Gym Freak: Why the fitness industry acts like you don’t exist…
It’s an absolute yawnfest, it really is. What’s more, it’s inaccurate…so inaccurate it’s laughable. By Kiesha Meikle
What am I talking about?
Well, you’ve see them so many times before they have become almost invisible in their predictability. They’re the promotional photos of staged ‘gym goers’ which grace almost every gym website, poster and pamphlet. They include the exact same formula: slim + young + perfectly groomed, wearing lycra and either running on treadmills or using weight machines.
Anyone who has ever been to the gym will know that this is as far from the truth as you can get.
Or is it just me? Every single time I have been to the gym, there has been a mix of ages, races and most importantly shapes and sizes – quite often looking sweaty and rough AF. It makes sense, people often go to the gym to shape up and lose weight, or to simply improve their health / fitness levels. This means that there will always be a mix of people at various stages of this journey.
People who don’t fit the aesthetic are nowhere to be found when it comes to fitness marketing and advertising campaigns
It’s an overused marketing ploy – but what’s worse, it’s not even a very good one:
‘Come on, don’t you wish you were skinny and could wear lycra too???’ ‘Yes, we want your money, but you are far too fat and old to be featured on our poster’. Gross.
This can be really off putting to first time gym goers who don’t ‘fit the mold’ and its not the type of disruptive marketing that people pay attention to anyway. It’s simply outdated.
Oh and it’s not just the gym, it’s almost every fitness brand.
I recently saw an announcement from blogger and author Gracie Francesca. I have been following her for a while for her uncensored female friendly Youtube chats and her body positive Instagram posts. The announcement said:
😩👀😊 So excited to announce that I am partnering with @NikeWomen longterm, representing their Nike Plus Collections. I will be sharing content over the next few months about movement, fitness and my thoughts around it. Paying close attention to the connection between exercise, mental health and body image. I am SO SO proud of this collaboration and I’m looking forward to sharing with you all, a different narrative to exercise 😌✨
I couldn’t help but respond with a resounding ‘yippee!’ because the narrative really does need refreshing.
The fitness industry has been so slow to catch up when it comes to diversity (FYI: Having a few ethnic minorities in the background of your ad does not a diverse campaign make). Gracie is a ‘plus sized’ woman of colour, working with a fitness brand and I cannot recall ever seeing this before. ( Note: Gracie previously featured in a Nike campaign and got trolled mercilessly by people who thought the brand were promoting an unhealthy body type by working with her – see a pattern forming here?)
Having a few ethnic minorities in the background of your ad does not a diverse campaign make
Where are all the women and men who are over a size 12? Where are the disabled gym goers? Where are the over 70’s? They are invisible. As far as these brands and their agencies are concerned they don’t exist. Yet, there they are at the gym whenever I visit, sweating it out like everyone else, wearing branded fitness gear like everyone else, trying to get fit like everyone else.