Case Study: Active in Style | From Zero to $1 Million

24 October 2017 3898

Thomas Gibbons is an experienced Digital Marketing Manager at  Active in Style and The Active Man UK fitness clothing stores who knows all the intricacies of business and brand promotion in the era of the Internet and social networks. Today, we had an opportunity to learn more about his work, methods, and history of the development of these remarkable sportswear stores from his own words.

He leads the actual build of the new "Active in Style" and "Active Men" websites and the second one is constructed completely from scratch: "We’ve grown from a small activewear retailer (Active in Style) in 2014 to making a male version The Active Man and having a store on the Kings Road in Chelsea, London. We’ve made our first million this financial year and became one of the fastest growing activewear companies in the UK."

Brand Building in Social Networks

Thomas was working with Active in Style Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles from the beginning and was kind to share with us the main tips for growth in social networks.


"I gather email addresses and add them on Facebook, and set up a unique customer group which I call our core "Active Man" database." - tells our hero. "The reason why that’s important to us is because it seems real to our current customers. But what I would do then is I’ll create a look-a-like campaign on Facebook which is a very, very good way of expanding a target audience."

“Our customer is utterly important.”

Sometimes, he confessed, during the promotion of a brand in social networks some problems arise:


"At Active Man and Active In Style we think we know who the audience is, but it's very difficult to indicate it precisely." - Thomas notices. "It's a very dangerous thing to assume you know who your audience is. It requires a lot of talent to validate a right customer profile."

Thomas also thinks that the Facebook look-a-like group is actually a very good tool to use, especially for "Active Man" "because we have X amount of orders come through and we have database that we haven't properly identified but once we put them into a Facebook to re-target either of our Facebook ads who are already in or Instagram adds, we can target an audience that is very close to our core audience."

“...personalization will be the future of e-commerce.”

It is worth starting promoting the product even before its launch. The thing worked well with Active Man store.

"We had a holding page which told "coming soon." - says Thomas. "What created a Facebook page maybe two months before the launch and we just put out snippets of the products coming. Just kind of a light starts to slowly build awareness. Then, on launch day, we had an offer which was like everyone that had shown any interests in staff."

“Unique content is always an ultimate key to success.”

And, additionally, he highlights the importance of content management during the branding: "we are trying obviously to keep a high level of social presence with good quality content."

People Seek not a Product; They Seek Inspiration

In order to understand how to increase sales, you need to understand what the customer wishes to buy in particular, what he is willing to pay for.

"We do a lot of campaign shoots around different builds of brands and we are trying to build awareness through it so, we have a shop look feature and we have an editorial feature where you can see images. So, I guess it's a lot to do with people signing up to our email database for fitness inspiration."

“...keep a high level of social presence with good quality content.”

People always like to feel being a part of something more. That is why it's so important to gather a community around your brand, to grow brand advocates.

"Our customer is utterly important. Once you’ve subscribed to our email database, you will be kept in touch with all our planned activities. We do actually organize a lot of fitness based events, we’re doing workouts, spin classes and yoga workout as well as other offline events."

"It is activation point to the store to get people within the London community coming to the store, and the second part of that is to reward and build a community that will work out. We have access to a lot of people that are in the fitness space and in addition to helping us, marketing get some great visual video content and some great images."

About Marketing Tools and Methods

The main sources of traffic for most eCommerce establishments are organic search and pay-per-click. Since we know that probably one year may pass just for some initial traffic to become organic, how long does it take to drive a large amount of organic traffic?


"We have the section called workouts or activity and we are trying to focus some of our organic traffic towards those areas, so we rank quite well for things like yoga clothes or spin class clothes or in a running attire." - Thomas notes. "We are trying to force our traffic by looking for either more long-tailed terms or terms high roped that probably have a lower conversion value."

“It requires a lot of talent to validate a right customer profile.”

The cooperation with major brands of sportswear is an important part of running shops like those of Thomas’. Here's what he says about it.


"We're very fortunate to get a lot of the products in from Reebok that is going to be in the Crossfit games which are highly known worldwide." - says Thomas. "We create stylish looks and we know how to get our product across and showcase it. On top of that, we also have a lot of different e-commerce technologies on our site which allow people to shop in it in a completely different way as opposed to most eCommerce sites."


Thomas knows the key factors in cooperation with large brands in order to get the prevalence before the competitors.


"If you are doing things the right way and you're building a really good community and audience, you will start getting preference from big businesses. Adidas or Under Armour, they grew fond of us, so they put banners on front windows of our store. We get a lot of takeovers and exclusives from Adidas, Reebok."

"Currently, these exclusives are intended for the CrossFit collection. If you start getting your basics right and you start building a really good community, they will start thinking, OK, “Active in Style” or the "Active Man" they're really selling a lot of products for us now, we need to do a collaboration or provide them with exclusives."

Also we organize offline events for our customers, trainings and runs, you can learn more about the next ones on our website.

“We’re not in the business of selling products, we are in the business selling imagery.”

The collaboration with influencers will have a positive impact on your brand, but still, it is tricky enough. Here are some tips or tricks how to find a right ambassador for your brand. The one who will sell, not just provide pictures.


"I can strongly recommend building a personal relationship with these people." - notices Thomas. "They are passionate about what they do and they really want a help out the brands, but basically I want a say this, you have to meet them, you have to do an event with them, you know, have fun with them. Have a coffee, go for a workout with them."


"That is unusual in our industry and the reason why I say that is if you're emailing an influencer and saying "I will pay you £2,000 to sponsor our product or do a post" then influencer will say "Yeah, that's fine with me". But that's not a relationship, you probably would have got the exact same service for £500 and you'd spend £500 going to meet them."

Brand Uniqueness Practices

"The best way for promoting the brand is to contact as many magazines and influencers as possible, everyone and anyone to talk about the strengths of your brands and then keep up on a very high quality of imagery. I think that will be the key to any new product starting off. We are kind of trying to sell products through the image. We’re not in the business of selling products, we are in the business selling imagery."

“I can strongly recommend building a personal relationship with the people.”

Surely, it was difficult for Thomas and his team to establish the first awareness on the market during the first year when he just started work with active wear. But he succeeded in coping with the task:

"It was very difficult starting off because I was only working with an "Active in Style" at the time, so I had to create this female voice, and it's quite difficult. It is very important to have certain trigger words and bonded terms because that is what our brands ultimately trying to tell the customers."

What Is The Most Important Thing About Any Business?

To sum up, there are many effective practices for promoting a brand, but there is one thing that ultimately directs the success. As Thomas told us - "the most important thing about any business is what do you want out of it, whether it's something that you want personally or it's something you want a business to do."


"For example, the core goal of "Active in Style" and the "Active Man" is to become a fashion-conscious activewear retailer, so we're trying to be the cool stylish multi-brand retailer. We really want to portray and become the best in active wear retailer in multi-brand active wear retailer in the world."


As for Thomas, "personalization will be the future of e-commerce. Unique content is always an ultimate key to success."

Petro Borysov

Digital marketer, content writer. Living the life, writing articles, getting things done.

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