Nice sweat on Instagram

The muscles are not overlooked. At the light blue booth of a protein shake maker, Sophia Thiel tightens her biceps proudly – as a large wall figure, because the influencer with 1.3 million Instagram followers is sick and not on location. At the neighboring booth at the Cologne fitness fair Fibo there are pink competition products to be seen, there are some internet stars romping bodily. Florian Buchholz aka “flow_bu”, so his Instagram shortcut, stands there and shows his strong upper arms in a sleeveless shirt. Buchholz, Thiel and all the other influencers have one thing in common: they are known above all to young people – and are becoming increasingly important for marketing.

Influencers make the fitness industry booming

In their video clips on the net, influencers give tips on nutrition or the right training – it explains, for example, how the sports bag is best packed and how women look well made up while sweating. And above all, the influencers are enthusiastic about the training and the products they advertise, as well as fitness products, cosmetics, razors and sports clothes. With this advertising they make their contribution to the boom in the fitness industry – how big that is, but is controversial.


The only thing is clear: the fitness industry is booming. 11.3 million people in Germany are members of a studio, and every year there are about half a million more. The annual turnover of the plants rose in 2018 by 2.5 percent to 5.3 billion euros, as an industry survey found.

The reason for the increase, the experts agree, is the trend towards a healthier life. In addition, the industry sees itself better positioned than before due to high investments. Not only operators like McFit, Clever Fit, Holmes Place, Fitness First and Just Fit benefit from the higher demand. Producers of nutritional products, which can be bought in the studios and in retail, are also taking part in this wave of success.

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Fitness as a status symbol

A young audience comes into focus, especially teenagers. They are internet-aware and also orient themselves to influencers. If you can see them on the net when sweating, this could be an impulse to leave the home sofa and go out for sports – whether in the park or in a studio, so the logic. Overall, the industry is clearly moving in the direction of the young target group, says Ingo Froböse of the Sport University Cologne. “Training or fitness is there a status symbol, Instagram is playing a huge role.”

Joost van Treeck of the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences confirms that influencers have more credibility with their supporters than classical advertising figures when they staged “a kind of live soap” on Instagram or Youtube. “The followers appear to participate in the life of the influencer as in the life of a friend.” Thus they are receptive to the advertising messages than usual.

So, if an influencer gushes about a product, the chances are high that his follower will adopt that attitude – if he did not do so, it would lead to cognitive tension and mental distance to the influencer, the business psychologist explains. However, the fans wanted to avoid such a distance. Influencers are now a fixture in the marketing mix.

Influencers encourage the desire to do something for one’s own health and appearance

Reliable figures on the question of how strongly the fitness boom is driven by the network awareness, there is not. “Even before the appearance of the influencers […] the number of members in German gyms has risen,” says Alexander Wulf of the employers’ association of German fitness and health facilities (DSSV). Influencers have limited influence, but: “They encourage a desire to do something for their own health and appearance.” The fact is that chains work closely with the Internet notions – sometimes money flows, sometimes they can use the system for free and make their recordings there.

Through the internet contact with influencers you can get codes, which makes club membership cheaper. So there are numbers to prove the direct impact of the collaboration. But the information remains vague.

One won “some” new customers in this way, says a spokeswoman of the Cologne studio chain Just Fit. The company works together with around 20 influencers. Fitness First also sees the cooperation with the network stars as positive: “The topic of recommendation marketing can thus be lived in a completely new way.”

What this means is revealed when the influencer sister couple Alina and Alexandra Schulte invite to photo shoot with fans. The crowd is excited, the snake for mobile phone photos will never end. The 27-year-old Rebecca, who arrives every year from Hannover, enthuses: “Alina is so authentic.”

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