Here is a transcript generated by of The Content Mix podcast interview with VeraContent’s Kyler Canastra and Ant Martland, sports marketing expert and co-founder of GymNation in Dubai:

Kyler Canastra 0:00
Hi everyone, I’m Kyler with another episode of The Content Mix, and I’m excited to be here with Ant Martland, Director of Marketing and Co-founder at GymNation. GymNation is United Arab Emirates’ first affordable and flexible gym chain. Based on a strong belief that health and fitness should be affordable and accessible to everyone, the founders at GymNation decided to create a gym with a membership that would encourage users to enjoy fitness rather than seeing it as such a financial burden. In the UAE the average gym membership costs about 90 euros per month, which I had no idea before this interview, how expensive that was. And you have to pay for the year usually upfront, so the demand was definitely there for people who wanted to be fit. But it also kind of presented this burden for people who couldn’t afford it. But GymNation has emerged as a leader in their industry offering affordable fitness, especially in terms of marketing with many of their campaigns going viral. So we’re gonna dive right into it and learn more about how marketing has helped GymNation to revolutionize health and fitness in the United Arab Emirates. So without further ado, thank you so much Ant for joining us today.

Ant Martland 1:01
Thanks, Kyler. Thanks for having us. Good afternoon, everyone. It’s good afternoon here, might be good morning, where you are.

Kyler Canastra 1:06
It’s noon. The Spanish people have a weird concept of like, when you eat lunch at 2pm, then the morning is over. So we’re still in morning.

Ant Martland 1:14
There’s normally a siesta around now as well?

Kyler Canastra 1:16
The siesta is usually like two or three. But actually, in cities like Madrid and Barcelona, we don’t have it, which is kind of a shame. I used to live in like smaller parts of Spain. And we would have like, everything was shut down after two, from two to five. So you have to leave work, go home, eat. And actually I would take a nap, which sounds like you know, like stereotypical of Spanish people take naps, but I did take a nap, then you had to go back to work after which kind of sucks. But it was actually a nice time to take a pause in the day. But Madrid we’re kind of a functioning city that we work normally. But so yeah, so as I said before, in this really great introduction. Now I’m really fascinated to learn more about your work in the UAE, with fitness industry, and also GymNation and kind of marketing and how that’s all helped kind of share your name and make you one of the most successful gym franchises in the UAE. But first, can you tell us a bit more about who you are and kind of how you got into this marketing and the UAE and where you’re from?

Ant Martland 2:10
Yeah, absolutely. So I was born a while ago now in 1988, in a town called Southport in the UK, which is nestled just between Manchester and Liverpool. And so I lived there around there till I was about 9, 10. And then my mum, she joined the Royal Air Force. So she sent, not sent, we wanted to go as well, but my brother and I off to boarding school, which was just on the Welsh border. So we, myself and my brother were there from then till 18, 19. Left there. Then it was, for me it was I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do next, you know, straight into work, or university. I took the decision during my kind of gap year to not go to university, go straight into work. So I got accepted onto an accounting kind of graduate scheme or non-graduate scheme, pre-graduate scheme with one of the big four, and was about to start that literally a week or two before that kind of had the agitators and for is this really what I want to be doing for the rest of my life? I decided against that. And then very quickly decided to go to university, and wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do at university again, but I did want to keep it quite general, to give me options in the future. So I went to the University of Leicester and did business management, which was a mixture of everything from, you know, a marketing emphasis to some financing strategy, you know, three years of kind of everything that you could encounter within a business. So I think that put me in good stead for kind of where I am now. And having that all-around exposure. I guess my marketing, my first interaction with marketing probably came in my last year at uni. So myself and still one of my best friends to this day, Billy. We were both in charge of within the university rugby team, we were both in charge of doing the orders for the team kit and team training kit. And at that point it was all on paper. So you know, we’d say okay, what shorts do you want? What t-shirt you want? We’d write down like, James wants a medium, he owes X amount of pounds for that. James will obviously then come back the day after and say no, he wants a large and it was just an absolute nightmare. So we thought there’s got to be a bit of a better way to do this. So we approached a large local kind of sports independent retailer, and said we’d like to set up an online platform where all of our university can order through, we just send them a link and then they put in their order typically like you would do on an e-commerce store now. There’s no kind of human interaction. If you want to change your order, they do it online. So we did that. So we managed to get that up and running for our own team and then very quickly, we reached out to other teams within Leicester Uni, other teams within the region. And that became at that time it was the kind of UK’s leading, I guess, university team wear store. And we very quickly on top of that realized, okay, we don’t just need team kit, they need, you know, football boots, rugby boots. They want Under Armour products, you know, they want other sports stuff. So we reached out to those big companies, your Under Armour, the Adidas, you know, Skins of a World and started buying products from them as well. And we weren’t just buying. The important thing about that was that we were able to offer student discounts on a platform. So it was a platform by students, for students by students. So when you entered your, it was NUS card number into the checkout page, you would automatically get a normally 15 to 20% discount off some of those big-name products, which they would not, they didn’t give permission for any of the big retailers to do that at the time. So we did that for about a year, just over a year. And then coming into our final exams, it was starting to get very hectic for both of us. And the owner of the sports shop decided to, he kind of made us an offer, a very small offer token kind of gesture to say, look, I want to bring this back in house, now you guys got your exams, you know, some of you, you might want to go off and do something else after uni. So we kind of moved on from that at that point. But during that point, it’s kind of just about when social media was starting, you know, it wasn’t anywhere near what it was today. But you could put, you know, a tweet up, or you could change your status on Facebook, you can have a Facebook page, the advertising was nowhere near. It was very early on. But that’s kind of, you know, I kind of started that with a company we had. And that’s, I guess, my first interaction with marketing and this led me to where to where I am today, I guess.

Kyler Canastra 6:54
That’s awesome. And so you asked before the interview, like a lot of guests, right. How did I find you? Or kind of where do I go about on LinkedIn and learning more about like I was, you know, I get to be a stalker, basically, and get to see people who are interesting and kind of what their backgrounds are. And I saw, obviously, in your background experience, you had a passion for sports. And you just said that, you know, you were a captain of the rugby team. And you kind of got involved in that. So how did I guess, yeah, so you got involved in sports marketing, and you did work at Adidas. So I kind of want to ask you a bit about that experience. And is that the reason why you moved to the the United Arab Emirates, was for a job opportunity?

Ant Martland 7:27
We finished uni and it was kind of like, right, what’s next and luckily, my my mum, she left the IRF, she was out in Dubai working. So the option on the table was be unemployed in the UK or being unemployed out in Dubai. So I think that was a fairly simple one to make. So I came out to Dubai to join my mum and my two brothers who were already out here to look for a job. And I knew at that point, because of my interaction, you know, with the sports companies, when we had that company was, I wanted to continue in sports. And straight away kind of reached out to the network I got in the UK, in Adidas in particular, I’m not too sure why but it was always that brand that kind of captured me in, I guess because they were probably the most active in rugby and football at the time. You know, all my teams that I liked were sponsored by them. So it was just literally someone in UK referred me to someone in Dubai. At the time I moved out to Dubai, there wasn’t any jobs at that point. And they said, you know, wait six months, there’s something opening up. So I did a few sales jobs until that point, and then you know, out of the blue, after six, eight months, Adidas gave me a call and said look, we’ve got this position in sports marketing. Are you interested? And I was like yeah, definitely. This is exactly what I want to do. And that basically would entail looking after sponsored assets and athletes within the region. So anyone from some of the footballers that were out here to some of the gym partners within the region Adidas sponsored, to smaller grassroots events, tennis competitions, and that’s you know, really where that began and I did three years at Adidas, looking after kind of all like regional sports marketing, and then Adidas’ sister company Reebok, based in the same building, but there was an opportunity with them to kind of set up the fitness marketing they just kind of brought in from the you know, typical Reebok we know and got a lot more into fitness at that point. It was opportunity to set that up, more more exposure to more countries. That was kind of Middle Eastern-African role and yeah, I guess that’s you know, I continued that journey for three years with Reebok and a fantastic company. I haven’t really got a bad word to say about working for Adidas. It was a great company to work for. I had opportunities to go back to UK and kind of continue up that ladder. I just didn’t want to leave Dubai you know. I became settled, met my wife at the time. We had a little boy and it was just for me, it just didn’t make sense to go back. So I kind of got to I guess as high as I could go, as high as I wanted to go personally, within the company, I was like, right, what’s what’s next and I guess luckily, at that point, there’s a company out here called OSN, which is a TV network, large TV network, a lot of sports rights, etc. So they were going aggressively after some of our sports content, again, trying to get football back, Formula One, UFC, some golf events, and they were like: Look, we need to want to head up this kind of sports marketing for us, so it was a kind of quite easy progression. It’s, you know, instead of marketing trainers, you’re marketing a match or a branch of TV.

Kyler Canastra 10:41
It’s really interesting. It just seems like all these opportunities you had are like, kind of led from one thing to the next. And you’re in the right place.

Ant Martland 10:47
Exactly, and then the next, you have a GymNation opportunity kind of came from that. So at that point, I’ve never done any digital marketing. You know, I never done really any, I’d looked but I’d never done any Facebook ads, never looked at you know, ecommerce optimization, Google ads, all this kind of stuff that now is bread and butter. But we had an agency we were working with at the time, and I wasn’t too happy with that performance. I was like, I think I can do a better job than this. So pretty much took it on, took it up immediately to learn how to do it. And all of these, you know, Facebook lead ads was was kind of a main one at a time. So I learn how to do them, and then started to do it ourselves internally in-house, based on you know, on learning that. And so that’s kind of where I started to get into more technical, technical side of the marketing.

Kyler Canastra 11:32
It’s really cool. And when you were talking about Adidas, I always forget that you say “Adidas” and like that cultural difference between the US and the UK.

Ant Martland 11:41
I worked there for six years, I’m still not sure how to say. I say Adidas.

Kyler Canastra 11:45
Yeah, most Brits do. I always forget that though. And that’s kind of

Ant Martland 11:48
I think it is Adidas. I’m still not sure. I mean, in the office, everyone used to call it you know, either or, so both work.

Kyler Canastra 11:56
Yeah, right. But that kind of sparks a question that I wanted to ask too, not really necessarily marketing related, but you’re from the UK and then you moved to the UAE like, how is that? Like a totally different culture and a totally different experience. And how has that been for you?

Ant Martland 12:10
Um, I never had any doubts at all about moving over, I think, you know, I absolutely loved it from the moment I got here, my family were here. For the first, I’ve been here. 10, 11 years now. My family were here for the first four or five years and kind of moved back, in different ways. Now, I absolutely love it here and I can’t really see myself and my family now moving back. And you know, we go back when we can normally weddings, funerals or Christmases. But aside from that, the way of life out here, the lifestyle. You know how multicultural it is. Something that really suits us as a family and we love it. Yeah.

Kyler Canastra 12:51
Now, you mentioned GymNation before. So kind of obviously, that’s where you’re working now. And we’re gonna talk a lot about that now. But I wanted to learn a bit more about how that came about and explain to us a bit more about the company, why the company was founded, how it was founded, and why it’s made such a big impact on the fitness market in the United Arab Emirates.

Ant Martland 13:08
Yeah, absolutely. So I guess it all started with Lauren. So Laren’s now, well Lauren is the CEO of GymNation. He was working in private equity in the UK, moved over to a new role in the UAE, and he joined a gym and that gym was I don’t know in euros, but it was equivalent of about 100 pounds plus a month payment, but you have to pay that all upfront. He wasn’t too impressed with the quality of that facility that he was getting for that money. With his private equity experience in the UK, he’d invested into a well-known budget operator, budget gym operator there. So he was like, look, I kind of know how this works. I think there’s a big opportunity here, you know, very expensive pricing, substandard quality of the facilities. But there’s a bit of a gap in the market here to start an affordable or, you know, in what has turned out to be the region’s first budget fitness chain.

Kyler Canastra 14:09
So I was wondering before you keep going, but just why do you have to pay upfront? Like I feel like that’s the concept I never really heard of before when it comes to a gym.

Ant Martland 14:17
Not really. I just guess it was more unsophisticated here. You know, you’d be amazed if you’re in the UK or Europe or US and someone said that to you. Here it was a given. I guess that was a big opportunity here and that’s one of the reasons GymNation has done so well is that flexibility and you know, the Netflix model, you know. We know that works so well. That payment just comes off your card monthly and you accept it’s there and it’s less of a, I guess less of an impact on you if it’s not one point. Yeah, so Lauren had this concept and just about at the same time he met Frank who’s GymNation’s COO. I think they met at a garden party and I think Frank was looking at doing something similar. So kind of those two worlds colliding, you know, at a perfect time. And they managed to secure the investment in the first location. And I think I heard on the grapevine somewhere that they needed someone to come and support with the marketing side of the business and I got in touch with them. And yeah, they brought me on board just a couple of months after they met to kind of, yeah, to kind of jump on board with the rollout of GymNation. And, yeah, it went very well, we all kind of complemented each other’s skills well. You know, Lauren’s very financial and kind of business minded. Frank’s operational and sales focused. And I step in and in the marketing and systems kind of aspect. So as a three, we work fantastically together. And I think that’s showed in kind of the initial success that we’ve had.

Kyler Canastra 15:52
Right. And it’s been successful now in the UAE, it’s been really well received.

Ant Martland 15:56
Yeah, absolutely. I think we’re at now you know, we’re number one in the UAE, in terms of numbers. We’re closing in on 50,000 members. And that’s just you know, three years ago, literally, I think, 21st of June 2018, we opened our first location. Now we have seven with three or four more coming this year is something we’re very proud of, but it’s not finished yet. We’ve got a long way to go.

Kyler Canastra 16:19
Right. But for everyone tuning in, definitely check out like I looked at your websites, the facilities look amazing. It seems like you also emphasize a lot like group classes and stuff like that. So it really seems like a community.

Ant Martland 16:30
Absolutely it is. I mean, you know, about 30 to 40% of our members are brand new to health and fitness. So they’ve never been to a gym before. So we need to make it as welcoming and unintimidating as we can for everyone. So you know, all kinds of factors about 24/7 opening, it’s a very transient country Dubai, people travel all the time, people work funny hours. So we give people the ability to access the gym whenever they want. As I said already, monthly payments, very low membership costs, so 100 to 99 to 199 dirhams a month, which at the time was, and still is, in a lot of cases, a third or a quarter cheaper than majority of the other gym operators here. Group exercise classes are huge for us. You know, all the Les Mills, body pump, body combat and you know, Zumba, spinning. We’re constantly looking for new ideas as well to kind of satisfy that demand.

Kyler Canastra 17:28
Right. So you talked a lot about like your, your audience, right? You have people that had never even been in the gym before, people that are looking for convenience. Now from a marketing point of view, a lot of it, and I think we’ve even mentioned a lot of big companies, right, Reebok and Adidas and Nike, they’re all like known for their very empathetic and human-centered marketing campaigns. So how has marketing been crucial to GymNation’s success? And like, how have you connected with the people that are interested in fitness and brought them in to the community?

Ant Martland 17:54
I think, obviously, marketing underpins the success of most businesses, in particular GymNation, you know, without the platforms that we have, it would have been a lot harder to get where we’ve got to. But I think, you know, you mentioned the big brands, those guys have big budgets, and they can afford to do these campaigns that are very brand driven. And you know, there’s an underlying message there, and they don’t measure the ROI of a return or the number of leads they get off that, because they don’t need to. It plays well into what they’re doing and ultimately leads to sales for them further down the line. For GymNation, when we started our marketing budgets were so tight that we had to monitor and watch every dollar we spent to make sure that we’re getting you know, x multiple number of dollars back. So that led us to be very focused on the marketing approach that we took. So we analyze everything still, to this day. And you know, especially at the start, it was okay, what ads are working, what images are working, what video is working, what content works, what messaging works, if it’s not working, it gets turned off straight away. And we’re very much doing similar stuff to what we were at the beginning and we just keep refining it further and further because we know it works and that tends to be, there’s a big focus on price. You know, the prices that we have are not available in this market so that attracts people instantly. And then you know, now we’re selling a lot on the quality of a product as well. You know, hardly any others gyms are open 24/7. Hardly any of the gyms can fit 80-90 people in their group exercise studios. Hardly any other gyms have the, well no other gyms have the size and you know, the number of equipment, and pieces of equipment we’ve got. So a mixture of price and product in our marketing is absolutely key.

Kyler Canastra 19:40
Exactly and basically selling what you have, you know, great facilities and you know, access to fitness and you kind of have all the good things in your DNA that you just have to share with the world. It kind of seems like.

Ant Martland 19:49
Exactly. The problem is with a lot of companies, I think they overcomplicate that, you know, we keep it very simple. Like I said, it hasn’t changed too much since day one. You know, the gym is the same gym as it was three years ago. You know, the price is the same, but the products and the USPs are the same. So we just kept that simple and communicated that nice and clearly. Whereas, you know, we see other people, other competitors, I guess, trying to do all these brand campaigns and get these underlying messages out, you know, let’s be honest, we’re in the business of generating leads, and we need as many leads as we can for every dollar that we spend on marketing.

Kyler Canastra 20:30
Yeah, so important. Now, I hate talking about COVID-19. Because it’s all we hear about all the time, but COVID-19 really hit the fitness industry hard. I mean, in Spain, for example, we were locked up for three months, and I got my fitness bands and YouTube videos, and it’s all we could do to stay active. Now, how did GymNation pull through? I’m not sure like how the restrictions were in the UAE or anything like that. But how did you guys pull through? And then from like, a marketing perspective, how did you stay connected with your customers?

Ant Martland 20:58
So I think this has been the number one question we’ve been asked by any media within the last year and a half. And, you know, it’s one that we’ve got a pretty good answer for, you know, we started last year before COVID with one gym and 10,000 members. You know, we ended that year, in what was, you know, a very tough year for the industry, and everyone else, but you know, a fitness industry, in particular, we ended it with seven gyms and 40,000 members, so something went right. And, you know, and we’re very, we’re very, very proud of that. We ended up being closed for, I think it was 70 to 72 days in total. So obviously, there was a revenue impact during that period. But what we’re also proud of is we managed to keep all staff on full pay. And we were one of the only gyms in the world to keep up our marketing spend on. And the way that we did that was by partnering with Les Mills on demand, which is Les Mills digital product, they’ve invested 10 million plus dollars into creating this world-class solution that offers you the ability to exercise in your garden, watching, you know, whilst you’re watching instructors in the mountains of New Zealand. We partnered with them, we kind of opened that up to everyone in the UAE for free. And it was very much you know, register for here, and you’ll get a special offer as soon as we open. And we were able to sell in that special offer and kind of guarantee X amount of revenue we knew was coming as soon as those doors were open. So I guess, you know, Les Mills played a very big part in that, in us being able to keep our marketing budgets on, keep all the staff employed, yes, they were working for home, but we were able to just kind of switch off systems very quickly to allow for that to happen.

Kyler Canastra 22:44
Right. And it’s interesting too, I was gonna ask you about kind of digital fitness, a lot of people because of the pandemic, I realized, hey, like, I don’t need to go to a gym and I can work out from home and do that. So has that like impacted your approach to marketing? And like, you really emphasize the thing a lot, connecting with the people. So like has that kind of shifted in the way of like, how you approach marketing nowadays?

Ant Martland 23:07
Um, I think we look at what happened last year, and everyone was coming out and saying gyms are dead, you know, no one’s gonna go back to the gym again. And if you know, Joe Wicks in the UK, he was doing all these online classes. And that’s what all these you know, so-called industry experts were saying. We were sitting there thinking nothing replaces that feeling of doing a live class with 90 people in the room or having access to that level and the amount of equipment. So we were always fairly confident that it would return. And I think we saw that immediately after opening our doors, you know, everyone was obviously dying to get back. But we also saw a whole new cohort of members that never really been that bothered about health and fitness before, but suddenly realized, if I was a little bit healthier, if I was a little bit fitter, I’m going to live longer and less susceptible to catching COVID. So it hasn’t really changed the way we’re marketing, I guess we’re just marketing to a wider, a wider base now and we’re probably getting a little bit more interest off that base from when we would have before.

Kyler Canastra 24:10
And one thing I really found interesting when I was looking at the website and learning more about GymNation was the emphasis on being known as the people’s gym. I read too like in the UAE that gyms are more individual, like bodybuilding and more intimidating for people. And you guys really have focused on making it a place that’s welcoming for everybody from all different fitness levels, backgrounds and everything. Now I was interested because you guys do a lot of community work as well and I wanted to know like how has GymNation given back to the community and how has your mission to be the people’s gym impacted your marketing?

Ant Martland 24:41
So I think you know, in starting GymNation, we wanted to replicate, I guess what the UAE does for expats, the UAE makes everyone feel welcome. You know, it makes them feel at home and we wanted GymNation to have that same effect for our members. So using the I guess “the people’s gym” as our kind of motto meant that we, you know, we wanted to give something back to the communities in which we operate. And I think we have done that fairly well, you know, we obviously started out marketing on these big platforms and generating leads. But as we’ve grown, you know, more specifically this year, we started heavily investing time into these communities. You know, one such example is a fantastic partnership with a non-for-profit charity out here called Heroes of Hope. And they provide children and young adults who have Down syndrome or different levels of autism with the opportunity to kind of excel through fitness. So, you know, every day, those guys are in the gym, doing classes, you know, we’ve taken three of them on board as interns. So they come in every Monday and do a range of tasks from helping pick up weights to checking people’s temperature at rception to even some office work now. You know, we love having the guys around. And that’s something we’re very passionate and want to continue as well, as you know now we’re going into kind of looking at grassroots events, how can we support the next generation of I guess ultimately, gym goers, you know, the 12, 13, 14 year olds that are going to be looking to go to the gym. How can we start to relate to them? Whether it’s sponsor their hockey team, their rugby team, sponsor some events that they might be going to. So taking, you know, spend away from social media and invest it into the others, you know, these other avenues where we probably don’t see return, or we definitely don’t see return, we don’t see that immediate return. But I think as a feeling we get as a as an entity as a business and, and the long-term impact that has, outweighs any return we might get off social media apps, for example.

Kyler Canastra 26:46
Yeah, that’s great. And I think one thing I’m like, getting from the interview, from talking with you, is kind of how much passion and you know, the community that you’re in, cause you mentioned, I think that was really cool, how like the UAE is a welcoming place and a diverse place, and we want our gym to be the same. And that’s really kind of driven your marketing career know, you’re passionate about something and you want to share that with the world around you. I think it’s really.

Ant Martland 27:05
Absolutely. I think, you know, we’re up against multinational, you know, competitors, who are very well known throughout the world, and I think they’ve lost touch a lot of them with with the people and with the members, and we wanted to always have that touch, always have that connection. And you know, we sit daily inside the gyms in the cafes in the gyms, we’re there to speak to the members if needed, you know that. That’s, there. And we want that close connection and that close bond with the community and the members.

Kyler Canastra 27:38
And also, you mentioned to like how the UAE, everyone has these crazy schedules and people are, it’s 24/7, right? I wanted to know, like, what’s a typical day like at work for you? And what are your some of your day-to-day responsibilities?

Ant Martland 27:49
A typical day at work, so I like to try and work out before, got no excuse really, when you work in a gym for not going to the gym. So that’s getting a little bit earlier, six-ish, maybe do a session, maybe a CrossFit session or weight session, typically. After that, it’s very much, you know, check what’s going on. So we’ve got a lot of automation within the business, a lot of dashboards. So we review those dashboards, everything from marketing, but also linking into the sales figures and other data we get. So review all that any, any key takeaways on that or any action that’s needed, you know, will be taken there. And then throughout the day, it’s just kind of dealing with what comes up, you know, luckily, and I appreciate this a lot, is that I don’t just really do marketing, we all get involved in everyone else’s tasks. So you know, whether it’s improving the website, or, you know, training for the sales staff, or, you know, cleaning up the gym, you know, we still get involved with that where we can, so the day is completely unpredictable after that.

Kyler Canastra 28:56
That’s so important too, that collaboration. Marketing wouldn’t be anything without sales or without operations. It all goes hand in hand. So it’s really cool.

Ant Martland 29:03
It all goes hand in hand, but then marketing always gets blamed when sales aren’t there. So that’s the bit where… I guess.

Kyler Canastra 29:11
Yeah, and I saw it too, like on your website, you know, you have videos and you know, audio visual marketing that you guys use. Do you have any tips for people that want to be like working with videos as a form of marketing?

Ant Martland 29:23
I think, again, it comes back to that “keep it simple” methodology. I think people overcomplicate with videos. And I think that we’ve got a variety of videos, we’ve got, you know, some fairly standard, “this is a group exercise class” for example. You know, there’s only so many ways you can present that and if it’s been that many of them, it’s going to be very hard to do something unique. I think where we’ve done very well is we’ve come up with some very unique video concepts that we’ve used in our marketing and we’ve done all that kind of internally. You know, the three of us usually sit together and bash ideas around and then, you know, within a couple of days, the video is made. So I think the fun and the uniqueness has to be there. And for us, it’s also about being edgy, pushing the limits a little bit of what’s possible. A lot of the stuff that we’ve done is potentially on that line. We don’t think it’s gone too far at all. But it’s also stuff that hasn’t been seen out here. No one’s really, I guess, dared to do that before in our industry. So a lot of people are like: Whoa, you know, what are you guys doing? But at the same time, like: Whoa, we love what you’re doing.

Kyler Canastra 30:31
That’s cool. Yeah, I think like a big theme, from a lot of the people I’ve had on the show are like what you’ve been saying. So keep it simple. And also being unique. Cause I think nowadays, we’re so like, things can get convoluted, right? With like so much things online, we have access to all these different things. And I think a lot of people forget to like keep it simple and show people your passion and your mission. That’s what people are gonna be attracted to. But also being unique and being different and fun.

Ant Martland 30:58
Absolutely, you know, it’s very easy to overcomplicate things, you know, especially when you’re filming, you know, you need to bring in a full production team and actors and all of this and whilst we have a fantastic agency that we work with, for our video content, you know, a lot of the most successful videos we’ve had have been filmed on an iPhone in a spur of the moment when when we’re not expecting that content to be there. So I think it’s having the nice shiny videos, you know, the shop window of a brand and, you know, very presentable, but also being ready and not afraid to, you know, have something that’s a bit wobbly, maybe on the screen. If the content’s good, it will still work, you don’t have to worry about that.

Kyler Canastra 31:41
Now, I always ask this question about what advice would you give someone starting out? And I wanted to ask you, what advice would you give to someone starting out in marketing, but particularly in sports marketing? Because for like our audience know, in general, we have people who are, you know, people who are involved in working in marketing, but also people who are just curious and maybe might want to take the next step in their career. So what advice would you give to somebody who wants to start out?

Ant Martland 32:01
I think the first one is kind of follow your passion. You know, it’s quite commonly said, but, you know, if you enjoy what you do, it doesn’t feel particularly like work. And don’t get me wrong with some days where you know, you have a bad day, and it’s a nightmare. But overall, 98% of the time is, because I’m in fitness and even if I wasn’t at GymNation, and we didn’t start GymNation, I’d still go to a gym, I’d still be involved in that kind of community. So try and get involved in something you’re passionate about, you know, whether it’s football, rugby, athletics, tennis. There’s a huge amount of sports jobs within those industries, but you can follow for, you know, from marketing to finance, even if you have that passion for sport and finance, you can still go down that route. So I guess follow your passions is probably the first one. And then coming back to what I just said is: Drop perfection. You know, too many people, I think, hold on to that and wait too long to launch stuff or to do stuff because they’re trying to get it absolutely perfect. You know, not much that we do at GymNation is perfect in any way. We make a huge amount of mistakes, but we kind of just do it. We do it, we learn as we go. And we learn from those mistakes, I guess, as we’re going. And that holds back a lot of people, it takes so long to get perfect, it takes so long to get perfection. In the meantime, you could have, you know, made 10 or 15 mistakes by just doing it and made it even better.

Yeah, and what is perfection, right? I don’t know. It’s a concept that’s kind of, I don’t know, it’s weird. It’s built by society.

Exactly, and that’s the thing, you know, I guess one aspect of marketing is no matter who you speak to, if I show you an image, okay, a marketing creative, for example, no matter who I asked in the world, there would be 6 or 7 billion different opinions on that image.


And who’s to say any one of those is right or wrong. So just just get it up, get it done. And, you know, see what happens when that’s there.

Kyler Canastra 33:59
We’re all human right. We’re all unique, so we have to capitalize on our uniqueness, if not the world be very boring.

Ant Martland 34:05
Exactly. Yeah. 100% agree. I think the final one for me would be learn to say sorry, I guess ask for, you know, ask for forgiveness, rather than permission. Yeah, and it comes back to that just doing it but you’re so much quicker, you know, one of the reasons why GymNation has been so successful so far is we’re very agile. You know, we don’t need to go through layers and layers of approvals. You know, the three of us and sometimes even some of the site managers just get on and do stuff. It’s very quick whereas, you know, even in some of the companies that I’ve worked in before, you have to go through these approvals, you have to get sign off, you have to get the finance team to approve the invoice, then it has to be paid, you know. And suddenly you’re at a week or two of lost time, lost sales, loss leads, etc. So, again, it comes back to all-encompassing but just do it.

Kyler Canastra 35:01
For sure. Now before we talked about your kind of daily routine, going to the gym in the morning and having that. But do you have any other daily habits that you would attribute to your success that you think would be useful for our audience?

Ant Martland 35:14
I guess it just kind of keep a routine there. And my wife hates me for this, but I kind of don’t really turn off. It’s very much you know, in the morning, get up. Check everything’s okay. Act on anything that’s not and then move on. I’m a bit OCD when it comes to like my kind of email inbox. I won’t leave if I’ve got emails still unread. My desktop’s clear. My WhatsApp chats clean. It’s kind of the only things in my inbox are stuff I’ve got to action. So I think you know, that organization for me is key. I guess that’s probably my biggest daily habit is to keep that organization there. Everything else falls into place. I guess.

Kyler Canastra 35:55
It’s important to say organized because we also can get very distracted. If you’re not on top of things, things get lost. No.

Ant Martland 36:01
100% I mean, one of my colleagues the other day, he was showing me something on his computer and he minimized his screen and his desktop… Oh my God, I had anxiety. He had probably hundreds of icons on his desktop.

Kyler Canastra 36:14
That would freak me out.

Ant Martland 36:15
Yeah. 100%. I was like: What are you doing, mate? Like, that’s got to go. Look at my desktop, the two icons there. And that’s it.

Kyler Canastra 36:21
That’s all you need. Yeah, exactly. Now someone that is passionate about sports and works in the industry, I’m sure you have like a professional role model or source of inspiration. So for you like, who inspires you or what inspires you?

Ant Martland 36:35
Right I don’t think I necessarily have one, you know, I appreciate what people do. I look at, look at the likes of I guess Ben Francis, who started Jim Shark. You know, I find that’s incredible what he’s done, you know, and the way that they’re marketing and the way that they’ve grown is extremely impressive. But I guess, overall, there’s not too many people that I look up to. It’s kind of the industry as a whole, you know, I listen to a lot of podcasts, myself, you know, some technical. I guess, Neil Patel, he’s very technical on kind of the SEO side of stuff. So more business leaders and the entrepreneur kind of side of stuff. So I wouldn’t say there’s one role model i look up to, I’d say there’s a number of multiple people that kind of, you know, you learn from and inspire you along the way as well.

Kyler Canastra 37:27
And as someone that’s organized, I’m sure you have certain apps or tools, or I don’t know, books or something that has helped you become more organized and kind of keep your life in order. So do you have any recommendations or like apps or tools that can help people kind of get more organized?

Ant Martland 37:43
So aside from the obvious I mean, you know, without WhatsApp, we wouldn’t be anywhere. I know a lot of people use Slack. But we’ve we’ve continued to build a business on WhatsApp, it just just seems nice and easy. I think what else, there’s one called Asana, which is very similar to Trello, a project management tool. So we’ve got web developers, not within the office, in another country, we’ve got CRM developers and app developers that are within another country. So the way we manage that and kind of pending, completed in progress tasks is through this Asana tool. It’s a fantastic tool, it gives you ability to kind of create flows. I’m not on any referral or free affiliate fee, I can guarantee it. But if you need it, if you want to manage teams and want to manage, you know, tasks, something like that is very clear. You know, it makes it a lot easier, a lot easy to do. And in terms of app software, I guess for marketing, it’s a usual, you know, the Facebook, the SEM rush, Google Analytics, Search Console, etc. And then we’ve got our own CRM, which has all the other business aspects on which we’ve developed, which new sales, you know, defaults, etc.

Kyler Canastra 38:59
That’s great. So we’ve actually come to the end of the interview. Before you sign off, I always ask the guests, do you have any final takeaway from this conversation that you’d like to highlight? You know, for the people listening?

Ant Martland 39:10
I think it just comes back to what we discussed earlier is, I guess the one message, 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 everything else within the business. So that’s, that’s my one, two tips.

Kyler Canastra 39:29
Yeah, stick to the basics, basically. And you mentioned some platforms and stuff. But another question I always ask is, if people wanted to get in touch with you or to follow you, where are you active?

Ant Martland 39:39
So it’s funny and people always laugh at me. I don’t actually have any other, I’ve got Facebook, but I don’t actually have any other social media platforms. I don’t have my own personal Instagram. So it would be only LinkedIn. Or if you want to follow GymNation on Instagram, it’s @gymnation_uae. Same on same on Facebook as well.

Kyler Canastra 39:58
Perfect. Well, thank you so much, Ant, for your time and for sharing your insights with us. And I also want to thank everyone listening in. For more perspective on The Content Marketing industry in Europe or also now in the Middle East, check out and keep tuning into the podcast for more interviews with content experts from all over the globe. See you all next time. Thanks again.

Ant Martland 40:18
Cheers guys. Thank you.

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