by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
Some may feel like this article is taking shots at a certain group of people or organization. That couldn’t be any further from the truth. If you want to grow bodybuilding, you need to treat it like a business and a real (professional) organization. That means marketing, getting it out in front of more people, turning it into something people can engage with, and making it more accessible. That’s not to say the sport isn’t professional or not a real business, but with everything, there are things that can be looked at and improved upon.
I’m not looking at any one show or competition, but the fact is, the Olympia is one of the biggest spectacles of the sport. It’s the “Super Bowl” of the fitness and bodybuilding world. And the Olympia crew is doing a great job of getting celebrities and athletes to show up to the event, and they put on one heck of a production. You have guys like Dwayne Johnson, Shaq, Mark Wahlberg, and many others seen at the Olympia.
That’s all fine and dandy, but how can you grow bodybuilding and get it out to more people and leverage those household names that show up? I have a few ideas on how you can grow bodybuilding, but it’s going to come at a cost that I don’t feel the organizers in the bodybuilding world are willing to pay for.
Let’s dive into some of the ways that we can grow bodybuilding and make it more mainstream.
Live Stream the Shows… For Free
I am fully aware that the IFBB does not have the same financial means as the NFL, NBA, MLB, etc. That said, the sport will never grow without more access and eyeballs. I love the fact that live streams are now accessible for certain shows and I feel we need more of them.
It’s my opinion that all major shows should have a live stream. That means the Pittsburgh Pro, NY Pro, all of the Arnold Classics, the Olympia, etc. Not only should they all have live streams, but they should all be free to view.
The NFL could make a fortune off of putting the Super Bowl behind a paywall. Instead, they charge people to advertise through commercials. The Olympia team should consider moving toward that route to help offset the cost to broadcast the Olympia for free.
Now, I understand that a Pay-Per-View or putting the live streams behind a paywall is a way to generate more income and help cover the cost of the live stream itself. But if you’re not investing in the shows to get them out to the public, the public will forget about the shows and never engage.
The goal should be to get people interested in the shows. Now that there are so many divisions, there are more mainstream looks that are attainable. It’s not like back in the day when the only thing you had was Men’s Open, Women’s Bodybuilding, Fitness, and Figure Divisions. Sure, the physiques have all changed, and each is now carrying more muscle mass, but the ability to view different looks and physiques is enough to get people to tune in and see what it’s all about.
Remember when fitness and bodybuilding used to be broadcast on television? Well, with more people streaming, this is a great opportunity to work towards making the sport more mainstream to grow bodybuilding.
Allow Free Entry into the Expos
This isn’t a knock at the Olympia, even though it may come off as one, but the cost of entry into the Olympia Expo this year was absurd. Again, do you want more people to attend these events or not? Draw them in with the expo. Who doesn’t want free samples, the ability to check out their favorite brands, and a chance to talk with and meet their favorite bodybuilders and fitness competitors?
Could these patrons get their money back in free supplements, swag, and other giveaways? Sure, but that’s beside the point. The goal should be to get as many people into the expo and interested in the sport as possible if you want to grow bodybuilding.
I remember back when I was with MET-Rx and being at the booth every day. You would see people from all walks of life. Young, old, men, women, boys, and girls. You had people walking around with six packs and those who still rock a keg. And everyone was there for the same reason and to have a good time.
No one cared what anyone else looked like at an expo, everyone was there to enjoy themselves, learn, meet new people, and stay in tune with new things the industry had to offer. Additionally, it’s a place where people can learn and gain knowledge from talking with some of their idols.
I remember how long the line would be for people to meet Phil Heath when he was one of our athletes. Or how the line would wrap around our booth of people wanting to meet Greg Plitt (RIP). Greg would answer every question people would ask him in detail. They would leave the expo with something they can take home and apply to their workouts or diet. If you want to grow bodybuilding, the key is to engage as many people as you can and pull them in. Get them excited to train. Get them excited to make improvements to their lives and physiques.
Leverage Celebrities More
I can’t say this for certain, so don’t quote me, but I’m sure guys like Shaq and Mark Wahlberg don’t pay to get into the Olympia. The Olympia team should capitalize on this and have them livestream during the event, post leading up to the show, and post after the show is over to engage their audience and introduce them to fitness and bodybuilding. I know some of the celebrities were doing this, but it should be doubled down on.
Our sport is considered “taboo” to many. If more celebrities got behind fitness and bodybuilding, we could easily grow bodybuilding and expand how many people go to shows and expos. It would even help grow the smaller shows as more people would want to get involved.
Overall, I really just want to grow bodybuilding and see it expand with each passing year. I’m not trying to tear down bodybuilding or the Olympia through this article. I just think there is more that can be done to grow bodybuilding and increase its presence. And I truly believe that in order to do that, you need to make it more accessible to everyone (that includes the people who want to sit and engage with the sport from the comfort of their own homes).