Hall of Fame

Phillip Mills

With a background in competitive athletics, Phillip Mills has a passion for fitness and brand vision he’s successfully marketed to the world.

Former track and field athlete and Les Mills International Founder and Executive Director, Phillip Mills, left the “unhealthy” music industry in 1980 when he had a vision to bring together the worlds of sport and performing arts. 

Starting with branded aerobics classes like Jazzercise and Jazzergetics, he was able to energise his father’s Auckland-based Les Mills gym. At a time when the modern fitness market was just taking off, his bold marketing moves would soon lead to the development of a chain of Les Mills gyms throughout New Zealand and Australia. 

Over the following decades he, his wife Dr Jackie Mills and their teams created dozens of other classes like Bodypump and Bodybalance, which are some of the global fitness market’s biggest brands, taught by 140,000 instructors in 21,000 gyms and over 100+ countries worldwide. 

“Phillip has built one of the world’s leading fitness brands from a single gym in Auckland, and now it’s a movement shared by millions every day somewhere in the world,” says design leader Dean Poole. Poole adds that Phillip’s vision, tenacity and hard work has allowed him to market a brand he truly understands and exemplifies.

With an instinct for building great brand stories, Phillip searched out New Zealand’s best creative talent, working over four decades with agencies like Hutchison Knowles Marinkovich, Meares Taine, Colenso and Alt, to whom he attributes much of Les Mills’ global success.

Having worked with Phillip for over 30 years, agency alumnus and now Adjunct Professor at Auckland University of Technology, Mike Hutcheson says that the work Phillip has done with Les Mills “exemplifies the true excellence of marketing.” 

The Les Mills growth story still has a long way to go. They’ve hit a home run with a high-design value equipment range and with world-leading video content developed over four decades, they also launched an online subscription service just as that market was exploding worldwide. With huge competitors like Apple and Peloton, it’s a classic David and Goliath story with huge stakes.

What Phillip’s colleagues have to say about him:

“Phillip Mills is a legend of the fitness industry and his approach to marketing has underpinned it. Always in constant pursuit of the iconic shot and killer line, and a proven record of building lasting brands that have stood out through the decades.” – Clive Ormerod, Chief Executive Officer of Les Mills International

“Phillip is a fearless, decisive and empathetic leader. Phillip has created a nurturing and creative collaborative environment where the possibilities are endless. Always challenging the status quo. There is no idea that is too big or out of reach.” – Nikita Kearsley, Producer at Les Mills International

“Phillip’s quest to always push the boundaries with marketing is a testament to how the company continues to evolve. No matter how crazy the idea you pitch to him, if he knows it will cause positive conversation in the
fitness market he will hit go.” – Steve Baker, Creative Director of Film at Les Mills International

“Phillip is a true marketing legend. He’s not just a successful business owner, but a talented creator, innovator, thinker and dreamer. He’s someone you want in your brainstorms, an inspiring and open-minded collaborator with an ability to curate ideas that are purpose-led, insight driven and customer-first. This is a man on a mission – a mission to unite people through a love of fitness. All for a fitter planet.” – Sam McKenna, Global Marketing Manager

This article was originally published in the December/January 2020 issue of NZ Marketing. You can subscribe to the magazine, here. Or read the other winner stories, here.

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