At first look, just a wrinkled plastic bag. It has been sitting crunched up in a drawer. Actually it was a part of hugely successful marketing. If you are a bodybuilding and fitness person, you were handed one of these bags at some time.
At one of the annual, week long, planning meetings at Bodybuilding.com in Boise, the bag concept came up. At the major bodybuilding and fitness expos like the Arnold and Olympia, hundreds of companies hand out tremendous amounts of swag and product samples. The same at all of the other bodybuilding and fitness competitions around the country. So the idea was to hand out a bag that would tell people to buy their products at Bodybuilding.com.
It immediately came to my mind and I said “Find everything in this bag at Bodybuilding.com”. That was it and the bag went into production. I am sure hundreds of thousands of these bags were handed out over the years. They were even supplied for free to other companies and manufacturers to hand out with their products.
Part of a concept that was to make sure that everyone knew Bodybuilding.com and went there first for anything related to fitness and bodybuilding. It worked!
I was still shooting film for my gym features long after everyone else went to digital. Here my buddy Jake Sawyer was the subject for me shooting a Leica M7 with Kodak Tri-X film. I love the look of film shot with a Leica and still do.
I did have to go digital to accommodate the need for fast turnaround when I was shooting bodybuilding and fitness competitions. Most of the time the photos were uploaded and online for my client, Bodybuilding.com, by the next morning. More of the photos would then go to the magazines and be in the next print issues. I was shooting 25 – 30 competitions per year all around the country.
As many of you know, I was closely associated with Bodybuilding.com for a number of years as their primary photographer shooting shows, features and advertising for them. As well as closely involved in marketing, social media and more. So closely involved that I was often and regularly asked if I owned it. Working with them was joy and the family ownership was great, Ryan and Jeremy DeLuca, and their dad Russ who to this day I count as one of my great friends over the years. I was there when we covered the Olympia for there first time, and they almost threw us out, to when it became the driving force in the entire bodybuilding and fitness industry worldwide.
Now many have been asking me what do I think happened. Bodybuilding.com has been collapsing over the last couple of years and now seems at the door of total collapse. I find it very sad but even more sadly we totally predicted it some time ago. Many of you will remember as we talked about it back then, seeing into the future.
If I were to sum up in one sentence; Bodybuilding.com abandoned all of the things that got them to the top.
Bodybuilding.com once had an incredible reputation and word of mouth identity that translated into hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of sales. The stars of fitness and bodybuilding sung their praises, the athletes all wanted to be a part, the consumers went there for motivation, information, stories, peer to peer relationships and everyone bought everything from them. Prices were the lowest, shipping was fast, customer service beyond reproach.
The online content of Bodybuilding.com was the key. Endless feature stories, articles, workouts, photographs, videos, competition coverage, product reviews. Contributed by stars of the industry, the fan favorites; all of it great, new, exciting and top quality. And everybody was paid for it, and paid well and paid fast. The top athletes loved doing things for Bodybuilding.com. When other companies treated them like just a commodity, Bodybuilding.com paid them well for everything they did, paid all of their expenses and paid fast. Even other companies loved doing business with them, everybody got paid within days. So when it came to recommending where to spend your money, everybody said, Bodybuilding.com. When other companies, vendors were asked for the lowest prices possible, they said yes! Because they got paid now. And the savings were passed on to the customer. And yet Bodybuilding.com was still making a ton of money.
Bodybuilding.com had a presence at almost every bodybuilding and fitness show of any size around the country and many around the world. Something like 300 per year. And they gave out everything from free merchandise to free t-shirts designed specifically for that show. The athletes in those show booths were also paid well. So guess what; they had nothing but good to say too and did their absolute best. And they were again paid fast along with all of their expenses from hotel rooms to food. By the way, at big shows like the Arnold and Olympia, we would give away thousands and thousands of t-shirts.
Every magazine that was somehow related to fitness and bodybuilding around the world had monthly Bodybuilding.com advertising and sometimes features. Even better for some time it was all photographed and sometimes also written by me. Hundreds of magazines, also major sports magazines and even mainstream magazines and major newspapers. Actually Bodybuilding.com made me one of the most viewed bodybuilding and fitness photographers on the planet.
Within a decade of it’s start in a garage, Bodybuilding.com was seen everywhere, all the time by everyone. You would even see homeless people on Venice Beach, Muscle Beach, wearing brand new Bodybuilding.com t-shirts. As my buddy Russ said, they need the shirts and it is still good advertising.
Then it happened, not all at once, but identifiable. Liberty Media bought Bodybuilding.com. Liberty Media is a behemoth owning at the time everything from the Atlanta Braves to the Home Shopping Channel, QVC, the History Channel and more. Back then revenue was $8 billion per year as I recall. Everything remained the same for about a year. But then Liberty started moving in their people as the original Bodybuilding.com management were replaced. And people who did not have their roots in bodybuilding and fitness. Maybe they had a gym membership but that’s it. They were pencil pushers and retailers.
I started hearing from athletes and vendors. Slow payment became the standard, 30 days, 60 days or more. “Could I call someone and see where their check was” was something I would often get asked. “They only want free from me now” “They want me to work the show and not even pay for expenses” “They want to pay me with a coupon on purchases”. Yes that is more of what I heard.
Bodybuilding.com stopped going to shows; “everyone there knows who we are anyway”. Ads, features and stories became mediocre and far from original. Online content which used to be new almost daily went well less than frequent.
My own ending with them came when getting ready for a new year of scheduling for shows and ads and features, I was told my rate was going to be cut to something like 20% of what it had been. I said no and that was it. Actually I went back to them once with a feature and photos and video with a major rock star into fitness. They actually offered me $50… yes $50. The person who had to tell me was an old friend from the company and he expressed how embarrassed he was to carry the message. Anyway it went to a magazine for my usual fees. By the way, after they covered their first major bodybuilding event without me, another insider friend informed me that they found it took a dozen people flown in from the company in Boise to replace everything I did by myself. So much for cost savings.
So there is the collapse of Bodybuilding.com, I can almost remember the day it started. And yes you can chart it from then financially and statistically. Now owned by Expedia. How much do you think they know about bodybuilding and fitness.
People who did not know bodybuilding and fitness were put in charge of relating to people in bodybuilding and fitness. And along the way they left behind all of the things that made Bodybuilding.com work. Will it recover? I doubt it.
We take it as common place seeing neck lanyards with company names at events and conventions etc. But that was certainly not the case 15 years ago at bodybuilding and fitness events. At one of the major amateur bodybuilding competitions, thousands of attendees, competitors and guests all had their passes on plain black lanyards. I said to Bodybuilding.com, let’s make lanyards and give them free to all of the bodybuilding and fitness event producers around the country, even around the world. Within the next few months and going forward, hundreds of thousands of people at these events became individual billboards for Bodybuilding.com.
Just happened to see this, although I am tagged. Two days of shooting with the then Jamie Eason for Bodybuilding.com. Jamie went on to be one of the most successful fitness models and fitness spokespersons of all time.
She said it not me… From a series I did for Bodybuilding.com. You will see me hard at work. The photographs went on to be magazine ads and features too. Thanks!
I photographed and wrote a monthly feature for Bobdyuilding.com in Iron Man Magazine about some wonderful people on their fitness journey. It went on for three years and this story with Juliet Banks was the last. But way up there as one of the most wonderful! Photographed at my favorite gym, Palm Springs Fitness Center. Thanks!
Juliet Banks spent her time devoted to helping others with very special needs. And indeed her own family had very special needs as well. It took a toll on her own health and well being. But there came a time when she realized that she would not be able to help anyone if she didn’t do something about helping herself.
Juliet never wanted to share her story, too ashamed about where she had been. But her involvement in the fitness world brought her to being selected for a feature as the BodySpace Physique Of The Month.
One of the most incredible women ever in the world of fitness, Ava Cowan. The video and photo shoot we did for Bodybuilding.com promotions and advertising. Her body, her eyes, her movements… Ava is a magnificent work of art.
I have been having great fun with short videos and especially “behind the scenes” in my photo shoots. The idea for me comes from a series I had done for Bodybuilding.com for their ad campaigns promoting “BodySpace”. Then a new social media concept for fitness people that when I came into the picture had only 7,000 members and then grew to millions. That in turn helped grow the company to perhaps pushing towards a billion dollars of sales annually.
The videos were shot with a video crew and built around my photo shoots for the print and online advertising, features and content such as online wallpaper. The ads we produced are some of my all time favorites and appeared in magazines monthly for a long time. One of the print ads became a favorite for women, affixed to their refrigerator doors as fitness and workout motivation. I dare say the same ad was torn out and taped next to many a guy’s office wall or truck dashboard. So here is a favorite and watch for the “behind the scenes”.
Spokesperson and fitness model for Bodybuilding.com made her one of the most famous and respected and admired women in fitness, Jamie Eason. Her first photo shoot for Bodybuilding.com for their advertising, online and magazine features and so much more that followed… photographed by me.
The subject came up about all of the photo shoots I did for Bodybuilding.com. Having become one of the most visited websites in the world, sales for the company had grown to exceed a half billion dollars per year. During those growth years, I photographed their advertising, online and print magazine features and endless bodybuilding and fitness competitions around the country. Most memorable for me, so many, very many. But way at the top was the advertising, video and features that came out of my photo shoot with Maria Rogers. “A picture is worth a thousand words” and way more!
My most viewed video ever was shot as part of the photo session and ad campaign I did for this magazine advertisement for Bodybuilding.com. The model is Maria Rogers who was nothing short of sensational. But you can see that in the photograph and video.