Would you get a tattoo of a company logo?

Anytime Fitness tatoo

Do you love a company so much that you would get a tattoo of its logo? And what would that say about you and the firm in question?

Chuck Runyon, the founder and boss of US gym chain Anytime Fitness, says he is very proud of the fact that more than 2,000 people around the world now have his firm's logo of a running man tattooed on their bodies.

The phenomenon started in 2004 when a company manager was the first to get the tattoo for a dare, but customers soon followed suit.

Today a constant stream of the gym's members continue to get the tattoo, and the business promises to reimburse everyone who sends in a photograph with an explanation as to why they got inked.

Start Quote

It is absolutely positive for any business if people feel such a strong affinity with its brand that they will indelibly mark their bodies”

End Quote Rebecca Battman Brand consultant

Typically this costs the company about $100 (£58) per person, but Mr Runyon, 45, says the financial incentive has nothing to do with why people get their body art.

"Hundreds and hundreds of people have told us why they got the tattoo, and it has never been about the money or the brand," he says.

"Instead the answers are always very, very personal. Many say they got the tattoo to mark the fact they had achieved something they never thought was possible, such as losing a considerable amount of weight, or feeling healthy."

Mr Runyon often gives the example of Susan Bock, a customer from Colorado. Anytime Fitness helped her lose 150 pounds (68kg).

Ms Bock, in her early 50s, says the firm gave her "her life back", and she got the tattoo to celebrate, according to Mr Runyon.

Brand commitment

But as a company, does encouraging customers to get a tattoo of your logo affect the strength or value of your brand?

Chuck Runyon Mr Runyon says his firm has always worked hard to engage with customers

Independent brand consultant Rebecca Battman says it is a smart move.

Start Quote

Life is a series of obstacles that have to be overcome, and Tough Mudder has very clear values to help people do that”

End Quote Will Dean Founder, Tough Mudder

"It is absolutely positive for any business if people feel such a strong affinity with its brand that they will indelibly mark their bodies - that is a pretty high level of commitment," she says.

"It demonstrates a real emotional commitment to a brand, and shows how much brands have come into different aspects of our lives - they are no longer just about a product or experience.

"And people now often feel strongly that they share the same fundamental beliefs or attitudes of a certain company."

Fellow brand expert Robert Jones, professor of branding at the University of East Anglia, agrees, saying that there is little risk to a firm's reputation if people start getting its logo tattooed, "because tattoos have changed from being something subculture to something mainstream and, within reason, respectable".

Love and hate tattoos Tattoos are now more socially acceptable than they were in the past

Prof Jones adds that companies instead get customers who are prepared to be free promoters of the brand, and that it helps firms to build a community around themselves.

'Stands for something'

Mr Runyon, who himself has a tattoo of the company logo, says that creating a strong affinity with its gym goers was a key aim of Anytime Fitness ever since he founded the business in Minnesota in 2002.

A veteran of the gym industry in the US, he explains that instead of focusing on impossible to achieve images of body perfection, he wanted to remove this intimidation.

So staff are reminded that most customers do not enjoy exercise, and should instead be more gently encouraged and supported to reach achievable goals.

Anytime Fitness gym Anytime Fitness is now a global brand, with gyms in 19 countries around the world

Start Quote

As brands undergo identity changes... consumers might be inclined to regret the permanent association they have created”

End Quote Benjamin Voyer Social psychologist

Mr Runyon says that such an approach goes a long way to explain why so many Anytime Fitness customers get its logo tattooed - the company works hard to make them feel good about themselves, and that they belong to a caring community.

Such an approach has also of course helped to fuel the business's commercial success, along with allowing users to access the gym 24 hours a day, even when no staff are present.

As a result, it now has more than 2,400 franchised gyms across 19 countries.

Yet these days the company is far from alone in seeing customers get tattoos of its logo, particularly in the wider fitness and sports fields.

Another business that is seeing a growing number of people get its logo permanently marked on them is extreme obstacle course organiser Tough Mudder.

Founded by Will Dean in New York in 2010, its events are tremendously popular around the world, despite entrants having to swim through icy water, crawl though mud and dodge electric wires.

Participants in a Tough Mudder event Tough Mudder's events are considerably more painful than the process of getting a tattoo

Tough Mudder claims that more than 3,000 people now have its logo tattooed on their bodies, something which Mr Dean says makes him proud and shows that Tough Mudder "very clearly stands for something".

"Life is a series of obstacles that have to be overcome, and Tough Mudder has very clear values to help people do that.

"We stand for things like fun, teamwork, camaraderie and challenge."

Disappearing brands

Benjamin Voyer, an associate professor at ESCP Europe Business School, says there are a number of reasons why more and more people are getting tattoos of brand names, such as showing togetherness with other enthusiasts, or boosting their own sense of self worth.

A Tough Mudder tattoo on a man's arm Tough Mudder says more than 3,000 people now have its tattoo

But what is the chance of someone getting a tattoo of a company name, and then going on to regret it a number of years down the line?

Prof Voyer warns that while tattoos are pretty permanent, brands can change or disappear altogether.

"As brands undergo identity changes, such as becoming less exclusive... consumers might be inclined to regret the permanent association they have created," he says.

He adds that brands can also go on to be involved in scandals, or simply no longer exist following a takeover.

"People have to ask themselves if they are still going to feel the same about a brand in 20 years' time."

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories


BBC Business Live

    GDP FIGURES 10:07:

    Breaking down the GDP figures for the three months to the end of June:

    • Industrial production almost halved to 0.4% quarter-on-quarter
    • Manufacturing output rose just 0.2% quarter-on-quarter.
    • Construction output contracted 0.5% quarter-on-quarter, that's the first drop since the first quarter of 2013.
    • Output in the services sector grew 1% quarter-on-quarter.
    BSKYB PROFITS 09:56:
    Rupert Murdoch

    BSkyB has also announced it will pay around £4.9bn in cash to Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox to buy out Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland. Under the deal BSkyB will pay £2.45bn for 100% of Sky Italia, part of which will be by handing over a share of National Geographic, and £2.9bn for Fox's 57% stake in Sky Deutschland to create a combined group with nearly 20 million customers.

    GDP FIGURES 09:45:
    chart showing contributions to GDP

    It looks like things are not all rosy in the garden. The UK's dominant services sector has expanded past its previous 2008 peak - that's the green line. It's dragged GDP above the previous peak as a result (don't forget services account for almost 80% of GDP). But everything else - construction,, industrial production and manufacturing - remains well below the 2008 peak.

    GDP FIGURES 09:38:

    More from the Office of National Statistics (ONS). Economic output was estimated to be 0.2% above the peak recorded in the first quarter of 2008. From peak to trough, which was in 2009, the economy shrank by 7.2%, the ONS adds. We'll bring you reaction as it comes in.

    GDP FIGURES 09:35:

    GDP was in-line with the 0.8% estimate for the three months to the end of June. As an aside, here is a feature worth a read, asking whether we should be interested in gross domestic product at all. Bobby Kennedy said GDP "does not allow for the health of our children... or the joy of their play."

    GDP FIGURES 09:30: Breaking News

    It's official. UK economic output was 0.8% in the second quarter of this year. That means the economy has now passed its previous 2008 peak.

    GDP FIGURES 09:25: BBC Radio 4

    More from Ms Bell on the economy: She says it is typical that output recovers after about four years (following a recession) but this time its taken six "so its been quite a struggle." After Thursday's upgrade to its economic growth forecast for the UK, she adds, the IMF is looking for even stronger growth next year.


    Financial Times owner Pearson Group has reported a pre-tax loss of £36m for the six months to the end of June. That compares with a loss of £16m a year earlier.

    Argentina"s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

    Argentina failed to reach a deal for its debts late on Thursday, with hedge funds demanding full payment on its defaulted bonds, veering closer to what the IMF warned could be a painful new default. There's less than a week to go to either pay up or risk being declared in default. Argentine officials met with the US court-appointed mediator trying to break the impasse, but refused to meet the hedge funds' representatives directly.

    RBS RESULTS Via Twitter Kamal Ahmed BBC Business editor

    tweets: RBS Ross McEwan says UK recovery "broader than a consumer recovery". Gross lending to businesses up.

    RBS RESULTS 08:41:

    More market musings on RBS. Chirantan Barua, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, says the reduction in money set aside for bad loans was "extremely strong" compared with City expectations. Sales and capital were better than he expected too, he said. He reckons the shares may be worth 440p apiece.

    RBS RESULTS Via Twitter Kamal Ahmed BBC Business editor

    tweets: RBS CEO Ross McEwan says there has been a cooling in the mortgage and housing market over the last two months. "That is not a bad thing."

    MARKET UPDATE 08:24:

    European markets are lower today with investors focused on earnings news and economic data release. The biggest rise on the FTSE 100 is perhaps unsurprisingly RBS - up 10.07% or 33.10p so far to 361.9p after it took everyone by surprise by announcing first-half pre-tax profits of £2.65bn a week early.

    • The FTSE 100 is 0.28% lower at 6806.49
    • The Dax is down 0.22% to 9772.94
    • The Cac-40 has fallen 0.50% at 4138.73
    RBS RESULTS 08:11:

    Vivek Raja, an analyst at Oriel Securities, is one of the first out of the traps with some insight into what the RBS results mean. "The preannouncement reflects better than expected operating performance on credit performance, in the Bad Bank (RBS Capital Resolution) and on capital ratios," he says. So that means 1) loans are performing better, 2) the worst loans are performing better, and 3) the bank has more capital as a percentage of loans.

    VODAFONE 07:56:
    People walk past a Vodafone shop

    Vodafone's first quarter trading shows the mobile operator getting no relief from its European market. Group service revenue - that's customers buying handsets and using the Vodafone network to you and me - was £6.4bn in the three months to 30 June, down 7.9% on the same period last year. Competition and regulation "continue to create a challenging operating environment," it says.

    A general view of a sign for Lloyds Bank

    Lloyds Banking Group has responded to recent stories regarding settlements "with a number of government agencies" regarding rates setting - Libor. It's in "late-stage" discussions, it says.

    RBS RESULTS 07:27:

    "Asset quality continued to improve in the UK and Ireland," says what was once the world's largest bank. In English, more of their loans are more likely to be repaid in full and on time. The bank has set aside £22.4bn against bad loans, down from £25.2bn in December. Ulster bank posted a modest profit of £55m - that's from a £381m loss a year ago.

    BSKYB PROFITS 07:20:
    British Sky Broadcasting headquarters

    BSkyB has reported a slight slip in annual pre-tax profit to £1,1bn compared with £1,2bn a year earlier. Tax for the year was £249m compared with £295m in 2013, an effective tax rate of 21% as a result of the reduction in the rate of UK corporation tax.

    RBS RESULTS 07:16:

    Pre-tax profit was £2.65bn, up from £1.37bn as impairments dropped like a stone -- down to £269m from £2.15bn. Those reductions in bad loan costs far outweighed a rise in restructuring costs and a drop in sales. £150m was added to provisions for Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) and £100m to interest rate swap provisions.

    RBS RESULTS 07:08: Breaking News

    A turn up for the books. Royal Bank of Scotland Group has put out its first-half results early. They were due 1 August, according to the bank. Operating profit rose to £2.6bn from £708m in 2013.

    A Balfour Beatty workman on a construction site

    UK construction firm Balfour Beatty is in talks with rival Carillion about a potential £3.05bn merger, it has emerged. The two companies confirmed what they described as "preliminary discussions." In a joint statement they said they believed a "merger of the two groups has the potential to create a market leading services, investments, and construction business of considerable depth and scale."

    DISCOUNT STORES 06:51: Radio 5 live

    Look out for Hussein Lalani, co-founder and commercial director of the 99p stores, on 5 live. He says before the recession suppliers would just give them their leftovers. Now many brands are making products just for the discount market.

    GDP FIGURES 06:40: BBC Radio 4

    Marian Bell, economist and former member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee has been talking to the Today programme about the UK's economic recovery. She says it is "people are expecting a 0.9% rise in output and that would be sufficient to surpass the 2008 level." But it has taken more time to achieve that economic recovery than in the past. In fact, she says, it has been "the longest that output has been below its previously level for more than 100 years."

    GDP FIGURES 06:27: Radio 5 live

    Elaine Coverley, head of equity research at Brewin Dolphin is on Wake up to Money. "We need other markets to keep that going," she says of growing UK gross domestic product. Markets like the US aren't doing so well. The IMF slashed its US economic growth estimate on Wednesday to 1.7% for 2014.

    GDP FIGURES 06:11: Radio 5 live

    "The consumer is doing a lot of the heavy lifting," in the economy, says economist Alan Clarke of Scotiabank on 5 live. How, when wages are stagnant? The housing market, of course. As the value of homes rises, people are prepared to save less and spend more without earning more. House prices won't go up at the current rate forever, though, he says.

    GDP FIGURES 06:03: Radio 5 live

    CBI director-general, John Cridland is still on 5 live. The recovery is currently investment-led rather than export-led. Sterling's strength isn't helping but isn't wholly choking things off either, he says.

    GDP FIGURES 06:01: Radio 5 live

    Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry John Cridland expects growth of 0.8% in the second quarter, he tells 5 live. "We are getting some balance in the recovery, like a boxer in the boxing ring finding his feet," he says. Companies are investing, finally, he says, and that's crucial. This is what will add to wages.

    06:00: Howard Mustoe Business reporter

    Good morning! Please get in touch via email on bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk or via twitter @BBCBusiness

    06:00: Matthew West Business Reporter

    Good morning. So, let's catch up from last night: Amazon had a tough second quarter, as did General Motors. And the International Monetary Fund downgraded its global economic growth forecast. Here at home it's as good as confirmed that the UK is richer than it has ever been (you literally have never had it so good, you lucky, lucky people). Do you feel richer than you did last year? How about last week? Or yesterday even? We'll find out at 09:30 with second quarter GDP, so stay with us.



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.