Marketing that involves celebrity endorsements is certainly nothing new, nor groundbreaking. Whether it is your local car dealership using a regional athlete star, or a skin cream harnessing the power of Mandy Moore, validating the worth of a product to consumers through celebrity endorsements is an age-old art. Although many people will say, “I don’t care what products celebrities say they use,” we must assume that these big marketing budgets aren’t allocated without research and data.
In other words, celebrity endorsements must work, otherwise, big companies wouldn’t waste their money on them.
Sometimes, however, celebrity deals go bad. Real bad.
Case and point: Arnold Schwarzenegger and massive protein supplement manufacturer, MusclePharm. There is no name in bodybuilding that holds more influence than that of the worlds most famous former bodybuilding competitor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Add on that Arnold served as Governor of California from 2003 to 2011 and has been the star of numerous blockbuster Hollywood action and comedy films, and you have a recipe for enormous brand reach when you place Arnold as your spokesperson.
The man can move ROI mountains, to say the least.
MusclePharm, one of the biggest protein supplement companies in the world, understood the power of Arnold. In 2013, they teamed up with Arnold to launch The Arnold Series product line.
“I’m excited to partner with MusclePharm on the exclusive Arnold Series and develop this line of nutritional supplements that not only carry my name but also represent my lifelong commitment to fitness.” Arnold stated upon inking the deal.
MusclePharm wasn’t unique to celebrity fibers, in fact, the company was founded in 2008 by a former NFL player named Brad Pyatt. Bodybuilding.com called MusclePharm the “brand of the year in 2012.
So What Went Wrong?
Arnold’s product line was crap. The protein supplement industry is already rough goings, the supplements are expensive to produce if you seek to create a pure protein supplement. To date, the only pure protein supplement available online is Hydro Whey 100. They only 100% Whey Protein Hydrolysate, which is the highest quality, most effective protein. And this is where things get tricky. Hydro Whey 100 is priced higher (because that’s what happens when you use more of the highest quality protein ingredient), however, it isn’t priced as high as it should be. This tells me that the company is likely attempting to run on super thin margins that may inevitably kill off the product line once consumers order it in volume, or they will be forced to raise their prices much higher within the next few months.
Hydro Whey 100’s manufacturer, TEK Naturals, likely realizes that it would be impossible to get any celebrity to endorse their brand. That would only serve to further inflate their overhead on a product that’s already likely treading water in terms of their owners making a profit.
And that, my friends, is the rub.
MusclePharm played the other hand. Rather than using a pure protein formula like TEK Naturals did, they decided to push highly concentrated junk to market and just ride Arnold’s name.
TEK Naturals likely doesn’t have the option of acquiring a name like Arnold’s, so we do have to consider that into the equation. My point being, maybe TEK Naturals is a brand forced to compete on product quality seeing they can’t exactly sign the ultimate celebrity endorsement name.
Consumers Figured Out That Arnold’s Line Was Crap
Consumers eventually saw past Arnold’s flexed pecks gracing the cover of large powder bottles. They realized that the Arnold Series was junk. The ingredients were inferior. The product was being sold strictly on Arnold’s name. Arnold Iron Dreams was subjected to scrutiny for containing an ingredient considered to be toxic called 2,4-dinitrophenol (DNP). Arnold Iron Mass was accused of amino spiking.
The ingredients were bad, potentially harmful, and certainly not very effective.
And that wasn’t all…
MusclePharm was also having issues with the SEC, who claimed the company failed to disclose internal financial perks. As a former governor, this was hardly the association that Arnold needed.
Today we announced the conclusion of Governor Schwarzenegger’s relationship with MusclePharm. pic.twitter.com/pOp1e9Edl4
— Daniel Ketchell (@ketch) May 6, 2016
“After collaborating with MusclePharm for the past three years on the Arnold Series, given the distractions caused by the significant issues that MusclePharm faces, Arnold believes that the time is right for him to move on and pursue other opportunities with partners that are better suited to help him fulfill his ultimate vision to promote fitness around the world,” said Governor Schwarzenegger’s spokesman, Daniel Ketchell.
“Governor Schwarzenegger remains passionate about promoting health and fitness worldwide. He has been on a crusade to promote fitness for more than four decades, including an appointment as chairman of President George H. W. Bush’s Council on Physical Fitness. Governor Schwarzenegger looks forward to his next endeavor as part of his mission to help everyone discover the benefits of health and nutrition”
Arnold became a victim of his own greed blended with some poor vetting. For MusclePharm, they likely had to manufacture a lower quality experience in order to pay an endorsement deal that likely was in the millions. The Arnold Series sold so poorly in its final year that Arnold was able to execute an out on the contract. Ironically, if The Arnold Series had been a good product, it likely would have continued to sell and this would have caused Arnold a great deal of legal gridlock in order to “terminate” the contract.
But then, would Arnold have canceled had the product been a high-quality experience?
When You Spend Millions On Celebrity Endorsements, You Empty The Tank
In the supplement industry, you only have two choices. You can be MusclePharm and sign huge name celebrity endorsements and make up for the millions you dropped by reducing product quality, or you can be Hydro Whey 100 and go full-quality and hope that the Internet figures you out. For Hydro Whey 100, it is currently listed as one of the top protein supplements around, so the grassroots campaign is certainly working. Will it always work at the lower price point? I don’t believe so, I assume this, in a way, is TEK Naturals marketing prowess that’s seeking to lock in consumers at a low price point early. They aren’t calling it a “limited time deal,” but I’d assume it to be one.
Manufacturing pure proteins such as Hydro Whey 100 hasn’t been done for a reason. But maybe TEK Naturals knows something the rest of us don’t? Or maybe they’ve realized that costly celebrity endorsements and other frivolous marketing don’t hold the same power as satisfied customers who tout your product in reviews, comments, and social media?
The Arnold saga has taught us a great deal about the supplement industry. Namely, it has taught us those celebrity endorsements are worthless. No, really, get that through your head!
That said, I must go. I think my Proactive just arrived.