Twelve months ago, and most definitely before COVID-19, Fitness Australia launched its new strategic direction at the Sydney Filex event with universal support.
‘Getting more Australians more active more often’ is designed to complement, support and piggyback on the Australian government’s commitment to the WHO international Global Action Plan on Physical Activity (GAPPA).
Since the launch of GAPPA in November 2018, most state governments have developed their own programs that reinforce the national objective of getting 15% more Australians (or 3,750,000 individuals) more active by 2030. While the federal government has redefined the role of Sports Australia to support getting more people active and the Queensland Government has indicated its intention to bid for the 2032 Olympic Games.
All these initiatives demonstrate a coherent and long-term strategy and create the environment to get more of us off our backsides; surely an objective all Fitness Australia members support.
Fitness Australia’s strategy is supporting these national initiatives for a number of strategic reasons
- Over the past decade we have let other organisations intrude on our territory at our expense. This has resulted in these organisations getting more media and community engagement and increased influence in government policy and funding decisions.
- As a direct consequence of this development, through feedback I have received, the fitness sector is carrying an associated perception, at key stakeholder level, of our sector being based on old and quite negative stereotypes. A situation that has compounded our self-created marginalisation
- Gym business models have evolved significantly from traditional bricks and mortar facilities to include outdoor programs attracting clients that would, in the past, never have considered joining a structured exercise program due to their personal and/or perceived “barriers to entry” as outlined in my point above
- The fitness sector to some degree over recent times has been overtaken by the health and wellness movement with some sections of our industry struggling to adapt to new service and product offerings and business models
- Assuming the GAPPA related campaigns are successful, and using a nominal figure of 20% of Australians holding a gym membership, there will be potentially 750,000 more “active” Australians that may well consider a gym membership
- If we can successfully reposition the fitness sector within the mainstream community, in line with GAPPA, we will also potentially increase the 20% of Australians who join gyms and/or use Personal Trainers. We will be able to “grow the pie” that has remained stuck at a 20% market penetration for some time.
This new strategy and more recent high-profile advocacy campaign have resulted in quantifiable results including:
- As referenced in my earlier letter, the importance of “exercise” being high on the minds and lips of our most senior politicians and health professionals during COVID-19
- Significantly increased media coverage on member related concerns
- Importantly, our current discussions with the federal government exploring how Fitness Australia can support the implementation of GAPPA objectives
- Strong and important engagement with relevant state-based health departments discussing how we can work together to enable gyms to open sooner rather than later; albeit possibly initially with smaller groups with enhanced health and hygiene protocols
- A record number of new businesses joining Fitness Australia and re-engagement with members who have been justifiably critical of our past efforts.
Our strategy and COVID-19 – the ‘Keep on Moving’ Community Awareness Campaign
Most Australians are now experiencing severe restrictions on their personal movements with many having to practice physical isolation in their homes/back gardens as well as strict social distancing measured outdoors.
Several state entities have reached out to Fitness Australia seeking our support in providing home based exercise activities for parents and children; this is an opportunity for our sector to demonstrate our value to both government authorities and the wider Australian community – well beyond those who are currently gym members.
As with the rest of the community and economy, COVID-19 has thrown the fitness world upside down with all of us constantly struggling to re-adjust to ever changing parameters.
One thing my business studies and professional experience has demonstrated is that when an established supplier/ buyer relationship is fractured, a percentage of buyers will not reengage with the supplier. This means that most of our members will experience a reduced number of clients post Covid-19.
What this translates to will depend of a number of circumstances, some of which will be unique to individual members, but a key strategy behind launching the Keep on Moving Community Awareness Campaign now is to generate both an increased interest in exercise and engage a larger pool of potential new gym users that will hopefully go some way to making up any shortfall in existing client numbers.
Most members have welcomed the Keep on Moving initiative, but some have responded that the campaign is favouring one aspect of our member base over another. We are continuing to address these concerns by adding new elements to the initiative daily – including the ability for interested members and gyms to link their programs on the Keep on Moving website. Please keep your constructive feedback coming.
I believe the fitness sector will adapt and operate in unimagined new ways post COVID-19. I also firmly believe how we, as an Association and industry, respond to the current circumstances will determine how we are perceived by both decision and policy makers and the wider community in the future.
This is a time for the sector to be united, strong and credible.
Chief Executive Officer, Fitness Australia