During university in the UK, rugby team captain Ant Martland co-created an online platform where students could buy sportswear and get discounts on big-name brands. It was revolutionary at the time, as e-commerce and social media were just starting to appear. This naturally led Ant into the world of sports marketing.

After graduating, Ant moved to Dubai. Six months later, Adidas offered him a job in regional sports marketing, plus the chance to work with their sister company, Reebok. Once Ant got his foot in the door, there was no turning back. 

Three years ago, Ant met his current business partners, Loren Holland and Frank Afeaki, and together they founded GymNation—the United Arab Emirates’ leading fitness chain, with close to 50,000 members and seven locations and counting.

Ant says the key to GymNation’s success is that it offers the most affordable membership costs in Dubai, flexible hours, group classes and a warm sense of community:

“About 40% of our members have never been to a gym before, so we need to make it as welcoming and non-intimidating as we can. It’s also open 24/7 because Dubai is a very transient country—people travel all the time and work odd hours.”

In fact, their motto is “The People’s Gym.” According to Ant, the UAE is such a diverse place that welcomes expats from across the globe; they wanted to reflect this spirit in their centers.

Tune in as Ant sits down with Kyler Canastra to share the story behind GymNation, including how they managed to stay afloat during the pandemic and keep their staff on full pay. Ant also explains how GymNation has become very community minded, partnering with local nonprofits and supporting the next generation of gym goers. 

“Just keep it simple and get on with it. For me that underpins a lot of what we’ve done—not just in marketing, but in every aspect of the business.”

You can watch the full conversation in the video above or on YouTube, and listen to the podcast on Apple or Spotify.

Rapid-fire recs  

  • Productivity hack: 
    • Routine and organization. “Organization for me is key. My biggest daily habit is keeping organized, so everything else falls into place. For example, I never leave emails unread in my inbox.”
  • Sources of inspiration: 
    • Ben Francis, founder of Gymshark: “ I think it’s incredible what he’s done. The way they’re marketing and how they’ve grown is extremely impressive.”
    • Neil Patel for learning about the technical side of SEO
  • Favorite tools:
    • WhatsApp: “Without WhatsApp, we wouldn’t be anywhere. I know a lot of people use Slack. But we’ve continued to build a business on WhatsApp, it just seems nice and easy.”
    • Asana: “We also use Asana, which is very similar to Trello, a project management tool. We work with web, CRM and app developers who are based in other countries, and the way we manage ‘pending, completed in progress tasks’ is through Asana. It’s a fantastic tool that allows you to create workflows.  I’m not on any referral or free affiliate fee, I can guarantee it. But if you want to manage teams and tasks, it makes it a lot easier to do.”
    • App software: “For marketing, we use the usual Facebook Ads, SEMrush, Google Analytics, Search Console, etc. We’ve also got our own CRM.”

Connect with Ant and Kyler on LinkedIn.

For more insights into sports marketing:

To read the full transcript, click on page number 2 below.