How Body Fit Training is building a strong global brand

How principles and clear brand strategy are helping this latest Aussie fitness business scale locally and internationally

Australia’s gym and fitness industry took a hammering in 2020, with IBISWorld estimating social distancing and forced closures wiped out five years of strong growth.

But despite the challenges, two-and-a-half-year-old Body Fit Training is on track to achieve three major milestones in the coming months.

According to joint CEO, Richard Burnet, the business will soon open its 100th studio and sign its 20,000th member. It has agreements in place to open at least another 100 locations this year.

“We know we are the fastest growing fitness franchise in Australia, but I was recently told we are the fastest growing retailer as well in terms of physical outlets in Australia,” Burnet tells CMO.

That growth has come of the back of a number of principles Burnet and joint CEO, Cameron Falloon, instilled in the business when it was launched in April 2018.

“We knew the brand wasn’t going to succeed unless three key stakeholders were successful - the member, the franchisee, and us as the franchisor,” Burnet says. “So we thought about the values could we instil across all three of those stakeholders. The word we came up with was fairness. And we have lived by being fair in everything we do from that moment on.”

That includes providing generous territories to franchisees with marketing co-investment of up to $10,000 for the launch of each new site. Burnet says one key indicator of the success of a franchise is the number of members signed up on its first day, so Body Fit Training works closely with each franchisee to tailor a specific marketing strategy.

“They are the ones who are local and understand their target market in that area better than anyone,” Burnett says. “We hold their hand throughout the process to make sure they are provided with the right support.”

The matched funding Body Fit Training provides is invested in a six-to-eight-week social campaign executed by Functional Digital.

“They run global data-driven conversion rate optimisation across out network, which pushes the studio ad spend towards the highest performing creative for their local market,” Burnet says. “They can get the benefit of all of our openings to understand what is going to work well in a local market, and apply that in the way that is going to best attract our target demographic.”

The company also adopted the tagline ‘different, better’, which Burnet says is a deliberate provocation. “People will either buy into that we are different and better and believe it, or if they don’t, we want them to challenge us to justify it,” he says.

One key difference is Body Fit Training has created programs geared towards strength rather than just fitness and weight loss, catching on to a trend towards celebrating stronger bodies often now described as being ‘thick’.

Rich BurnetCredit: Body Fit
Rich Burnet


Burnet says this has proven especially attractive for women, who make up 60 per cent of Body Fit Training’s membership. He thanks public figures such as mixed martial artist, Rhonda Rousey, and tennis ace, Serena Williams, for helping promote the popularity of muscular female bodies, with Williams describing herself as being proud of her ‘thick’ look.

“When you look at the influences coming from the US, increasingly we see it is not just about looking skinny,” Burnet says. “This has resonated well in Australia and New Zealand, and it is getting some traction in Singapore.

“We have hit a real sweet spot where we have opportunities for people to get strong at the same time as having a great sweat session and focused on weight loss. There is a global trend happening before our eyes that people, and particularly women, want to be strong.”

The strength-focused program has also proven appealing to former professional athletes, many of whom have signed up as franchisees, including AFL footballers, Nick Riewoldt, Zach Merrett and Dyson Heppell, and Australian Cricket captain, Tim Paine, who is opening eight studios.

“It is not only ex-AFL footballers who are interested now but also netballers and NRL players,” Burnet says.

Building the next great sporting brand globally

For Burnett, his role in growing Body Fit Training follows roles in sales and marketing in the oil and gas industry in the United States. But it was his love of sport that saw him return to Australia more than a decade ago to work with the AFL clubs Essendon and GWS.

Now he is hoping to build the next great Australian sporting brand. Burnet says Body Fit Training is planning to open between 15 to 30 sites in New Zealand this year, with another 15 to 20 scheduled to open in Singapore. The company is also expanding in the US, with two locations already established in Santa Monica and Fort Lauderdale.

“Once we open a few more we are really confident that the trajectory will be very fast, just like it was in Australia,” Burnet says. “But America is a different beast, so we won’t be shy about running a paid advertising campaign through social media to drive awareness there is a new hot fitness offering from Australia coming to the US shores.

“We’ve got some plans in place to be able to sell and support franchisees from without us having to expand there in the short term. So we think we are positioned well to become a global brand in the not-too-distant future.”

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