By Max Gonen
The demand for sports nutrition products with on trend messaging and ingredients is steadily rising as more and more people of all kinds are drawn to strength training. Nowhere do we see this more clearly than in men’s health and fitness consumer behaviors. No longer are heavy weights and protein shakes the domain of the steroid enhanced meathead; more and more men from all walks of life are finding themselves dedicating their time, money and energy to strength training.
But is the industry aware of a possibly growing diconnect between male sports nutrition brands and their consumers?
Max Gonen from the University of Lund Masters in Cultural Analysis in collaboration with HMT is taking a deep ethnographic look into the world of Sports Nutrition Supplementation marketing. The outcome of this research is a recommendation package for companies looking to win the sports nutrition game. This package is comprised of real insider observations and testimonial data from men who spend their time, money and energy bettering themselves through their commitment to exercise and nutrition.
And so, we introduce you to:
The modern man is expected to be not only highly successful in his work life and social life, he also needs to be digitally informed, socially aware and of course- fit, pumped, and selfie ready. Companies seeking to lead in the field of sports nutrition need to adopt a modern style and outlook in order to transform along with him. Currently the Men’s sports nutrition market is mainly telling three stories about three “Bro’s” which we see as the following:
The Hardcore Bro wants to grow larger than life, to become a bigger badder version of himself- a beast and a machine. He does so by looking for the most hardcore ingredients- exalting risk, danger, and experimentation. He lives in the moment, and wants results now.
The Tech Bro feels he can disrupt his own limitations by hacking into his body with bleeding edge science and technology- he looks to the future for answers about his health, because for him development happens in the lab, in the ingredient, at the molecular level.
The Primal Bro is on a journey to restore his body to its optimal function, he sees himself as a complex ecosystem and looks to the past for a time when bodies did what they were meant to do with the resources available to them naturally.
And while these bro’s surely exist, they represent the extremes of the men’s fitness landscape. Our research shows the average modern gym going man is largely left out of these narratives. He is what we call, the “Un-Bro”– he cherry picks tips and tools from the old “Bro’s”, while actively resisting allegiance to prescriptive categories he feels are out of touch with his unique goals and his unique identity.
To better understand him and to develop winning strategies for reaching him, HMT is undertaking an ethnographic study which has us in gyms and locker rooms, on the field, sharing sweat and stories. Visiting the places where supplements are being used and sold, collecting interviews and getting to the heart of what men involved in the world of muscle and fitness believe will make the real difference in their performance. To understand who it is these companies are trying to reach, and what is really thought of all the promises and ingredients and labels.
As hungry as men are for products which deliver results, to really win them over you have to connect to something deeper, you have to be a foundational part of their practice, their ethos, their motivation and the image of their idealized self. They will become the prophet of your product in their fitness community, not just through what they say about it, but by how they embody it. Creating these types of connections requires questioning our assumptions about who the modern gym going man, or Bro, is and who he wants to be.
The Bro.Science recommendation package will include a detailed report overviewing game changing trends, summaries of approximately 12 interviews with members of target demographic, and a video probe synthesizing online discussions about sports nutrition. Additionally companies can choose to schedule a presentation of findings in the form of a lecture or workshop which integrates HMT’s proven FourFactors innovation strategies with our analyses of the Men’s Sports Nutrition Market.
We invite you to join on us on this Sweat-nographic journey into the world of Bro.Science and contact project coordination Amanda Allvin (Amanda@thehmt.com) if you would like your brand to be included in this or any other Consumer Lab study.
Max Gonen is a Master’s Student in Cultural Analysis at Lund University. He comes from a background in Communications and Gender Studies where he has focused on identity and spectatorship to answer questions like; how does the media we consume help us form and sustain our self image? He specializes in researching digital cultures and was invited to present a paper about performing health and (un)health online at the Roskilde Conference on Digital Intimacy (May 2018) and the Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food (Nov. 2019). He has been actively involved in men’s fitness for 5 years in strength training and crossfit communities in Chicago, Texas, Florida, and most recently Sweden.