Branded workouts like Zumba mean instructors can focus less on prep and
more on safety, results and FUN!
Group fitness participation is at an all-time high, with 86% of studiogoers
having multiple memberships (2016 Health Club Consumer Report, IHRSA). To
gain and retain members' attention, it's more important than ever to
provide group exercise classes that are top-notch. Time, too, is at a
premium for today's ultra-busy members and instructors. Branded programming
offers the consistent quality that club members crave, plus time-saving
shortcuts for instructors at all levels.
Group fitness superusers are no longer loyal to one format, one location or
one instructor. They seek out the best options to get results and are happy
to drive around town to make it happen.
For years, health club visits have held steady at an average of twice a
week (2016 Health Club Consumer Report, IHRSA), and members want the most
from the time they have. Unfortunately, group-ex programming is not the
most consistent product. Group fitness programs vary greatly from
instructor to instructor, format to format, and club to club.
The most successful studios have solved this problem. By offering robust
in-house training for instructors, centralized programming and strict
delivery guidelines, the program has become their product, and the
product is what's marketed. Instructors are celebrated for delivering a
consistent customer experience versus trying to stand out. This philosophy
is the essence of branded programming.
The program-as-product concept has existed for decades. It was introduced
to health clubs in the late 1990s beginning with BODYPUMP® by Les
Mills. Since then, many companies have followed suit with branded
programming options. Today, the popularity of such programs is on the rise.
Not all instructors believe this is for the best, but some industry experts
believe it's a necessity.
"Les Mills predicts the market for branded programming will increase over
the next few years. Facilities need quality and consistency in the group
fitness space, as the market is demanding it. The branded programming world
should not be seen as moving backwards when the need is so great," explains
Reanna Dempsey, vice president of instructor experience for Les Mills U.S.
What Is "Branded" Programming?
Branded, simply put, makes programming centralized. Branded programming is
the opposite of freestyle programming, where instructors create and deliver
their classes. With branded programming, the programming is
predetermined-delivered but not created by the instructor. This can occur
in several ways:
• Several prominent health club chains and studios invest in their
own branded programming. Class concepts created at the national level get
passed down to instructors through internal channels (e.g., Equinox ®, Life Time™ Fitness, Orangetheory®
• Clubs license branded programming from a company specializing in
developing, training and marketing group fitness (e.g., Les Mills).
• Clubs contract instructors who are trained in branded programs that
are directly licensed to the instructor (e.g., Zumba®,
Branded programming can be either prechoreographed or preformatted. Prechoreographed programming provides all necessary ingredients,
the recipe, and guidelines for presentation. Much like recipe-delivery
services that are so popular these days, everything shows up in a box. You
simply put it together. Because branded programs create everything, you can focus attention on giving participants all they need to feel
successful and have an enjoyable experience. Over time, new instructors
will develop an understanding of the how and why behind the programming,
possibly enabling them to develop their own workouts.
programming provides a bit more individuality with a healthy dose of
guidance to ensure a good finished product. Much like a visit to Chipotle,
you know the available ingredients and there's a suggested method for constructing the burrito, but no two burritos end up exactly the
same. Preformatted programs differ in how much structure they provide, but
the work is still heavily underwritten by the third party, making your life
a lot easier.
Petra Robinson, fitness industry adviser and trade show productions at
Zumba Fitness LLC, explains how Zumba applied the preformatted program
approach: "In the early 2000s, it was clear clubs were beginning to resist
paying licensing fees. When the first Zumba Basic Level 1 instructor
training program was designed, we decided to go 'old school' and teach
attendees how to put together a great workout using the Zumba Formula, which Beto [Perez] created. Instructors receive the framework to
create unique workouts, or they can follow our lead from start to finish.
The result is the consistency of branded programming with individuality."
The path from earning a primary group fitness certification to delivering a
good freestyle class can be long and challenging. Members expect the same
experience whether you are a veteran or a new instructor. Because freestyle
instructors develop and deliver their own classes, they must be the
screenwriter, actor, director and producer all at the same time.
In a perfect world, mentoring programs would be readily available to help
instructors progress from book knowledge to practical excellence.
Unfortunately, this is a luxury for most clubs these days. Enter branded
programming, which provides an approachable training format to help new
Even if you are a seasoned pro, the shortcuts are a lifesaver. Leading a
class, for most, is very part-time, and preparation comes amid full-time
jobs, parenting and endless to-do lists. Having part of the prep already
done for you allows you to focus on what matters most: delivering safe and
effective programs, producing results and ensuring everyone enjoys the
BODYPUMP by Les Mills launched the branded programming trend in the late
1990s, and it's still going strong!
"Providing programs people ask for by name is a great way to expand your
While promoting individual instructors as part of a bigger marketing
strategy can be impactful, if people are your product, you run the
risk of members following instructors to other clubs. With branded
programming, you can attract members for the class, which is
easier to maintain over time. Several branded programs provide
member-facing marketing tools to help you minimize the effect of instructor
turnover. Quite a few branded programs even have consumer recognition outside of the traditional club setting. Providing programs that
people ask for by name is a great way to expand your reach. Beachbody, a
well-recognized brand in the home fitness market, made the leap into
fitness facilities about 4 years ago. Barb Brodowsky, senior director of
field operations for Beachbody LIVE, explains: "Our strong brand
recognition of programs such as INSANITY® and P90X ® helps attract new classgoers. When a customer is ready to
move from the basement to the bright lights of the studio, our formats are
Most members seek a repeatable experience that allows for progress and is
offered multiple times a week. Branded programs solve these issues by
providing professionally designed programs on a regular schedule and
ensuring all instructors use the same playbook.
"Consumers are constantly pressed to find the time to dedicate to exercise
and fail to see results because their workouts are not effective. Les
Mills' scientifically backed programs provide the right formula for
participants to get a great workout with inspiring music that helps drive
the results they are looking for," says Dempsey. "Even though the class
construct is always the same, [which increases] the participants'
confidence, the movement patterns and repetitions change frequently to
challenge the body. We take care of all of this for the
Ultimately, Customers Rule
While you may not yet embrace branded programming, there are certainly
lessons to be learned. Now, more than ever, we should seek to understand
the benefits branded programs can provide in efforts to deliver more
consistent experiences to meet the needs of millions worldwide.
Of course, we cannot hold branded-fitness companies solely responsible for
the success or failure of our group fitness departments. Ultimately, it's
up to us: Clubs, managers and instructors need to set the bar high and we
must hold one another accountable for providing memorable experiences that
keep members coming back.
Try Branded Programming or Tell a Friend
AFAA Pros and Zumba ZIN Members Enjoy Special Pricing
What happens when you combine the strengths of two great education brands
like AFAA and Zumba?
Everyone wins-fitness professionals, participants, facilities and the
reputation of the fitness industry in general! Delivering experiences that
are safe, smart and fun is what will help exercisers make progress, avoid
injury and keep coming back for more.
Expanding a partnership that began last year, AFAA professionals will enjoy
a 25% discount on a Zumba® Basic 1 Training, and ZIN ™ Members will receive special pricing of $99 on the AFAA
group exercise instructor course (details below). While these discounts are
appealing, just think of what it means to add the powerful combination of
AFAA's primary group exercise certification plus a Zumba Instructor license
to your experience! It amplifies your array of skills in the view of both
participants and employers. Upon completion of both programs, professionals
will have the ability to teach in a wide variety of formats (including
freestyle), with the bonus of knowing the formula for leading Zumba-one of
the top specialty group exercise formats in the world.
Both AFAA's and Zumba's leadership believe that layering the boundless
energy and enthusiasm of Zumba instructors with the strong, science-based
education foundation of the AFAA group exercise certification makes for a
group exercise instructor that is unparalleled.
A Zumba Basic 1 Training offers the four cornerstones of making a workout
into a party:
• Basic Steps: The basic steps and variations to
four of the Zumba core rhythms: Merengue, Salsa, Cumbia, and Reggaeton.
• Music and Choreography: The music and moves to
successfully lead a class, plus a take-home review CD/DVD to reinforce the
• The Zumba Formula: The knowledge to identify the
different parts of a song and understand how to use them to build an
effective dance-fitness workout.
• Your Zumba Teaching License: Receive your license
to begin teaching Zumba classes!
ZIN™ Members will be eligible to enroll in the AFAA group
ex instructor course for only $99. This fee includes the certification exam
at no additional cost-a $200 savings. To receive this special offer, ZIN™ Members should call AFAA at 800-466-2322. AFAA will
donate 10% of these $99 purchases to Zumba's Party in Pink campaign to
fight breast cancer.
Information about becoming a licensed Zumba instructor is available at
zumba.com. For information about AFAA group ex instructor certification,