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Matteo Rinaldi


We often wish that our brand could appeal to everyone, but this is almost impossible.

Imagine the market as an ocean of customers. Creating messages that engage everyone is challenging and costly. Instead, it’s more effective to focus on one group of customers at a time. In this way, while messages can get lost in an ocean, they are more likely to be noticed in a smaller pool where people are closer and easier to reach.

This approach is known as the “Swimming Pool Strategy.” The people in the pool can be considered a “tribe”: a group that shares the same passion, beliefs, and sometimes even the same lifestyle.

Today, trying to succeed in a market without identifying your own pool (tribe) is like speaking to an ocean of diverse people. It becomes very difficult to create a message that can be emotionally engaging for them.

Read more about Creating and delivering engaging communication that sells

The “Swimming Pool Strategy” is frequently used by “smart” brands. Phil Knight, founder of Nike, in his book The Art of Victory, explains how one of the key factors in Nike’s success was expanding one pool at a time, thus one tribe at a time. Nike started with runners and then moved to basketball, American football, baseball, football, tennis, and so on. Their tactic pointed at creating “the perfect shoe” for each sport and convince top athletes in those sports to wear them, thus becoming icons.

A recent example of this “Swimming Pool Strategy” approach comes from Danone Hi-Pro in Italy, a protein yogurt designed for those who live sports like pros, even if they aren’t professional athletes. The ideal starting point was the CrossFitters tribe, not only because of its rapid growth but also because of the alignment between the brand’s values and those of CrossFitters:

  • Pro Attitude: CrossFitters might not all be professionals, but they share a serious approach to training. In the “box” (the training area), focus and effort are the most important. It’s not a place to go and socialize or joke around; it’s a place for hard work. HiPro mirrors this mentality by being a straightforward, high-protein yogurt for those who train with a pro mindset.
  • Natural Approach: CrossFitters train using their body weight, bars, and rings, in contrast to gyms where you can find lots of machines. This natural workout builds the body proportionally. Similarly, HiPro uses natural ingredients, with high protein content derived from ultrafiltration and natural fermentation, enhanced with fruits like banana, coconut, blueberries, and mango. This makes HiPro a natural alternative to typical protein shakes, which often contain artificial ingredients.
  • Balance of Physical and Mental Strength: Both HiPro and CrossFit view wellness as a blend of physical and mental health. CrossFit coaches support not only training methods but also better eating habits while also maintaining motivation to achieve fitness goals.
  • Healthy Habits: Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” Both CrossFit and HiPro believe in the power of healthy habits, because goals are achieved through persistence and consistency.
  • Inclusivity: CrossFit, like HiPro, welcomes everyone, regardless of gender or age, as long as they share the same mindset. CrossFit isn’t for everyone, but it doesn’t exclude anyone. The same goes for HiPro.
  • Trust: CrossFitters never leave a fellow member behind. There’s a strong bond within the tribe, with members always ready to help each other. HiPro has always shown the same supportive attitude toward this community.
  • Determination: This is perhaps the strongest link between HiPro and CrossFitters. HiPro is a determined brand, continually striving to improve in quality, taste, and protein content. The same determination that pushes CrossFitters to challenge and exceed their limits in every workout.

CrossFitters needed HiPro, just as HiPro needed them. The match was perfect.

The hardest part was creating an engagement strategy for the tribe (the CrossFitters). Jordi Guitart Clermont, former Marketing Director for Italy and Greece, understood that it wasn’t possible to study the tribe from the office, but instead he needed to experience it firsthand.

“We trained for months, made friends with hundreds of tribe members, interviewed coaches, and truly understood what this discipline meant. Our bodies felt it too, enduring pain in muscles we didn’t know existed :).”

The strategy was not about using HiPro to just speak to CrossFitters; instead, the goal was to have CrossFitters to talk about HiPro. From there HiPro selected several CrossFit leaders (coaches) to become brand ambassadors. It wasn’t the financial compensation that motivated them but the purpose: to grow the CrossFit tribe by helping them gain more visibility. HiPro and various boxes worked towards a common goal: encouraging more people to improve their lives by embracing this discipline.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this project was the integration of the brand within the tribe. HiPro branded boxes by donating equipment, participated in important tribe events like Rimini Wellness, and created in-store promotions like “buy 3 HiPro products and win daily CrossFit workout vouchers.” In a short time, HiPro grew exponentially.

CrossFitters were just the first tribe they conquered. From there they moved onto cycling, becoming an official sponsor of the Giro d’Italia, and are now entering the running tribe.

This example was necessary to make a statement regarding the advantages of utilizing the Swimming Pool Strategy:

  1. We can optimize our resources by selecting the communication channels that make it easier to interact with our tribe. For instance, in the case of HiPro it was the box (the training area)


  1. It becomes much easier to create a digital strategy using the right visuals, influencers, and hashtags that align with the language and interests of the tribe. Compared to 4–5 years ago, growing organically on social media has become increasingly costly. If a post isn’t sponsored, the number of people who see it will likely be very limited. Having a dedicated tribe will help spread content that can go viral among the core audience (the members of the tribe) rather than getting lost in the vast ocean of the internet.


  1. When a brand focuses on a specific tribe and understands its dynamics, it is more likely to create communication that emotionally engages with the tribe members. Trying to create content that appeals to everyone and moves every recipient is highly unlikely.


Whenever a company decides to build a brand around existing tribes over the years, it wisely chooses to focus on a specific group of people rather than trying to capture a vast market. The end goal it is still to become the market leader, but it becomes way more effective and sustainable to do it one swimming pool at a time.

Whether you are the founder of a startup or the marketing manager of a multinational launching a new brand, finding your tribe and creating a targeted communication plan ensures a higher return on investment (ROI).


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