Mr. Olympia Weekend Needs a Refresh!

In last year’s article, I wasn’t completely ready to jump on my soapbox and yell about how the “Olympia is in trouble” story line…

…this year is a bit different!

In the week since the 2019 Mr. Olympia Weekend, I have heard both good and bad (mostly bad) commentary from those that attended the event. Shockingly, I even heard things, such as “Olympia Weekend is Dead” and “Worst Olympia I can Remember”. Being that this was my 11th year, I tend to believe those people are a bit overzealous, but even a few saying those types of comments has to make you think a bit…

On top of those above comments, it seems everyone is already proclaiming that the new Athleticon event, that was created by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, will put the nail into the proverbial Olympia Weekend coffin. While the much-hyped fitness event launching October 2020 is still short on details, I am guessing its simple announcement created competition fuel. The type of fuel that is creating an “adapt or die” bonfire.

Building on my thoughts from the 2018 Mr. Olympia Weekend, there was a further deterioration of;

  • Energy inside the Las Vegas Convention Center
  • Brand Involvement (Exhibitors)
  • Overall Creativity inside the Las Vegas Convention Center
  • Differentiation from 2018, 2017, 2016…Honestly, you could have transported me ‘Back to the Future’ and I wouldn’t have realized it wasn’t 2019

The most important point in that list is the fact that I place onus equally on both sides of the coin. This is not solely the fault of the Mr. Olympia Weekend owners. Fact is, there is a tremendous opportunity to drive people yearly to Las Vegas for an epic celebration of all things that are beautiful about the fitness lifestyle, but it is being held back by legacy and heritage. If you are trying to read between the lines…don’t! My comment was pointed to the “old guard” that still thinks “bodybuilding” and the sports nutrition industry should continue to only be a hardcore underground lifestyle. The faster everyone gets beyond that limiting mindset the better!

Consumer Point of View

Since there was little to no differentiation from years past, the consumer (attendee) likely didn’t realize any points that I will talk about in this article, which can be a good or a bad thing. Again, I don’t know the gate sales for the expo specifically, but anecdotally it felt low and it certainly wasn’t near capacity. Regardless, if we are talking solely about the customer experience, they had the opportunity to meet sponsored athletes, fitness influencers, and maybe even a few celebrities. Additionally, consumers had the chance to try various nutritional supplement products and either acquire some free swag or get some deals on purchasable products. Finally, Las Vegas was a consistently great backdrop for the event that helps the overall experience by having this amazing ability to wash away any minor issues (if you partied hard for those days you know that I mean with being foggy on the minor details).

Supplement Industry Point of View

I am embarrassed to say that this is where the biggest complainers have always been on this topic, yet accept the least amount of onus. There has been “action” taken, but only in the sense that brand involvement is down (marketing budget is being spent elsewhere now). There has been little to no help in the form of creating a bigger and better experience for the consumer.

The lack of creativity by exhibitors is extremely noticeable for attendees that have went to events from other industries (ie. Consumer Electronic Show) or large multi-industry conferences (ie. SXSW), but to bring this closer to home, even the FIBO fitness expo in Germany. The exhibitors of the Mr. Olympia weekend have this unwritten rule where each of them builds their square or rectangle out of tables/cases, they throw up TVs, play loud music, and have way too many employees/athletes/models standing around not doing anything looking cool…

Speaking of that (sorry I am going to rant a bit here), each booth also partakes in the trade show marketing strategy of live product sampling. This is a great strategy because it certainly helps get consumers to approach the booth, but that is where this all falls apart. The opportunity only begins when the consumer approaches the booth. Those “employees/athletes/models standing around not doing anything looking cool” are being underutilized to bring your brand actual value in this trade show marketing strategy. The obvious way is by not engaging consumers to get them into and further down funnel, but also by not having mechanisms in place to collect (actually collect) feedback on the particular product that you are live sampling (this is the perfect testing ground for new products or flavors).

Now getting back to the lack of creativity by exhibitors, it comes down to them not understanding how to effectively use a trade show as a revenue generating marketing vehicle. It’s as simple as this paradigm shift…

You Don’t Have To Impact Every Attendee to Make It ROI Positive!

Your trade show booth should create such a unique brand experience that it makes an attendee remember you forever. Your square/rectangle with TVs and music are not going to do that. Congrats everyone…you wasted $250K! You built that booth experience to try to reach every attendee and that doesn’t work…

Instead, focus on reaching the 5% of the attendees that are looking to be impacted by your brand experience. Give them an experience that will define your relationship for years to come! I am sure some people are scoffing at this idea, so here are some quick economics for you to consider…

What if 1% of those impacted attendees also become active brand advocates?

Additionally, you can serve “two masters” by making sure that this ultimate brand experience also can generate non-revenue value creation from digital impressions, live sampling feedback, and athlete meet-ups (to name a few).

Mr. Olympia Weekend Rebrand

Things need to change…whoever needs to hear this, please understand that the tough love is because I want to help!

I understand the Mr. Olympia is THEE bodybuilding event, but the weekend needs a complete overhaul. For those that are wrongly fixated on me suggesting I can fix the actual bodybuilding show and now want to start a witch hunt against me, I am not that ignorant. I would actually do very little to the actual bodybuilding event. My comments about overhauling the Mr. Olympia is focused on the weekend experience (Friday to Sunday).

The potential market for an overhauled Mr. Olympia Weekend should be focused on catering to all aspects of the mainstream lifestyle fitness goer. I would honestly tear everything down to the frame and rebuild it for those consumers to make this event epic. My catering to a broader range of interested consumers, it also will build an event to attract a broader set of exhibitors that can create an elevated experience.

  1. “Bodybuilding” culture will no longer be the dominant event focus. Yes, the Mr. Olympia will still be a proportion, but it currently is limiting the potential consumer set. The Arnold Sports Festival has done a great job at growing beyond the bodybuilding event. I would take that mentality, but apply an “adults only” Las Vegas touch in the curation of non-bodybuilding sport/entertainment focus.
  2. Supplement industry will no longer be the dominant exhibitor focus. Yes, they will still be a proportion, but it needs to really be focused on those brands that are willing to commit to “event enhancing” creativity or evaluated for its connection with consumers (ie. Bang Energy, GHOST Lifestyle, G Fuel)
  3. To replace the supplement industry dominant exhibitors, I would curate an exhibitor mix to include experiential “mainstream” fitness brands that will enhance the event. This would include fitness equipment (ie. Peloton), fitness technology (ie. FitBit or Mirror), non-industry apparel/shoe brands (ie. Lululemon or Nike), better for you food/beverage/beauty/personal care brands, and boutique fitness brands (ie. Soul Cycle or F45 Training)
  4. Creation of more events on-site at Las Vegas Convention Center (during/before/after). Additionally, create or foster brand activation events around the convention center. Why shouldn’t there be a breakfast workout by Barry’s Bootcamp and Health Warrior or an opportunity to do “lunch and learns” by fitness influencers on how to grow your fitness personal brands?

Finally, I have a personal ask…

It would be nice to create some educational programming to help the nutritional supplement industry stakeholders. The ecosystem of (new and existing) supplement retailers, supplement brands, and everyone in-between are looking for fresh knowledge in this aggressively changing time. This shouldn’t be a major focus of the Mr. Olympia Weekend rebrand, but it could create more business-side involvement long-term and provide some incremental sponsorship/fee revenue.

Do you want to learn more about this subject? Click on the embedded video from my YouTube channel below!

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