Out of Crisis, Online Fitness Rises

Planet Fitness to Downward Dog, Zumba to Body Beach, Mirror to Peloton…The world of online fitness has exploded to new levels that no one could have predicted before coronavirus began, and if you’re looking for a disruptive niche to look back on and find a positive tipping point a year from now, this may be it.

While sports gambling, streaming, even esports and gaming were the hot bets coming into March, it is online, personal digital fitness and all the ancillary businesses tied to it, from youth sports to seniors, that has risen to the top of the class.

Fitness brands’ moment on digital is now.”

“Fitness brands’ moment on digital is now,” says Jay Sharman, CEO of TeamWorks Media, a Chicago-based company that works with teams, leagues and properties with digital-first technology. “In a perfect storm of challenging events, the entire world is thirsting for positive content in a way that is reconfiguring when, how, how often and what we can consume. Those that embrace this, exert an experimental attitude and most importantly use digital as a way to ask their customers what they want, have the opportunity to emerge from this as powerful businesses.”

One of those companies that has exploited a niche even further is Famer, a New York-based platform that uses Israeli technology to create interactive workout experiences for youth sports programs. Perfect at a time when coaches and teams are on the sidelines.

An example of coach interface on the Famer app

Famer has doubled its users almost every day in the past few weeks.

Famer, which had about 5,000 engaged users just a few weeks ago in sports like lacrosse, soccer and baseball/softball has doubled its users almost every day in the past few weeks, with large organizations like Little League now looking to create partnerships as the spring gets going and kids, and parents need to stay active in a marketplace that is in the millions.

Their mobile, cloud-based platform enables team and personal training programs to give custom, interactive feedback with athletes and their coaches/club. At the same time it also creates a revenue source for coaches who are sidelined and out of work. Whereas adult programs are scrambling for top-flight trainers to run classes, Famer has a massive, engaged group of youth coaches to choose from as well.

“We’re working with groups to start offering things for free to kids to keep them moving,” founder Rich Abend tells TMR. “Mostly around sports–skills, drills, moves–but we’re also going to incorporate just fitness and active lifestyle stuff. That’s not our focus, but with kids stuck in their room or in their houses, or if they’re lucky enough to have a backyard or a driveway, we’re really trying to understand the moment.”

Also understanding the moment are professional sports, who have no shortage of elite athletes and trainers also sidelined due to the unrest caused by COVID-19.

Will we also see some of these athletes and world-class instructors entering the workout fray as well?

One of the first to do so is the AVP, who will have athletes and trainers hosting daily workouts on Facebook Live and AVP.com with the likes of stars like April Ross and Casey Patterson.

It’s a great start. Will we have Mike Trout and LeBron James workouts coming live–and even sponsored–to our laptops and devices soon as well?

We are in a world of disruption where social distancing is key, and those who can figure out the best way to master the digital space not just for now, but for the future will be the winners coming out of this.”

“We are in a world of disruption where social distancing is key, and those who can figure out the best way to master the digital space not just for now, but for the future will be the winners coming out of this,” adds Chris Lencheski, a longtime sports marketing executive now with Granite Bridge Partners and Winning Streak Sports. “We are going to be able to stay mentally and physically active in our own space, and the fitness industry seems to be figuring this out faster than many.”

While there are many unknowns in the mix, what does the future hold for the gym industry? Will people pay for these services when they are currently getting classes for free? And will kids stay engaged if they just have a sibling or parent to work out with versus a team and a coach?

It is clear that one of the first movers to improve their position with a mass audience is the online training space. If successful, it can open doors in streaming, product placement and exercise for an audience already thought to be too sedentary.

Out of crisis comes opportunity, and online fitness seems to be seizing it.