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The Road Less Traveled Is Serving Gymshark’s Brand And Business Well

Noel Mack, the fast-growing gym apparel company’s Chief Brand Officer, purposefully ignores marketing convention as he helps drive the company’s growth.

Noel Mack will be the first to tell you his expertise is not in—and his focus is not on—traditional marketing approaches to brand building. Rather, as he and his team chart a strategic course for the gym apparel brand’s future it’s on community and culture, and as Mack told Forbes, they’re determined to “follow in the footsteps of nobody else.”

It is this commitment to finding new and different ways to build a brand and business—and the results it has led to so far—are a large part of why Noel Mack, Gymshark’s Chief Brand Officer, is among those marketing leaders recognized on this year’s Forbes Entrepreneurial CMO 50 list.

Culture Is His Compass

As cultural know-how, know-who, and know-what, have become ever more important to marketing, Mack and Gymshark, the brand he stewards, have been well served by his commitments to growth via community and cultural relevance. And while Mack is not the only marketer to talk about the necessity of moving at the “speed of culture,” he is one of fewer who admitted he capitalizes on his “unhealthy relationship with social media” to build a brand and business that is one of only two in the U.K. to have recently achieved vaunted “unicorn” status.

It is this “relationship,” which, based on the company’s trajectory has proven itself to be at least as useful as it is unhealthy, that has helped Mack ensure Gymshark’s marketing has its fingers on the proverbial (sub)cultural pulse, as well as real-time insight into what and who will break through before others do. Proof of this cultural acumen and its value is found in Mack’s leading the brand to become one of the earliest adopters of music.ly, which would soon become TikTok. Mack and Gymshark leaned into it and its targeted demographic-appeal, to better and more quickly forge authentic and contextual connections with gym lovers and goers, globally.

Convinced that building community —not just follower count—is fundamental to building a modern brand, Mack explains that as they leaned into and became part of the digitally-native gym community, “the community adopted us. It’s as though we’ve been elected to become their leader, the brand that represents them, and we’ve just been doing our best to represent them ever since.”

The Community Is True North

This highly targeted and simultaneously agile approach that’s so representative of an entrepreneurial marketer is brought to life when considering Gymshark’s social-media-driven engagement with British Olympic hopeful Dan Bramble. When Mack learned on-line that Bramble, a long-jumper, was working as an Amazon delivery driver and utilizing GoFundMe to try and get back to training for the Tokyo Games, Gymshark stepped in and funded his campaign.

Just one day later, Bramble was back in the gym, focusing on his training which Mack and the team knew he should be. And Gymshark’s embrace of Bramble and approach to giving before getting is but one example of their social and culture-first approach. One that not only resulted in tremendous press and community engagement for the brand and company but, most importantly, reinforced the brand’s place within the community—now over 10 million strong—that it so actively nurtures.

“The outpouring from not just our community, but from him, Team GB athletes, everybody, saying, see, this is why we love Gymshark,” was, for Mack, evidence that the act was a success. “I don't need attribution to tell me we made sales from that. I know people out there in the U.K. saw that and went, wow, that's a brand I should stand behind.”

Certain that all “brands need to be as clear about what they’re not as what they are,” Mack makes clear that Gymshark is not a sportswear brand but, as its name implies, a gym brand. He explains that the company’s products aren’t for mountaineering, yoga, or football. They’re designed for gym-based training and his team is relentless in focusing their brand efforts to this end. It’s an approach that runs contrary to many fitness apparel companies, who might have an ideal use case for their products, but still seek to reach as many consumers as possible with the broadest aperture as possible.

Looking forward, Mack is sure to hold fast and firm to his unabashed status-quo-rejecting approach to building a brand, even as the company—and thus perceived risk—grows. “I think more brands should be braver, and you can expect a lot of bravery from Gymshark.”

Mack was one of Gymshark’s first employees, joining the company’s founder and CEO, Ben Francis, in-house after a stint working with Gymshark on the agency side. And his “in the footsteps of nobody else” ethos and approach seems to be working.

The community and company are both growing. Gymshark recently reported that 2023 net revenue had increased 15% year-over-year.


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