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The burgeoning fitness trend in India is not just about good-looking bodies or even healthier lifestyles but carries with it, a wealth of symbolic representations. With the mushrooming of fitness centres, both local and international gym brands have come into the limelight. This surge is also visible in the content-driven marketing strategies they employ. 

Gym culture globally, and in India, leans heavily on visual symbols of muscular bodies, sleek equipment, and sweat. Sweat is the glorified aspect of the workout as proof of dedication and effort.  Symbols like dumbbells, workout attire, and athletic silhouettes communicate strength, dedication, and transformation. They signify the transition from an 'unawakened', hence, 'unfit' life to one of vitality and vigour.

The country's fitness landscape is evolving beyond the simplistic notion of physical health and mental wellness. Fitness is now seen as a journey enriched with cultural and symbolic nuances, holding a mirror to societal aspirations, values, and evolving lifestyles.

From Yoga Mats to Gym Floors, India's tryst with fitness isn't new. Yoga, after all, is an age-old practice rooted in Indian culture. But the explosion of fitness centres and the palpable shift towards weightlifting, aerobics, and Zumba are recent phenomena. 

Let’s take a look at some local and global fitness brands that are each vying for a slice of India's burgeoning health-conscious demographic:

Cult Fit: A holistic approach to health

Cult Fit's emergence in the Indian fitness landscape marks a strategic departure from traditional gym brands. They consider themselves to be a new-age fitness brand, putting out innovative campaigns and health-focused narratives. Instead of portraying themselves as merely a place to break into a sweat, they position themselves as holistic health mentors. 

Through their podcast, “The Health Project”, Cult Fit's intention is not to be seen as just another gym but as an educator that talks about health, fitness, nutrition and lifestyle in the Indian context. The brand positions itself as genuinely caring about people’s health, urging people to understand their bodies better. Their association with the term “The Health Project” implies that achieving good health is a continuous endeavour, rather than a one-time goal.

Anytime Fitness: Freedom, choice, and surprise

Anytime Fitness has tapped into the profound cultural and emotional significance of India's Independence Day. With its campaign #FreeToBeFit, Cult Fit draws a parallel drawing a parallel between national freedom and personal fitness as liberation. Their campaign '#FreeToBeFit' also suggests that fitness is about personal choice, breaking traditional confines, and embarking on a journey marked by delightful surprises.

The campaign intends to draw viewers and passersby’s attention to themselves. The campaign follows the trope of a receptionist/clerk figure who sits at the desk, filing, putting down some data, and then there’s the sudden reveal - the receptionist removes his/her shirt and starts working out. 

They use quirky names for exercises, such as the ‘laptop-up-and-down’ exercise, ‘couch-stretching’ exercises, etc., implying that fitness can be practised anywhere and at any time. It also tells the audience that it is time to stop making excuses and start getting fit. 

The element of surprise is what draws viewers in and participants also start working out. However, the core message of the campaign is that you can work out at any time, which is not underlined enough. The purpose of any campaign should be to make you recall the brand. However, one does not really remember the brand of anytime fitness after seeing this.

Krunch Fitness

Krunch Fitness ties up with influencers for various campaigns. Usually, the videos feature celebrities or eminent people who share their workout routines/regimens. The camera traces their journey, as they work out in Krunch Fitness centres and later talk about their routine, which includes everything from their diet to their meal plan, etc.

The celebrities in these stories, however, are not limited to athletes or film stars. While Krunch Fitness does have a video featuring Sherlyn Chopra, it also showcases the transformation stories of professionals from other fields, like the eminent lawyer Kapil Madan. By doing so, they underscore a crucial message: fitness is not the prerogative of a select few; everyone can embark on this transformative journey.

Fitness Influencers

We cannot complete this article without mentioning fitness influencers. Fitness influencers, much like fitness as a whole, are on the rise in India. 

They think, live and breathe health and fitness. To many, they are living proof that consistent hard work, dedication, and passion can change one's life physically, mentally, and even socially. Millions of people follow their posts, stories and updates as daily doses of motivation.

Bani J

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A post shared by Bani J (@banij)

Bani J with her tattoos and strong physique, defies the traditional stereotypes of Indian women, something which has been very well documented by various news articles and websites. However, people can often overlook the obvious. Her entire persona is built on being a fitness enthusiast. As an influencer, this does open multiple avenues for her. In the above case, she partners with Monster Energy for their drink, Monster Energy Ultra.

Sunaina Setia

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A post shared by Sunaina Setia (@sunaina_setia)

Sunaina Setia also a fitness influencer. She collaborates with brands like Odds Fitness and posts her fitness routines. By regularly posting, Sunaina positions herself as consistent, thereby implying that workout also needs consistency.

Fitness influencers do significantly contribute to the growth story of fitness in India, by making it a cultural trend. And while they may not be tying up with big brands, their collaboration with small-time players provides a great opportunity for fitness brands to further explore this space.

Actionable Insights

While Indian gyms imbibe international best practices and aesthetics, including English brand names and global fitness trends like Crossfit, they also embrace indigenous values. For many, the gym has become more than just a place to get fit. It's an emblem of modernity, sophistication, and even a certain socio-economic stature.

This synthesis is a clear reflection of India’s demographic – a young, global citizen who is deeply rooted in local values. Brands understand this. It's evident in their nuanced marketing strategies and collaborations.

The synthesis is not a mere fad but a sustained movement towards holistic well-being. As more Indians gravitate towards fitness, brands will need to evolve, ensuring that their narratives remain relevant, resonant, and deeply connected to the cultural pulse of the nation.

In conclusion, India's contemporary gym culture, driven by pioneering brands and fitness influencers, is a growth story. Unlike what happens in many categories, where big brands are dominant, small brands can also collaborate with fitness influencers.  It provides a good avenue as, while they may be small compared to big celebrities or influencers, the audience of these influencers is also quite loyal and devoted to them in terms of following.