Global player in the digital fitness industry


(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 1 2017)

This app is really tough! My muscles were burning like fire and during the last ten jumps my legs started to feel heavy as lead, yet there were still squats to do, which would be the final straw for my trembling muscles. Quitting is not an option, if you want to see results from the exercise, the Freeletics app is absolutely clear about that. However, the app also motivates, is a meeting point for like-minded people and, if you stick to the tough training schedule, delivers fast and sustainable results. It can be used anywhere and at any time and provides a community, inspiration and confidence for its users. In just three years, Freeletics has become a global market leader in the fitness industry, and it would be an attractive target for investors if it were to offer shares. Thus far, though, the company is totally self-financed.

The scheme works according to the principles of bodyweight, high intensity and functional training. A sequence of exercises gives the body a holistic workout at a high level. The assumption that muscle growth and build-up cannot achieved without dumbbells and other weights and gadgets, which was believed by many athletes until recently, has since been proven to be a widespread error.  Fundamentally, the muscles do not need free weight to grow; more important is the resistance provided by the exercise.

Exercises that use your own bodyweight are the new trend, as they can be carried out everywhere for free without equipment and gadgets – perfect for the workout at home, on holiday or even in a hotel room when on a business trip.

Bodyweight exercises are suitable for newcomers to fitness and athletics. You exercise based on your own natural bodyweight and thus complete a workout schedule. This kind of training is also gentle on tendons, ligaments and joints and is less likely to cause injuries than exercises using heavy weights.

This is the basis on which three Munich students, Andrej Matijczak, Mehmet Yilmaz and Joshua Cornelius, focussed their app Freeletics, which today has become a global success. Collaborating with sports scientists and personal trainers, they developed an effective training scheme without the aid of gadgets or other equipment, symbolised by the term “free”. Freeletics fits exactly into the new work-life-balance trend. Apps for sport, fitness and healthy eating have boomed in recent years. Users are prepared to work hard and consistently to achieve results. For the users, or free athletes as Freeletics prefers to call them, to stay on the ball requires the right product, states Daniel Sobhani, who has led Freeletics ever since the founders retreated from the operative business. The community is also very important, he says. ”An important element of the success is a good product which is accepted by people”, Sobhani explains. “The Freeletics community was the driving force right from the start. We are very proud of it, and it is very important to us.”

Training together was a trend set by the founders themselves. In Munich, they exercised together with friends, who passed the idea on, leading to an ever-growing community. Now people from all around the world have joined the Freeletics movement. According to the company, there are 13 million registered users exercising on playing fields, parks, at home or in fitness suits all around the globe. This is one of the biggest fitness communities in the world. As a digital network, they motivate each other and together work towards their personal targets. Freeletics has become a lifestyle that promotes healthier and more fulfilled living. The vision of Freeletics is for anyone in the world, working with the aid of the app, to develop the best versions of themselves and thus to live a happy and self-determined life. Everybody is empowered to design their life according to their own wishes and aims. This, however, requires mental and physical strength. The target is for everyone to unleash his or her full physical and mental potential. It does not matter to Freeletics where you come from, but where you are heading. Everybody can take their own life in their hands and fight for their wishes and aims. The fact that users can share their experiences, motivate each other and compare their results via the app is very helpful. Posted comments and praise from other users about your own exercise results provide an extra stimulus.

To keep the community growing, the right marketing is vital. Social networks are the key to success. To appeal to new users, advertising is placed on Facebook or YouTube. Newsletters and blogs supply users with news and the latest offers. At the beginning of last year, a TV campaign was launched, that can be watched now – a sure method to reach the broader public. The Freeletics Bodyweight app is now available in eight languages in 160 countries.

Many of the workouts of the app are free for users. If you want to add a personal trainer or require a eating schedule to be set up for you, you have to pay extra. Next to the classic Bodyweight App, with which the customers use their own bodyweight to exercise, Freeletics launched additional apps in the past year: Freeletics Running is designed for running enthusiasts, Freeletics Gym tells users how to do effective barbell training and thus brings an end to lengthy machine training which lacks results. Another important pillar is Freeletics Nutrition. The digital nutrition coach helps people eat healthier and achieve the look they are aiming for in a sustainable manner, all without calorie counting or a yo-yo effect. Freeletics Wear offers the matching clothing to support physical performance with the right look. This is very interesting for women. Naturally the Bodyweight App appeals first and foremost to men rather than women, and the Gym app also has a higher number of male users. “In principle, Freeletics Running and Freeletics Nutrition as well as Freeletics Wear are more directed towards women and results in higher female-user figures”, reports Daniel Sobhani. “The brand communication for running and nutrition is lighter, a little less pushy, but more continuous.”

Although since the beginning of Freeletics the three founders stayed in the background and commissioned their former student friend Daniel Sobhani with management, they returned together for the development of the three new apps. Each one of them took responsibility for a specific app. After the three new products had been launched, the founders retreated into the background again.  However, they talk about the latest developments on a weekly basis and discuss long-term strategic and organisational matters. These include developing the apps for further markets; recently Japan and Turkey were added. Initial criticism of the Freeletics Sport clothing collection was also taken seriously. Many users found the products too expensive. Two recent collections were developed in-house using very high-quality materials, yet prices were kept below the average market level. The company aims at the high end of the market and intends to compete with brands such as Nike and Under Armour.

Whether further outside investment might be necessary to promote future growth, is a question the company leaves unanswered. It has not been needed thus far, but this was not based on a political principle, Sobhani insists. If an investor were to add value at a certain point within the company’s development, the founders might reconsider. For now, however, it is clear to everyone that Freeletics will be significantly more successful in the years to come. “We have not yet reached the point from which we won’t develop any further”, says Sobhani. “The opposite is the case: we’re only just beginning.”

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Picture credit © Freeletics

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