A study in the International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing has revealed the impact of virtual brand communities associated with the success of a popular fitness product brand.
Melissa Davies of Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, Eric Hungenberg of the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Thomas J. Aicher of the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Brianna L. Newland of New York University in New York, New York, USA, have investigated the user community surrounding well-known fitness product brand Peloton Interactive Inc.
The company markets connected fitness products and services including stationary exercise bikes, indoor rowing machines, and treadmills. They also sell related accessories, such as heart rate monitors and workout apparel. Additionally, the company offers subscription-based services that provide users with access to live and on-demand fitness classes led by instructors, accessible through its proprietary software platform. Classes include cycling, running, strength training, yoga, and meditation, all of which can be undertaken interactively from the comfort of one’s home or, indeed any suitable place.
The researchers examined the influence of virtual brand communities on branding outcomes. They surveyed 663 Peloton users and analysed their responses using structural equation modelling to discern any relationships between brand community and brand outcomes.
Their results indicate that Peloton users who felt a strong sense of community were more active on brand-related social media and used Peloton products more often. This sense of community correlated with favourable brand outcomes, including brand love, equity, advocacy, and word-of-mouth communication. All of which highlights the importance of a brand developing an emotional connection with consumers and users.
The study also explored the interplay between engagement in virtual brand communities, product usage, and brand community perception. Individuals who perceived they had interests in common with other users and enjoyed using the social spaces facilitated by the brand were more likely to have a strong sense of community. This, again, would lead to increased product engagement and brand affection. This has practical implications for brands in the connected fitness industry as it emphasizes the need to prioritize the creation and nurturing of virtual brand communities, something in which the company in question has apparently been rather successful.
Davies, M., Hungenberg, E., Aicher, T.J. and Newland, B.L. (2024) ‘Work[out] from home: examining brand community among connected fitness brand users’, Int. J. Sport Management and Marketing, Vol. 24, No. 2, pp.113–136.