ONE-ON-ONE WITH PETRA ROBINSON
Petra Robinson is a 35-year veteran of the fitness industry and she has developed a well-earned reputation of being able to turn concepts into successful brands. Among these success stories are Zumba, AFAA, Piloxing and healthclub.com. She is a frequent contributor to industry publications and a sought-after speaker in fitness industry events. Petra has been with Zumba since 2004 and oversees fitness industry trade shows and relationships for the company. She is also currently serving on the FIBO USA Education Committee and is an adviser to NASM and Piloxing. FIBO Focus caught up with her between meetings to talk about what she is up to today and where she sees the fitness industry headed in 2019 and beyond.Petra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
FF: Let’s start by having you let us in on what you are focusing on in 2019?
Robinson: This is the year of global expansion. More international fitness shows are being created and there has been a global pattern of combining fitness shows with martial arts, bodybuilding, etc. The two worlds are coming together.
Where does STRONG by Zumba fit into that trend?
STRONG by Zumba is a prime example of martial arts-inspired movements combined with traditional fitness exercise and inspirational music and choreography. Fitness education is having a resurgence worldwide. USA certification brands like NASM, for example, are focusing on international expansion of their personal trainer programs. And the markets are receptive.
What other projects are you involved with these days?
My main focus is Zumba — overseeing our trade shows globally and continuing to expand our reach to new markets such as the martial arts, bodybuilding, fitness competitions and specialty events. I serve on the Augie’s Quest Bash Committee helping generate new sponsors and am the liaison for Zumba’s participation and activations for AQ.
How would you characterize the state of our business in the U.S.?
The industry is changing. Traditional fitness education associations are competing with YouTube and online training programs. Live on-site trainings are shrinking and the industry is adjusting — some better than others.
Where are its strengths?
Group fitness is still very strong — dance fitness programs like Zumba, Piloxing and POUND are popular among the gym members, but we are also seeing a shift to more bodyweight and HIIT conditioning programs. We still have a lot of instructors that have been in the business for decades, certified by the traditional organizations; however, the younger generation is not choosing fitness as a viable career — hobby, yes, ‘pro-cumers’ Professional Consumers, they love to work out but do not see themselves working full time in fitness.
So what’s the answer to that challenge?
We need to get the 20-30-somethings more engaged. How to do this is the big question. We are seeing more boutique studios popping up and there is a resurgence of cycle programs and franchises. It seems every 20 years we go through cycles, from dance fitness to mind body Pilates, cycling, HIIT and weighted programs — what’s old is new again to an entire new generation.
What are some of the unique challenges for club owners and trainers?
From a club owner perspective it’s operating costs and membership retention — this has been the big issue since the beginning. The other is providing unique programming, making their club stand out from all the rest in the area.
Another issue for clubs is staff retention — instructors teach at multiple clubs, they move around a lot, and the same for the sales teams.
What role do you see FIBO USA playing in the U.S. fitness business?
The opportunity for FIBO USA to be a leader and influencer in the USA and North American fitness market is huge. Look at what FIBO Germany has accomplished. I see the same for FIBO USA — we have needed a shake-up in the industry. We need more interaction between the consumer, fitness enthusiast and the B2B sectors in the USA. FIBO USA can be that “big gorilla” in the USA — servicing the entire fitness and healthy lifestyle markets. FIBO USA has the unique chance to bridge the gap between professionals and enthusiasts to create a monster event like FIBO Germany.
What do you plan to focus on at FIBO USA 2019?
Our focus is two-fold — continue to promote STRONG by Zumba and create awareness about the program, how it is unique to all other HITT bodyweight programs and, of course, Zumba. Zumba is still the most popular dance fitness brand globally and for good reason. We will also be holding a STRONG by Zumba and a Zumba training at FIBO USA. Of course we will also have our wonderful Zumba Wear shop at the booth with all the new Zumba and STRONG collections.
What should FIBO USA attendees look for in the show?
FIBO USA will be an experiential event – similar to FIBO Germany – where attendees will have the opportunity to try new programs and products, especially those from Europe and Asia that they may not have access to at other events. The educational sessions and workshops are top notch — this year FIBO is increasing the amount of sessions and the caliber of the presenters.
What one piece of advice would you give on how to be better?
Well, that’s the $1 billion question. The short answer is to be different, disruptive and unafraid to embrace change and the unknown. Take risks, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.
How much do you still dance?
Oh, you are so funny! Dance, yes I taught dance aerobics, STEP, Aqua Fitness and of course “Petracize” during my Saudi Arabia years. Because of my hectic travel schedule and work I don’t get out to the gym much anymore. Mostly I “dance” at home to my classic Zumba DVDs and do my own version of Aqua Zumba at home.
Finally, where are the growth opportunities and how do we take advantage of them?
All I know for sure is that we need to engage the young people otherwise our industry will age out. Trust me, I still see instructors that I certified when I was at AFAA in the late ’90s — we have a lot of mature fitness pros, but we need new young blood. Let’s face it, the future of fitness relies on the youth to carry it on to the next decades. It would be great if more experienced fitness instructors would mentor new instructors. And somehow we need to get the new generation to attend the fitness trade shows and conferences. It’s the best way to hone their craft, network and come away re-energized.
Petra’s 5 Tips for Making More Money
1. Assess what is working for you. What else can you do along those lines that would generate success?
2. What is not working? Can you make changes? What do you need to do to see positive results? Who do you need to bring in to help you? Or do you have the talent internally?
3. What is your competition doing? Spy on them, find out what they are providing their members. Have one of your team join their club to get first-hand experience.
4. How much are you spending on marketing? And don’t tell me you are just using social media. Are you buying digital ads?
5. Join community groups like the Chamber of Commerce or Rotary. Get your name out there. Simple things like Nextdoor.com. Post specials for the community. We need to go back to old-school grassroots marketing in order to compete in this Internet and virtual age.