In the burgeoning weight-loss industry, diet and exercise fads frequently disappear before the pounds they were supposed to remove do. But among the leading diet and exercise brands, NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” is in it for the long haul. The series, which is a production of Shine America, 25/7 Productions and 3 Ball Productions, begins its 15th season on Oct. 8.
“Suffice it to say, we’re not a fad,” declares Kim Niemi, senior vice president of NBCUniversal Television’s consumer products group. “We’re not going to jump onto the next bandwagon that’s coming in. Our philosophy hasn’t changed in 15 seasons, almost nine years. It’s consistent, and it’s tried and true. It takes dedication and commitment for people to stick to it, like anything in life. We have stayed very true to what we believe is the philosophy of this show with every partnership we’ve had. We’ve turned down licensees who didn’t meet our standards.”
“The Biggest Loser” has clear guidelines from doctors and nutritionists for products it licenses. “So when we partner with someone, they go through our litmus test,” Niemi emphasizes. “We ask, what are you currently doing in the marketplace? How do you foresee engaging with our brand? We really push for improvement and change in their products.”
The products must fit in with the health philosophies espoused on the show and in its books and DVDs. Among the latest licensees is Five Star Gourmet Foods, which later this year will introduce single-serve salads, fruit and veggie snacks, bagged salads and fresh and frozen steamed meals.
Five Star Gourmet Foods has more than 20 years of experience in the prepared fresh and frozen food industry. “What we look for are licensees that have established credibility in the area that they’re bringing to us,” says Kerry O’Donnell, director of global licensing for NBCUniversal Television’s consumer products group. “Five Star Gourmet has a very established business and is nationally known. So we look to see that they’re experts in their area, and then to understand what it is they envision with ‘The Biggest Loser’ brand and how that would come to life.”
Another food company whose Fit Popcorn carries “The Biggest Loser” logo of approval is named Popcorn, Indiana. “They’ve had such great success with it, they’ve reupped for another year,” O’Donnell points out. The show also has worked with General Mills, Jennie-O and Giraffe Interactive on branded food products.
"We have enjoyed tremendous success working with the NBCUniversal consumer products team over the course of ‘The Biggest Loser’s’ 15 seasons, developing a wide range of products that help viewers at home continue their fitness and weight-loss journeys,” says Monica Austin, senior vice president of business and brand development for Shine America. "‘The Biggest Loser’ Fit Popcorn continues to exemplify our commitment to delivering healthy food options. We look forward to developing many more offerings in the years ahead with the team at NBCUniversal."
“The Biggest Loser” has created a community of viewers that numbers in the millions with its positive attitude about weight loss. NBCUniversal Television’s consumer products group obtains feedback from focus groups of these viewers, social media and the website.
“We continually go into the marketplace to see where we are going to evolve,” Niemi asserts. “We want to hear from users. We have a big community – hundreds of contestants that have come through the program, the trainers and doctors and nutritionists who have worked with us. We have tens of thousands of members that have been part of ‘The Biggest Loser’ club, thousands of people who have come through the resorts and millions of viewers. We’re continually checking feedback and asking if this is working for them, and how we can meet their needs more.”
“The Biggest Loser” is reportedly one of the biggest brands in the weight-loss industry. “In terms of brand equity, we are there in the top programs on diet, ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in a recent national report, in terms of success,” Niemi asserts. “When we look at the competition in the space, the best way to talk about it is brand equity.”
She says “The Biggest Loser” is ahead of weight-loss competitors by some measurements but not all. Versus the year-ago spring ratings cycle, "The Biggest Loser" was up 8 percent in viewers ages 18 to 49 and up 1 percent in total viewers to 7.3 million.
With a median age of 44.8 compared with 47.1 a year ago, “The Biggest Loser" indexed at 136 among adults 18 to 49 living in homes with incomes of more than $100,000. An index of 100 represents an average concentration of those homes. Last year’s index for the show was 111, NBC says.
Among “The Biggest Loser” products are the BodyMedia system that tracks calories burned, a bathroom scale, a food scale, exercise equipment, the Planet Fitness gym promotional partnership, cookbooks, how-to/advice books, DVDs, music workout mixes, video games, run/walk events and resorts. Operated by a company called Fitness Ridge, “The Biggest Loser” resorts are located in Malibu, Calif.; Ivins, Utah; Niagara, N.Y.; and Itasca, Ill., near Chicago.
More than 40 “The Biggest Loser” run/walk events are being held this year nationwide. Online chats with former contestants and social media interaction are being encouraged to maintain the inspirational and aspirational approach of the show to weight loss as personal empowerment rather than denial.
“One thing I think is so wonderful about ‘The Biggest Loser’ is the support we give our licensees,” O’Donnell points out. “In addition to providing cross-marketing efforts with other licensees, we also offer a number of key licensees an opportunity to have 10-second tags air during the show. We also have a very collaborative process with Shine America, the production company that produces the show, so our collective support of our licensees’ efforts is pretty unique.”
“NBCUniversal Television has been incredibly supportive behind ‘The Biggest Loser,’ not only as an entertainment brand, but as a licensing model,” Niemi declares. “This one in particular has found its niche. It’s very lifestyle-oriented and delivers tremendous motivation and is aspirational.”