The sports and fitness market within franchising is always an area of innovation and market opportunity. The beauty of sports and fitness in general is that the market segment is timeless, gender-neutral and completely non-specific to a particular category of customer. People from all age ranges, demographics and profiles have a sports and fitness brand or franchise that fits their needs and interests. Toddlers and young children have sports and intramural activity franchises which have grown significantly in recent years while adults have specialty studio fitness service franchises. The franchise market for Sports and Fitness has been in an extreme growth mode in the recent 5 years in a wide variety of categories. There are some key drivers to this paradigm, the first being that many Sports and Fitness businesses make money.
The Fitness market has gone through a pretty significant transition to more community based models that are tight-knit and smaller in nature. They offer more personalized attention and a much closer relationship between members. One fitness franchise owner mentioned to me how closely connected their members were and how much they all interacted both in and outside of the gym. I thought about my experience with gyms and how little interaction I ever had with anyone at the facility, everyone just seemed to walk around with headphones on and not say or look at anyone else. There are some compelling statistics out there about traditional gym and fitness businesses, one being that 95% of gym memberships don’t use their membership more than one time per month. This embodies what traditional gyms had become and possibly was at the root of what caused the traditional gym business model to slow down in growth. The community based model helps keep people engaged and accountable and feeling like they want to be there so to avoid disappointing their “colleagues in fitness”. Today’s fitness brands that are seeing significant growth are community oriented, smaller in nature and fit a much different business model. They also require a much lower initial investment and don’t need the same level of operating overhead to make the model work.
Sports franchises have come into the mainstream with attention being paid to how much professional sports teams have come to be worth in today’s marketplace. It is not uncommon to see professional teams in Basketball, Football or Baseball exceed $1 Billion valuations on a regular basis. The power of a well-managed and structured franchise organization has never been more evident than that of the NFL where professional football franchises are valued at an absolute premium. More and more children-related sports franchises have also come to market and made headway in growing their networks. This trend was initially started with I-9 Sports offering an intramural league franchise concept that has grown exceedingly well and transitioned into a wide variety of other markets such as soccer, baseball, basketball, tennis and other sports categories. With today’s current scenario in youth sports where everyone is more and more competitive and needs every advantage offered to them for their particular sport, people are willing to spend to help their children advance in a sport. Hoop To Hoop is a new brand that offers basketball skills training and guidance and certainly fits this profile.
People enjoy sports and fitness, the idea of making a living while doing something that you love is at the core of what creates immediate excitement around the market segment. What makes today’s franchise models even more exciting is the good ones put forward impressive numbers and in some cases significant ROI’s for a franchise offering. What drives the good models vs. the poor sports and fitness franchises are similar to that of any other market segment; a good franchise marketing system and lead generation mechanism needs to be in place that finds customers and drives revenues. Solid operating structure with technology, documentation, manuals and franchise training platforms all need to be in place and well defined allowing new franchisees the ability to replicate a successful sports and fitness business model. The Franchisor needs to be focused, dedicated and committed to the success of the franchisees in their network. Many times, I have interacted with potential franchisees of given brands with interest the Sports and Fitness market and my guidance to them is to be diligent in reviewing the business aspects of the franchise and confirm that there is value in the system. Particularly in Sports and Fitness, it might be easy to let emotions get in the way of good business decisions. Before making an investment in a franchise, it is imperative to affirm that you are getting a good business, not just a nice lifestyle.
Christopher Conner is the President of Franchise Marketing Systems and has spent the last decade in the franchise industry working with several hundred different franchise systems in management, franchise sales and franchise development work. His experience ranges across all fields of franchise expertise with a focus in franchise marketing and franchise sales but includes work in franchise strategic planning, franchise research and franchise operations consulting.