Startups and armies are not often seen in the same sentence. Especially when an army becomes one of the biggest clients for a startup. However this is exactly what happened with HeiaHeia, the social web platform for sports, who have signed a deal with the Finnish Defense Forces for a national roll out of their fitness training program.

HeiaHeia is basically a sports activity tracking solution with a built-in fitness motivator, trying to make you be more active. However as we have written earlier, they are not really a consumer company, but actually target companies and organizations that want to lower their health-care and insurance costs, while motivating employees.

Every single year, the army enlists approximately 27 000 conscripts and they partnered up with HeiaHeia in order to improve the physical activity prior to the start of the actual military service. So if we were to treat the Finnish Defense Forces as a company, it would be Finland’s largest health club and hence this partnership is a pretty big deal for HeiaHeia.

During the pilot stage, the program reported that 60% of the participants increased their physical activity and were better fit for service. Considering that since 1970’s, the fitness of army conscripts in Finland has been on a steady decline, this not too shabby of a result.

Lieutenant Colonel Matti Santtila, Chief of Physical Training and Sport, commented that “the Defence Forces play an important role in promoting public health through the promotion of physical activity among young men. We believe a social media service that drives exercise will appeal to even those who don’t work out on a regular basis. Encouraging young men and women to stay physically active by building a support system and a sense of community is one way to go about it. The positive results we saw after the HeiaHeia pilot initiative encouraged us to develop the program into a nationwide service.”

Starting from the 2013 enlistment, the conscripts will get to use MarsMars.fi (The custom solution by Heia Heia. Translated as “March March”) for three months prior to starting service, where they will be able to log all of their exercises, set goals and of course socialize with other conscripts.

This is a great example of startups thinking outside the box, when looking for new clients and partners. We should all take a close look at how HeiaHeia approaches their marketing in order to build a scalable business, which is much tougher in B2B markets than it is in consumer ones.

Top Image Courtesy of Shutterstock // Military Sport