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Les Mills US CEO Sean Turner on Targeting ‘Generation Active’

Les Mills US CEO Sean Turner on Targeting ‘Generation Active’

Les Mills Generation Active
Sean Turner tells Athletech News how Les Mills is cracking the code on “Generation Active,” the gym-happy group between ages 16-40

Les Mills, the global fitness leader with decades of success adapting to changing consumer trends, has set its sights on what it calls “Generation Active.” This group, ages 16-40, now makes up 80% of gym members, and will be the biggest driver of future growth for the fitness industry.

We talked to Sean Turner, CEO of Les Mills US, about how the company leverages its omni-fitness expertise to deliver a diverse offering of workouts to Generation Active, and the role that rock star instructors, live events and music play in keeping them engaged.

The GenActive opportunity

Les Mills obsesses about the GenActive consumer. The company has recently created a new Genfit category that includes nine new programs across the in-club and at-home space that will not only attract new audiences into the fitness world, but also keep them as lifelong movers.  

When asked what makes Generation Active different from other consumer groups, Turner was unequivocal.

“This group is driven by convenience, flexibility and connectedness, and as digital natives, they expect their exercise experience to meet their lifestyle needs.”

They also tend to work out more. According to Les Mills research, Gen Z are 70% more likely to splurge on fitness than their parents. They tend to visit clubs more often but also like the option of digital fitness, so a hybrid fitness solution is key to appealing to GenActive.

One way that Les Mills is helping clubs win GenActive is by using the findings of their consumer studies to help gyms better understand their customers and find new ways to inspire and engage them. This puts Les Mills in a very strong position with its clubs.

Turner commented, “Clubs appreciate the innovation and quality we bring to instruction, the results of our science-backed workout design, and the emphasis we place on research and development.” 

Turner said that innovation is in the organization’s DNA, so the company frequently updates its programming based on the most current trends. Its newest workout, Les Mills Strength Development, was created to appeal to the growing appetite for strength workouts among GenActive in a safe and effective format. 

At a brand level, Les Mills recently announced a global partnership with adidas which, the company said, will “redefine fitness for the next generation of training fans, driven by our focus on innovation, connection, and motivation. We will elevate the training experience by combining the best of live and digital to meet people where, when and how they want. By placing the community at the heart of all we do, we can inspire millions to be more active, and make good on our mission to create a fitter planet.”

“Clubs appreciate the innovation and quality we bring to instruction, the results of our science-backed workout design, and the emphasis we place on research and development.” 

– Sean Turner, CEO of Les Mills US

The importance of emerging technology

The Les Mills focus on innovation knows no bounds. Over the last couple of years the company has entered into the Oculus metaverse space. Its BODYCOMBAT VR app has had over a half million downloads and is ranked the number one paid fitness app in that space, driven largely by the GenActive demographic. 

Will we see a Les Mills club in one of the meta worlds? Turner admitted that it was a very interesting area.

“It would make sense for us to have a storefront in the metaverse through which you could access programming and VR, and gamify exercise to earn rewards and cross over with real life experiences. We’ve just put out 2.0, so I believe we’ll continue exploring that space, seeking ways to engage that demographic and to drive gamers into mainstream fitness and our partners’ clubs.” 

Les Mills Generation Active

Will the fact that GenActive is digitally native threaten the in-club fitness sector? Turner doesn’t think so. “We don’t feel that live, in-club fitness is under threat. Various companies in the connected space predicted the demise of the health club, that it would move to digital. We’ve always believed that it’s near impossible to replicate the feeling of connectedness and community that people get in clubs. This was validated by the flood of people coming back to the health club post-pandemic. The live experience is the pinnacle; however, we believe that a hybrid offering is a necessary complement and is here to stay.” 

Les Mills Live

Speaking of the Live experience, Les Mills is taking its focus on live workouts to new heights with Les Mills Live, a series of big production “fitness festivals.”  

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The New Orleans event held in August 2022 sold out immediately upon launching ticketing. The London event in October 2022, with over 5,000 participants, was filmed in VR to create an immersive metaverse experience. 

The shift in audience type at these events has been interesting. Pre-pandemic, event participants were mainly Les Mills instructors. Now, they’re seeing a 50/50 split, bringing in a huge rush of the at-home consumers, illustrating the power of a quality digital experience to drive live attendance.

Turner owes much of the success of the GenActive initiatives and the live events to the brand’s 130,000 super-influencers, instructors who inspire movers and other instructors.

“That’s really the special sauce right? We’ve got rock star instructors from Cape Town to Singapore, Beijing to London. A truly global community helping people fall in love with fitness daily.” 

Another draw is the music.

“We produce a lot of music ourselves, and work with a number of Les Mills original artists, DJs and musicians worldwide.”

The company is planning a Les Mills Live with filming in Los Angeles this summer, which Turner expects to be even bigger and better than last year’s events. 

Innovations like these are a key reason the company has been in business for over 50 years, according to Turner.

“We are always looking at new trends and adapting with the changing consumer to redefine the space. We embrace change, obsess about how to get more people moving more often, ultimately keeping us on track to achieve our goal of creating a fitter planet.”

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