Cult fitness brand SoulCycle confirmed it was going public after making $110 million in revenue in 2014. Beyond just a fitness class, SoulCycle represents a trend towards gym-goers seeking community and being part of an aspirational brand. The public filing calls the experience “tribal” and instructors have called it “a lifestyle.” For attendees, it’s “addictive” and “competitive”.
Soulcycle’s success – 50% YOY growth in 2014 – shows maintaining communities of loyal fans is key to winning in a saturated Sportswear market. Nike and Under Armour have also tapped into the trend, as evidenced by their race to grow fans and users of their app. Historically, Nike has been the leader with Nike+ apps across all platforms, which collectively have tens of millions of followers. Under Armour has taken the acquisition route and is investing aggressively. In February 2015, it purchased MyFitnessPal and Endomondo (80 million and 20 million users respectively) for a combined $560 million. Under Armour now claims the largest digital health and fitness community around the globe.
It’s not just the leading brands that are investing in creating a community of fitness fanatics. As evidenced in the graph from L2’s 2015 Digital IQ Index: Sportswear, 19% of Sportswear brand apps have a fitness training element and 23% are integrated with wearable tech. Brands that don’t have the app audience or technical capabilites of mobile fitness communities have leveraged social platforms to build a following: L.L. Bean, for example, has created a Facebook-integrated app Base Camp to enable sharing and commenting on user photos through Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.