In April of this year, BoxUnion Holdings, the parent company to TITLE Boxing Club and BoxUnion, announced that it has hired Josh Cole as chief marketing and digital officer to further champion the powerful omnichannel boxing fitness brands. Cole – a well-respected marketing innovator – will focus on building brand reach, understanding consumer behavior and strengthening local marketing programs across the physical clubs, digital business and franchisee development, as he has successfully done for 20+ years in the experiential entertainment industry.
Cole enters the ring at an exciting time, as BoxUnion Holdings recently acquired 163-unit franchisor TITLE Boxing Club and its digital platform, TITLE Boxing Club On Demand. His primary initiatives will be to enhance the in-person member experience, rapidly build awareness of digital products and define both brands’ respective brand personalities, while also growing their synergies with one another.
Franchise Chatter (FC): One of your biggest accomplishments at a previous franchise system as CMO was providing marketing tools to set franchisees up for success locally. What do you plan to implement along those lines at TITLE Boxing Club/BoxUnion?
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Josh Cole (JC): I always refer to franchisees as “franchise partners,” because franchisees and a franchisor form a true partnership with interlocking responsibilities for driving success. One of the utmost important functions of a franchisor marketing team is to provide effective tools, assets and guidance that help its franchise partners compete successfully in their local markets. My team and I are 100% committed to doing this for our TITLE Boxing Club franchisees and are already making strides.
For example, over the past months we’ve started a new series of webinars that accompany the release of monthly marketing playbooks and assets. We also hired an excellent field marketer to provide hands-on assistance as needed. In regard to tools, we’re working on improved solutions such as a comprehensive set of automated emails that will be simple for franchise partners to implement locally. Lastly, but importantly, we will ensure marketing programs are launched in synch with our operations and training teams, to ensure smooth network rollouts.
FC: Throughout your career, you have taken small marketing teams and built them into large, high performing teams. How do you grow a marketing team both in size and quality to best serve the needs of a franchise organization?
JC: There is nothing in my career that gives me a greater sense of pride than having assembled, coached and maintained (with minimal turnover) very high performing teams known for commitment, creativity and results orientation. The first part of the equation has been making excellent hires.
Something that has served me well has been to primarily focus my hiring decision on intelligence, curiosity, diversity of experience, and attitude as opposed to overemphasizing a particular skill or requiring prior experience in the same industry. If you fill your team with smart people who want to keep learning, who treat others with respect and who are results oriented, and you provide them with goals and developmental opportunities, you have a very good chance of creating the type of team that will knock over walls to help franchise partners grow the business.
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FC: How do you get creative and resourceful to generate mass exposure for a growing brand without significant national advertising funds?
JC: This is exactly what I had to do, and I’m happy to say, my team and I did, in my last job. We compensated for the lack of sizeable budgets in a number of ways.
One was by generating publicity. Media exposure is generally low cost on a CPM basis and is impactful because what others say about you is more powerful than what you say about yourself. Another was creating marketing partnerships, including with larger companies with larger budgets to dedicate to joint campaigns. Cause marketing was another effective way to capture attention while simultaneously providing community value. Lastly, it goes without saying, when budgets are tight it’s extra important that you make every dollar count, so whenever possible, test expenditures on a small scale with an eye toward expanding the ones that merit more budget based on measured results.
All of these approaches play a role in the TITLE Boxing Club/BoxUnion marketing strategy.
FC: What do you see as the biggest challenge of marketing a fitness brand in a post-pandemic world?
JC: I’m extremely optimistic about the prospects for fitness brands in the post-pandemic world. Like the pent-up demand for travel, there is also pent-up demand for trying new experiential activities. This should benefit everything from rock climbing gyms to newer fitness modalities including boxing-based fitness classes such as the ones offered by TITLE Boxing Club and BoxUnion.
The challenge is making one’s brand stand out among the competition. But that was also true pre-pandemic and is true in every industry you’d want to be a part of. Where there are paying customers, there is competition. And where there is competition, there is a need to provide amazing products and operational excellence … supported by thoughtful and well-executed marketing.
FC: How do you plan to bring together TITLE Boxing Club and BoxUnion, two brands with individual success and reputations, to become a strong and cohesive partner duo?
JC: The beauty of this merger is that it’s truly an example of, “the whole is greater than the parts.” We are learning from what worked best for each company and are sharing these best practices across the companies, within all aspects of the business – operations, training, P&L management, marketing … everything. The better we as an organization can share and implement these best practices, the stronger we’ll be.
In addition, and specifically in regard to marketing and brand building, we will combine forces to speak with a louder voice and to provide greater good for more people. For example, in May, in recognition of Mental Health Awareness month, we implemented cross-brand programs such as our “Knockout Stigma” event which raised funds for a charitable partner that is doing great, meaningful work increasing dialogue about mental health issues.
This cause is important to our organization, and by working together across our two brands we were able generate a larger impact. When it comes to coordinated action in the name of an important cause, one plus one equals three. This is the mindset we’re carrying forward as we look to help as many people as possible reach their wellness goals.