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Building a Cult Brand

Two years after opening King Ursa, Eric and Paulo were confident with the theories and methodologies they applied to their clients, and they were ready for an opportunity to test them out for themselves.

Exhausted from gym options, they attended an entirely different class – led by a passionate lead trainer, 15 minute classes, group energy, and loud music. Their takeaway was a structure that felt original, void of the typical gym “culture.” Right then, the idea of One Academy® was born.

The first step was to find someone as equally passionate about fitness; and their discovery led them to Jesse Bruce. A natural leader, who perfectly embodies ‘passion,’ he’s a pro Canadian athlete with an exceptional success story – from a troubling addiction-led youth to obstacle course racing and fitness training, making him a world class fitness athlete.

After three months of workouts, Eric and Paulo thought, “maybe we can market our way to starting a gym.” So, they returned to their three guiding pillars (still used with King Ursa clients) to position One Academy®:

Passion – There was plenty. They just needed to know how to harness it.
Purpose – Given the combined experience, it gave them the confidence that was needed.
Profit – The concept of One Academy® felt different, and that was good.

One Academy®’s purpose guided them with hard decisions: the gym was built from scratch and 35% of the square footage was dedicated to a ‘community’ section. The branding approach was amplified by hosting group BBQ’s and potlucks; strengthening the community. Attendance tripled, and an opportunity arose again: include members in the decision-making process.

Another stepping stone was trademarking One (Unique) Academy® (Discipline, Community) and referencing designs (tribal) for the logo. Once the design system was established, they experimented with it to broaden the visual branding palette. Jesse’s training regime was codified and trademarked too, so any gym could use it: HiFlux™, an adaptive training program.

Even during a pandemic, the community strengthened, and with just $5,000, One Academy Virtual® was launched – consistent with HiFlux™ training program.

Beyond the ‘one of Toronto’s best gym’ accolades, One Academy® Virtual was voted “most epic virtual workout!” The gym was also able to offer dynamic and lower pricing the more people joined – prime example of how Purpose + Community guided profit. Atop all the validation, referring to Jeff Cottril’s definition of a cult brand, “you’ve achieved cult status when people tattoo your logo on their body,” Eric and Paulo were stoked to find 3 individuals with a One Academy® logo tattooed onto their body, within the first year. An achievement you don’t see everyday to say the least.


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Inspired to start a business using these 3 guiding principles? Reach out to Eric and Paulo!

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