Parkour is still pretty young as far as a sport and discipline goes, so we have quite a lot to learn from the fitness crazes that have come before us. While Yoga as a discipline may be thousands of years old, it’s really only been commercialized for the last half century or so. In America it came us to via the World’s Fair and Hollywood before hippy culture ignited the world with a zest for a little namaste. But we don’t have 3000 years for Parkour to establish business markets, so let’s learn what we can from yoga to get it done in the fastest and most efficient way possible.
1. If you build it they will come.
Parkour is currently taking this advice rather literally, with more gyms built in America than anywhere else in the world (probably more yoga studios too). But Yoga has built a rhythm for people to settle into so college coeds and suburban mothers alike pay for classes because it is an essential part of their weekly routines and personal identities. This is no different from CrossFit or Jiu Jitsu or any other movement discipline, but what makes Yoga unique is how wrapped up regular practitioners become in the culture of the discipline and devoting their lives to it. I’ve heard it joked before that 70% of women in Manhattan are Yoga teacher certified – and at a few thousand dollars a cert there’s no wonder as to why the Yoga industry is worth almost 10 billion dollars in the US alone.
By establishing a community culture that encourages everyone to participate (even those who struggle to afford it) you are creating the network that will allow your business to expand and grow past its means. So how do we get every middle aged person to switch career paths and follow their lifelong dream of becoming a Parkour coach? By creating a culture that people are excited and challenged by – more on this later. But it won’t come from gyms paying their coaches minimum wage. It won’t come from gyms charging traveling athletes full price membership fees. It will come from a unification of community and brand identity. You want the athletes in your gym more than you want the money they will pay you to be in there. The media is worth more than the money.
2. First the carrot. Then the stick.
If the carrot is the $5 weekly community yoga class then the stick must be the $5000 yoga teacher training in Costa Rica. Now obviously not everyone wants to be a yoga teacher (or a parkour coach for that matter), but teacher training at studios accounts for a sizeable chunk of their taxable income each year. That’s why Parkour gyms become Chuck E Cheese’s on the weekends because the high price value of birthday parties helps to keep the lights on. Let’s do a math problem shall we? (It’ll be fun I promise)
If you book 2 $300 birthday parties every Saturday for 15 weeks in a row you’ll make $9000 for your business. If you get just 3 students to pay for a 15 week $3000 teacher training you’ll make the same amount. In both instances you must pay staff and use your space solely for that activity rather than other products and services. But it’s much easier to market to 3 people than it is to book 30 individual birthday parties on a consistent basis. If you remember our article about Facebook Ads you can spend about $1 per click and if you spent upwards of $100 on the right audience I bet you’d get more than 3 people to sign up for your yoga training – or even your parkour coaching certification.
APEX and WFPF both have certifications and it’s not a coincidence that they’ve been able to scale as businesses because of their premium payment service. Now not every gym needs to have their own cert but gyms can absolutely profit from running these certifications for the existing entities that own the certs (assuming they let them get a cut of the ticket price). Long story short if you want to scale your gym reliably start finding more events and services that you can charge higher dollar amounts for. And I don’t know about you but I’ll find a way to raise $5000 if it means I get my Parkour cert by literally becoming Tarzan on an island city built specifically for certifications. Rafe Kelly is one of the only people I know of pushing immersive movement events with a higher ticket price besides events like JumpFest, so let’s get some new expensive ideas rolling.
3. Everybody wants to be famous.
Remember earlier when I mentioned creating a culture that people are excited and challenged by? Well, we’re actually already doing a pretty good job at this part. In fact most athletes from the early days joined because of the warrior spirit attributed by the founders. But let’s be honest, the founders wanted to be movie stars and the rest of us want to be Instagram influencers so it all goes back to what type of life can you build for yourself if you dedicate your life to the discipline. And that’s something that Yoga has done remarkably well, but they also found a practical way to market it too.
A young woman/man discovers yoga in college and becomes obsessed. They follow all the top Instagram accounts for their favorite instructors and prettiest humans making bendy shapes and they save up for the $5000 trip to Costa Rica with their first college job earnings. Sound familiar? The following top Instagram accounts part not the saving and spending money part. Parkour is starting to amass tens of athletes with 100K+ followers and the more those individuals interact with big brands the more those brands will seek out other athlete accounts to market with. Which means athletes who are up to the challenge can amass a following and gain the attention of the other big brands as well.
Yoga has thousands of accounts with 100K+ followers now and tens of accounts in the millions as well as a thriving economy of businesses and brands that interface with those influencers. So yes, a parkour gym in Michigan should be paying for a member of Storror or Motus to give a workshop (if they’re coaches) just like Storm should continue sponsoring new athletes from Great Britain. There are a set amount of influencers in the game and we have to play our parts if nonparkour brands are going to inject money into the Parkour Economy. Everybody wants to be an influencer but more Parkour businesses need to start valueing the athletes that can create the content that allows their parkour businesses to trend. If I can’t see your product, how would I ever be able to purchase it?
4. A little mystery goes a long way.
Strong to be useful. To be and to last. Great little mantras that make our sport seem more complicated than it actually is. I’m sure that played much better for the first French television special than just “we really love jumping on shit” (but in French). Yoga has an actual legacy of being ancient and “oriental” and so appeals to a Western market just by the mere fact that people are trying to escape the capitalist system that we cling to so dearly with our jobs and 401Ks (some people have jobs that let them retire). Embracing the escapism behind a discipline is paramount to developing a culture of fanatics – and those are the people that will talk about your business long after PK1 class is over.
Now I’m not saying all Parkour gyms in America should start teaching the original French words for movements – but it works for Ballet and Yoga and Karate for a reason. The more gyms embrace the dogma of transforming the urban environment into a playground alongside mantras that people can repeat – the more likely the sport is to actually gain traction and expand in scale and numbers. In short the discipline needs to feel more approachable than exclusively a sport for thrill seekers or we’ll fight an uphill battle to increase our numbers for years (ask breakdancing). But it needs to feel foreign and exciting enough that you’ll bring your friend from work to your class next week.
5. There’s strength in numbers.
So you’ve opened your doors to the amazing athlete who can’t always afford open gym (but they got that flyaway regrab on your bar set tho). You’ve wrangled in the fanatics that decide to pay thousands for a coaching cert even though they may never actually use it. You have mothers and fathers taking classes with their children and everybody wants to book a birthday party. So how do we keep that growth mindset of abundance going? By combining existing audiences of those influencers I mentioned before.
It may not make sense for that gym in Michigan to fly a Storror member out every month as opposed to a top name athlete from Colorado. But the practice of expanding your business audience to other demographics is the only way your company can hope to expand in the everchanging digital media market. Your parkour clothing brand won’t expand until everyone wants to wear it and everyone only wants to wear it when Dom wants to wear it. So get used to paying influencers to promote your gym and brand, because that’s how the 21st century works and it ain’t changing ansoon.
This also means being brave enough to try new things and initiatives that don’t currently exist but do benefit the existing community. Here’s an example. There’s a large portion of our community that is nomadic, but most gyms don’t have a system set up for guest coaches and workshops on a consistent basis. So if gyms were to more heavily promote the influencers within their market they would be more likely to amass clients that want to learn from said individuals when they happen to be in town. Now I’m sure not every yogi cares when someone famous is guest teaching their class, but I’ll bet you enough of the fanatics do to keep the system afloat for the next guest teacher too.
Thanks so much for reading some of my thoughts on how we can learn from the Yoga community. A lot of these notes are relevant for other disciplines as well but I think Yoga is a great example because like Parkour it doesn’t really require a huge investment to get started (a mat costs about what a pair of shoes does). But people end up buying into the fashion of the discipline because they believe they have to and it becomes a cultural layer of the economy itself. You don’t need yoga pants to do yoga. But your butt looks really nice in those Lululemons. The more Parkour can appeal to the fashion sense of the athletes who practice it (instead of producing Gildan sweatshirts) the more relevant our brands will become and the more money our economy will have to grow in scale.