Go For The (DVD) Burn: Fitness Videos Are The New Entertainment

The day I found out I was pregnant, I started collecting Disney films on VHS. That went on for years, even into the DVD era, until of course my son became too old to care about them. Doesn’t everyone have a collection like this? But those days are pretty much over. In fact, according to a Los Angeles Times story last year, “Rapid declines in [DVD sales] over the last seven years have led studios to lay off thousands of employees, slash deals with producers and make fewer films.” 

Meanwhile, one category of DVD sales is showing Charles Atlas-like strength: fitness DVDs, with an average annual growth rate of 11.2% for the past five years, according to an IBISWorld market research report.

Of course, fitness stars have been “entertaining” us via our TV sets for decades—starting with the granddaddy of them all, Jack LaLanne. Jane Fonda in the ’80s and Jake Steinfeld in the 1990s each had (still have) an enormous sweating fan base following their encouragement to “Go for the burn!” The lines between entertainment and exercise have blurred further with the release of workout videos from such TV powerhouses as “The Biggest Loser” and “Dancing With the Stars.” 



I wanted to explore the new world of “exer-tainment”; Is it an industry only established fitness stars can be successful at, or can a new, smaller player make a living at it, too? And what kind of marketing tools does it take to make a splash?  

Take Tracy Anderson, for example. Gwyneth Paltrow’s personal trainer and business partner, Anderson created the Tracy Anderson Method and sells DVDs on her website and at retail outlets like Bed, Bath and Beyond. They include “Metamorphosis,” “Dance + Cardio,” “The Pregnancy Project,” and “Teen Meta.” Her target audience is “people who are looking to transform their lives, and become their most proportioned and healthy version of themselves,” says Steven Beltrani, head of publicity. 

What marketing tool does he find most effective? “Publicity,” says Beltrani. No surprise there, given that Tracy is often featured in publications such as US Weekly, Redbook, and Shape

But would a newcomer be able to use publicity just as effectively? I gave it some thought for John Tagge, a personal trainer in Orange County, California, who created his own “Tagge Afterburn Heart Rate Program”—short, intense bursts of exercise that continue to burn calories after you stop exercising. Tagge and his wife and business manager, Rhonda, recently self-produced a “Tagge Afterburn” DVD, and are in the early stages of marketing.

“We invested $10,000 to produce our DVD, and we shot it over one very long weekend,” says Rhonda Tagge. “We used our own money, with family and friends chipping in.”

“We have several goals,” adds Rhonda, “One is to reach additional customers, obviously. We also want to begin extending the Tagge Afterburn brand. And, finally, we felt it would be an effective way to bring John to the attention of television producers as an expert on fitness and weight loss.”

After spending thousands of dollars to make the video, the Tagges don’t have money for marketing, so I think they should focus on publicity. Because they aren’t established names like Tracy Anderson, they’ll have to work harder. Here’s what I’d suggest:

  • Start local: Pitch the local newspaper, which is more likely to be interested in the DVD because Tagge lives and works in the area.
  • Provide before and after photos: Reporters want to see results—preferably with dramatic differences.
  • Recruit a celebrity client: Let’s face it: high-profile clients make news. Tagge should offer his services to someone who needs to stay fit, like an actress, athlete, politician, musician, or model.
  • Write an op-ed: Newspapers today, especially small local ones, are so understaffed that they’re often looking for material. If Tagge wrote an op-ed linking his fitness philosophy to a timely topic (such as Michelle Obama’s campaign on childhood obesity) it might just get published. 
  • Participate in fitness events: The trick is to find a walkathon, marathon or fitness fair with strong attendance numbers and good marketing support. Tagge also needs a designated role.
  • Tie in with a charity: Tagge is already aligned with Olive Crest, the acclaimed West Coast charity that cares for abused and abandoned children. He is currently running a program for teen girls in Olive Crest homes in Orange County that has caught the attention of the local press. 

In some cases, a good publicity effort can be as effective as higher-priced marketing in launching a new business. And maybe 20 years from now at-home fitness fanatics will still be exercising to DVDs exhorting them to “Go for the Afterburn!”

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