By: Savannah Kaminski and Julianna King
When it comes to strength and fitness brands, I’m sure you can think of signature colors you often see right off the top of your head. Whether it was your first piece of equipment, or maybe the branding of a big strength company, or even just the powerlifting gym you recently joined, you are instantly surrounded with the bold colors of red, yellow, and black. It’s reasonable to assume that these large strength brands have elaborate marketing schemes, but are these stereotypical colors only adding to the negative image of powerlifters at the gym?
The psychological aspect of the gym is often an undervalued part of lifting, and I bet many people don’t realize the impact that color can have on this. Colors surrounding you can have an impact on one’s mood. Strength companies picking red and black as their brand colors almost seems like a no brainer. Red is commonly associated with power and royalty – think Iron Man and the wealth of power and knowledge he’s suppose to represent. The color black is commonly linked to strength, success and is used to evoke a variety of emotions; think of all the big box athletic companies (Nike, Adidas, Converse, etc.) and notice how all of their logos are black.
All of these associations are common attributes which companies want you to picture when purchasing their products. When pursuing their website, you are supposed to imagine yourself in the sleek red and black singlet, dominating the competition. Resulting from that daydream, a few clicks occur and next thing you know, you’ve ordered the matching socks too. For a small price they sell you dream of strength and power all wrapped up in a red and black bundle.
Unfortunately as much as they try and push the positive attributes associated with this branding, often times there are negatives that come with it. In several studies, red was found to often be psychologically linked to the idea of danger and mistakes which often leads people to subconsciously want to avoid the color more often.1 Alongside the avoidance, in another study red and black were also found to be associated with feelings of aggression, intimidation, and rage.2 All of these attributes can be linked to prevalent issues in the strength community that are apparent today such as isolation, aggression, etc.. This initial impression can often have the potential to drive away prospective strength and powerlifting athletes purely because they don’t feel like they fit in to the stereotype and persona.
I’m sure everyone has seen and laughed at those gym memes that display common stereotypes of gym members you may see, but when a powerlifter appears in one of those memes, there is usually a pretty consistent image presented for the character.
Loud. Massive. Male. Immense weight.
That’s normally what the image can be chalked up to be. This image doesn’t leave a lot of room for the increasing diversity in the type of lifters that continue to flow into the world of powerlifting everyday. The space is growing, but these stereotypes have remained – and that doesn’t just happen for no reason. Logically you can’t really blame all of this intimidation or stereotype on the branding of strength and powerlifting companies. You can, however, take note of the prevalence and uniformity of the branding in the strength industry and use their potential underlying meanings to reflect on how you create your own space in the powerlifting community. Do you feel like you fit the persona or do you break the mold?
When I started Fortitudo Fitness, I knew that I wanted to step away from the stereotypical color pallet that is so often presented by other brands and companies. To be quite honest, it felt like branding with those colors was overdone and easy to do. I aimed to create a new space and a new era for strength athletes. Instead of the typical harsh colors, I opted for cooler tones such as blues, greens, and mauves. Colors such as these will often exhibit more feelings such as peace, dependability, and happiness than you typically experience with the warmer tones. People exposed to colors such as red and yellow also report higher levels of anxiety then those surrounded by blue and green2.
Since mental health alongside physical health is such a high priority with FF, I wanted to make sure I developed a safe space for athletes so naturally picking the colors I did became an easy decision. (Made even easier due to the fact that my favorite colors are blue and green). As Fortitudo Fitness continues to grow, my goal is to create a safe and encouraging atmosphere that appeals to lifters of all identities so that everyone can feel like they have a place in this community to be strong. While breaking the stereotype of the red and black may just be a small piece of a puzzle, it shows that here at Fortitudo we prioritize the inclusion and the empowerment of every athlete, and we look forward to helping find space for you too.
- Mehta, R., & Zhu, R. (2009). Blue or red? Exploring the effect of color on cognitive task performances. Science, 323(5918), 1226-1229.
2. Kaya, N., & Epps, H. H. (2004). Relationship between color and emotion: A study of college students. College student journal, 38(3), 396-405.