Reality Television and You

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We live in interesting times. The convergence of reality television with the national obesity crisis and a new level of health obsession has created opportunities for the fitness industry that never existed before. Last month, CBS’s Undercover Boss featured the CEO and founder of New-Jersey based Retro Fitness; last year, the CEO of Modell’s sporting goods shop appeared on the show. Now, a new season of Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition is starting up on ABC, and exercise technology company NuStep has a product in the limelight.

Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition documents the year-long efforts of eight men and women who are at least 200 pounds overweight to lose half of their body weight while continuing to live at home. Each participant’s home is modified to include a dedicated exercise area, and each area includes a NuStep T5xR Recumbent Cross Trainer.

With potentially hundreds of thousands of viewers, that’s a lot of exposure for NuStep’s product, just as the Undercover Boss episodes offered exposure for Retro Fitness and Modell’s, and just as other reality television programs — including NBC’s The Biggest Loser, A&E’s Heavy, and MTV’s I Used To Be Fat — have offered exposure to other clubs, to trainers, to a range of players in the fitness industry.

What does this mean for you? Of course, you can’t just up and appear on a reality television show any time you please. But you can, perhaps, capitalize on the stir of interest in and excitement about these programs. Here are a few ideas:

  1. You might consider running a mini-version of one in your own facility: ask overweight members or regular clients to consider signing up for a year-long program dedicated to helping them lose a certain number of pounds, or a certain percentage of their body weight. Choose a handful to participate in the program, and then give them their fifteen minutes of fame in your club. You can hang up their pictures, along with brief profiles and their stated weight-loss goals, and you can post their progress each month. You can feature them in newsletters and website spots, and you can host a ceremony honoring their efforts at the end of the year. Not everyone will want to be in the spotlight in this kind of way, but some people might find it incredibly motivating — and the program could pay off for you by garnering local attention, new referrals, and new members who want to participate in such a program themselves.
  2. If you have the staff know-how, you could consider actually making a reality tv show of your own, or some version of one, and posting it on your website. It needn’t be national-network quality, and these days a decent smartphone and a video-editing software program can produce a pretty impressive, very watchable video. You would probably want to do it on a smaller scale, featuring, perhaps, ten-minute segments. And you wouldn’t have to limit the theme of the show to weight-loss; any theme that makes sense for your facility could work, or even a weekly “show” that just highlights a different part of the facility each time, or a different staff member. You’re limited only by your imagination here.
  3. It might, in fact, be possible for your facility, or for one of your trainers or members, to land a spot on a reality tv show! Many of the shows that are out there (and, again, not just the ones having to do with weight-loss) have simple, web-based procedures for applying to appear on the show. In an article about Mitchell Modell, the CEO who appeared on Undercover Boss, Modell was quoted as saying, “I tell everybody: If you’re fortunate enough to be on Undercover Boss, do it in a heartbeat.” He describes the experience as having been not only good for business, but also life-changing. Why not look into it?

Reality Television and You: the results could be unimaginably rewarding.

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