate-based studios, a dedicated product for colleges, and even expansion into the hotel industry are all a go,” said Armstrong. “F45 will continue to get there first and push to do our best.” Something that really excites Armstrong is a new platform for F45’s trainers, one that will “help coaches connect with each other and set their own challenges for the global F45 community. In addition to empowering coaches, the platform will drive customer loyalty and offer members meaningful rewards both in-studio and through F45’s lifestyle partners.”
It’s very much a case of onwards and upwards for F45, and you can be sure that the rest of the industry is dying to see where the business will innovate next.