Why Fitness Brands Thrive on Instagram & Who Is Kicking Butt, Literally

People are emerging from hibernation as the days get longer and swimsuit season comes into full swing. Guys and gals swap sweatpants for shorts and choose the 5 p.m. Bodypump class over the a Happy Hour Margarita, all in prep for string bikini’s, washboard abs and selfies on the beach. With the amplified stress on self-improvement, consumers are increasingly looking to social media – fitness brands, bloggers and trainers – for #FITspiration and support.

Thanks to Instagram, our fitness trainers are now at our fingertips. What began as a simple photo sharing app is now a global community with 300 million monthly active users and 70 million photos and videos uploaded daily. Since consumers yearn for visual proof that they too can transform into the person they want to be, fitness brands on social media are capitalizing on this unique opportunity more than ever before – to give individuals the emotional pick-me-up, boost of confidence and precise tools they need to get the body they always dreamed of. We’re laying out the red carpet for the top fitness brands kicking the most Instagram butt.

Drum role please…


Instagram Handle: @CrossFit

Much like in the real world, CrossFit has built a cultish fan base and taken the fitness world – and Instagram – by storm. We’ll bet that after one peek at the brand’s feed, you’ll be in complete awe of the strength and ability of the athletes photographed.

Why CrossFit is kicking butt at Instagram:

  • Photography: the power is in the photo. With little to no catchy captions, CrossFit is able to capture strength, perseverance & dedication at its finest.
  • Community: Plain and simple, onlookers want to be as toned and bad-a** as the fit folks shown in CrossFit’s images. How the brand portrays the sport and its benefits has undoubtedly built an unwavering community. Many people have said CrossFit saved their life and given them a haven for health and support. CrossFit’s Instagram platform accomplishes this reality, too.
  • Empowerment: An expert would say a reach nearing 1 million followers and a high engagement rate is the only proof needed to surmise that this brand’s community manager is doing something right. But, we say that the true testament to this brand’s successful content strategy is in the fan’s passion to not only want to be part of this “cool kids club,” but to be a better version of themselves.


Instagram Handle: @Athleta

This chic, eco-friendly, performance-driven active wear brand prides itself on #FuelingAmazing for women across the globe. Mission accomplished, Athleta. We don’t know about you, but we feel revived, energized and ready to tackle the world after sifting through this brand’s beautiful, dream-like photography. From behind-the-scenes shots at exotic photoshoots to yoga-poses under the sunset atop the world’s most renowned mountains, Athleta’s imagery reignites our heart’s desire to live a little better.

Why Athleta is kicking butt at Instagram:

  • Background: Athleta beautifully conquers simple backgrounds that complement the subject, adding to rather than detracting from the overall emotional feel and story of the photo.
  • Placement: The majority of Athleta’s photos position the subject off-center, achieving visual balance with other balancing elements, including areas of contrasting colour or light.This tactic simplifies the picture and gives aesthetic power to the subject.
  • Sense of Movement: Athleta’s imagery gives the subject space to move forward or backward, infusing a strong sense of movement – crucial for running-, jogging- or other motion-packed scenes.
  • Contests: Athleta builds community by challenging its following to share their own fitness-focused photos and stories via the branded hashtag #FuelingAmazing for the chance to win gear and apparel.
  • User-Generated Content (UGC): By using one hashtag, the brand is able to utilize UGC to extend brand awareness, enhance credibility and build curiosity among potential followers (and customers). This content is then sprinkled into the brand’s existing feed, giving big props to its fans for their hard work and simultaneously sending the message that Athleta truly values the health and life journey of its fans.

To Athleta: Your Instagram feed most definitely gives your tagline “power to the she” integrity. You give IGer’s power and permission to embrace their true selves and find what makes them happy, in life and in fitness.

Nike Women

Instagram Handle:

Nike Women’s Instagram feed awakens the athlete in all of us. Each photograph – whether running, jumping, punching, kicking or just plain winning – showcases strong women in style. Whether it’s the confidence, sweat and muscles or sheer athletic fashion these women ooze in every picture, there’s no denying that this brand’s Instagram feed seamlessly works together to light a fire within and make us all want to tie our running shoes, immediately.

Why Nike Women is kicking butt at Instagram:

  • Product Placement: It superimposes its product in a way that does not overpower the experience a consumer will receive while in the product.
  • Tangible Women: The brand’s content highlights attainable women with no makeup, working hard for their health. That’s sexy and empowering, and gives hope to the everyday gal. Simultaneously, this strategy also lends itself well to building credibility and trust in the brand. It’s a win – win for both parties.
  • Striking Photography: The brand’s content incorporates bright colors and simple backgrounds, making each photo eye-catching, engaging and straight to the point. The user can tell the experience they will receive by using Nike, right off the bat.
  • Multi-Faceted Content: Nike Women perfectly balances aspirational content, emotion-driven content and product-focused content. When aspiring to be fitter, happier, better, it can be an emotional roller coaster. This brand capitalizes on these emotions and fills the void for its female followers.


Instagram Handle: @Fabletics

Fabletics is a chic, yet performance-driven athletic wear brand, founded by the one-and-only Kate Hudson. Whether it’s Hudson’s status as Tinsel Town’s finest, her wash-board abs or the super “on fleek” twist to the average performance wear, this brand, launched only 2 years ago, is doing big things on and off Instagram.

Why Fabletics is kicking butt on Instagram:

  • High-Profile Influencer: The brand takes advantage [in a good way] of Kate Hudson’s highly-known, incredibly fit and respectable likeness, plastering it across Instagram. We all love us some Kate – or more so looking at Kate – so it’s a smart marketing move.
  • Blend of Product + Experience: Fabletics Instagram achieves two objectives at once: 1) conveying product quality, variety and function and 2) portrays the feeling, experience and result you will receive in the product. Through imagery, the brand is magically able to give women confidence to find their best selves through its affordable, yet fashionable active wear. Frequently showcasing creative and stylish mix and match options for a low cost, helps too.
  • Motivational Content: Health and fitness are tough goals to achieve and gals have to work hard at it every single day. Fabletics knows its audience and thus offers inspirational quotes and imagery to reignite the passion and dedication needed to keep its fans going – physically, mentally and spiritually.
  • Branding: Fabletics places branding in inconspicuous places, not to overpower the story the image is telling.
  • Promotional Contests and Giveaways: Fabletics knows its consumers well and knows the way to their hearts is through free product. And it works. The brands latest Instagram contests, “Regram to Wear it” and “What Makes you Fearless?” challenged users to produce content with a hashtag associated with the contest (like #FableticsGlam) for a chance to win free outfits and Fabletics dollars. This social approach is genius – the brand is using its consumers for promotion, thus extending its reach far more than the brand could do themselves, and then rewarding them for it. We all know that a brand’s most powerful marketing tool is word-of-mouth from the people it has already won over. This is half a testament to product quality and half to the brand’s super successful social stratagem.

Under Armour Women

Instagram Handle:

If photos of Gisele throwing punches doesn’t get you off the couch, other empowering images of fierce women kicking butt might. The brand captures strength in a beautiful way, in every discipline – from ballet to boxing – urging its viewers to pursue their dreams through the brand’s motivating “I Will What I Want” campaign. If there was ever a moment where you felt insecure, nervous about an upcoming race or simply not your best self, take one look at @UnderArmourWomen’s (UAW) Instagram and you’ll receive the emotional pick-me-up needed to snap out of it.

Why Under Armour Women is kicking butt on Instagram:

  • Athlete Activation: Under Armour women utilizes pro athletes as brand ambassadors – including well-known ballet dancer Misty Copeland, pro surfer Brianna Cope and Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn, among many others – to not only enhance brand credibility, but to honor strong, independent confident women. After all, that’s the brand mission: to give women across the globe confidence in themselves to go for what they want.
  • Fan Participation: The brand’s strategy is centered on fan activation. UAW continuously asks consumers to not only converse with the brand, but to actively participate. This approach gives incentive for followers to check back in with the brand and also gives the company an extension of brand awareness and loyalty it might not otherwise have.
  • Real-Life Content: UAW’s content portrays what the average female viewer wants to see: real women with real bodies that she can relate to. The images that support the “I Will What I Want” empowerment movement speak individually to each fan, convincing them really can achieve anything they want to since obviously the women in these photos have, too.

New Balance

Instagram Handle: @NewBalance

The state-of-the-art athletic shoe and apparel company known as New Balance sets out to aid athletes in their pursuit of excellence while giving them top-notch performance, function and style. We would all agree that it’s one thing for a brand to accomplish this through the manufacturing of a product, but it’s another to succeed in an Instagram visual. After one look at the brand’s feed, we guarantee a consumer will be convinced that New Balance really does inspire both the fitness newbie and amateur to run a little faster and live a little more – in shape and in style.

Why New Balance is kicking butt on Instagram:

  • Hashtag Branding: New Balance often asks consumers to tag their sweaty selfies and workout shots with #seeonmyrun for a chance to be featured on their feed.By inserting themselves in user’s content, the brand is furthering its exposure, credibility, loyalty and network, nurturing and growing a community of active individuals that ultimately serves two purposes: a support system for runners and a sales tool for the company. A win / win for all.
  • Experience-Driven Content: The most successful content delivers an experience for the viewer. By encouraging runners to capture what they see on their daily runs – sometimes across the globe – it allows the user to not only live vicariously through the photo, but also to feel the endorphin-infused, high-on-life emotion that the subject is experiencing within the image.
  • Eye-Catching Photography: Bright colors, three-dimensional depth, sense of motion, engaging backgrounds, vibrant filters – New Balance utilizes every photography must-do to create “thumb-stopping” imagery.
  • User-Generated: The brand allows followers to control the content. This strategy allows the consumer bragging rights, but without the ego. And who doesn’t like a pat on the back? New Balance is able to give this extra boost to its consumers through Instagram. This content approach also succeeds because the IGer will always receive content likely to resonate with them as it’s through the eyes of real people, not the brand.

Lululemon Athletica

Instagram Handle: @Lululemon

Lululemon makes both fitness and life fun. From its pictures of hip yoga- and running-inspired apparel, exotic destinations and much more, the brand’s Instagram is full of life – a hub if you will – for those that treasure a happy and healthy lifestyle. The content strategy behind the entire portfolio of Lululemon’s social platforms is to inspire, engage and challenge its audience to embrace this one authentic life and self we’ve been given. We’d say they’ve succeeded with flying colors.

Why Lululemon’s Instagram is kicking butt:

  • Relationship-building: Just like Lululemon does with its brick-and-mortar stores, the brand’s Instagram forms a hub for health that is way more than just the product.
  • Bridging the gap – online & offline: Through the execution of its community ambassador program, brand advocates are urged to leverage in-person events and digital tools to cultivate a community, one that seamlessly connects its consumers, the brand and an active, balanced lifestyle.
  • Branded Hashtags: Lululemon challenged followers to tag their workout photos on Instagram with the hashag #thesweatlife, which generated more than 68,000 posts from their community. Leveraging a branded hashtag is a win-win for both parties: Lululemon maximized its brand exposure to current and potential customers and strengthened its Instagram community, while Instagrammer’s benefited from the prestige and follower increase.

Thank you Lululemon. Because of your Instagram, we will be more present, grateful and full-of-gumption as we attack each new day.

Learning from Fitness Brands on Instagram

It has now been proven, brands that push a feel-good message have a real reason for doing so: it drives sales. According to a study by the Havas Media Group, GSK and Ipsos, there is a growing bottom line awaiting for companies that are seen as drastically improving a customer’s quality of life.

That means that health and fitness brands have an enormous business opportunity, and we all know that social media – Instagram included – is one of the most influential driving forces for sales today. All we can say is that wellness brands should be exploiting this photo sharing platform to visually prove to the current and potential customer pool that they can and will make life exponentially better.

Are you a fitness brand wanting to excel at Instagram? Take our advice and start snapping photos!

  • Successful Instagram accounts start with good content (often user generated). If you are posting with sales in mind, your marketing will fail miserably. Make sure your content is authentic and genuinely offering value to your users – providing help and support. Make it about your followers, not you.
  • Create a network. When setting out on a fitness journey, users reach out through social media for support. Be the consumer’s support system by giving engaging and informative material consumers can participate in and then apply to their daily lives.
  • Dedicate budget to photography. Instagram is 100% visual, so your brand has to be able to tell your story through powerful imagery. This imagery will set you apart from other fitness brands trying to do the same thing: INSPIRE. Your Instagram feed needs to be the epitome of what fitness-minded people strive for.

That’s a wrap folks. Now let’s go pump some iron.

Related Posts

No Comments

Post A Comment