Bowflex Looks to Redefine Its Brand as Home Fitness Category Heats Up

Nautilus has chosen Fig as its first creative agency of record

Female athlete on the bowflex max trainer
The brand has maintained a steady presence in the market for more than 30 years. - Credit by Bowflex
Headshot of Patrick Coffee

Home workout pioneer Bowflex is muscling in on the smart fitness trend by hiring its first-ever creative agency of record.

A name once defined by late-night infomercials and peak ’90s spots featuring miraculously hairless and muscular models is enlisting new creatives to shift its marketing from highlighting product features to redefining its brand.

Bowflex, owned by fitness conglomerate Nautilus, chose New York independent shop Fig to lead its marketing efforts after a competitive review first reported by Adweek’s AgencySpy in May. The decision comes as the at-home smart fitness industry sees explosive growth thanks to DTC brands like Peloton, Tonal and Mirror.

The marketplace for home fitness is thriving, which is good news for [Bowflex], but there are challenges coming in.
Mark Figliulo, founder of creative agency Fig

The decision also came amid a leadership change as Nautilus’ senior director of marketing and 11-year company veteran Aaron Brotherton departed in May to become vp of marketing at consumer goods company SharkNinja.

“At this time the Nautilus, Inc. marketing groups are shifting some areas of focus to align the business with market changes,” said a company spokesperson who added that the company has not created a listing for Brotherton’s former job.

Fig founder Mark Figliulo told Adweek that Bowflex is not trying to follow in Peloton’s health-conscious footsteps.

“The marketplace for home fitness is thriving, which is good news for [Bowflex], but there are challenges coming in,” Figliulo said. “They’re transitioning from a great products company to a great brand. They know their audience, and they have a good, loyal base.”

Indeed, Bowflex has been a steady fixture since hitting the market in 1986, just as the U.S. fitness craze began in earnest. But the company did not previously have a creative agency of record, and past marketing efforts have been somewhat utilitarian.

As Figliulo put it, “When they first called us, I was like, ‘Bowflex? Really?’ But when they said we want to shift to brand campaigns, then it got interesting.”

According to a party with direct knowledge of the matter, Fig beat out 72andSunny and Pereira O’Dell in the review’s final round. Spokespeople for both agencies declined to comment.

In a statement, Nautilus direct-to-consumer vp and general manager Carlos Navarro said now is “the ideal time for a refresh as we look ahead to the next chapter of the brand’s growth,” citing its own “amazing track record of success [building] an avid customer fan base for Bowflex products over the past 33 years.” New product lines use AI to help deliver what Figliulo called “personalized fitness” as the machines grow familiar with a given user’s preferences and suggest specific workouts every day.

While classic ads emphasized the products themselves, Fig’s forthcoming efforts will include TV, social and digital assets that aim to make a more emotional connection with consumers.

And of course, we’ll always have this classic example of mid-’90s nostalgia:

According to Kantar Media, Nautilus spent about $68 million on marketing for the Bowflex brand in 2018, a significant increase over the previous year’s total of $57 million.

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.
Publish date: July 17, 2019 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT