Videogame, fitness resort latest branding efforts

Already a ratings heavyweight for NBC, “The Biggest Loser” is also proving a major moneymaker for the network and producer Reveille Entertainment through licensed merchandise, which now includes a videogame and resort.

The reality weight-loss competish is expected to generate $100 million from health and fitness products this year.

That’s expected to grow now that NBC and Reveille are unveiling new spinoffs, including the show’s first videogame, through publisher THQ, and the rebranding of Fitness Ridge, “The Biggest Loser’s” official resort, located in Ivins, Utah.

The resort enables visitors to live a “Biggest Loser” lifestyle by offering a weight-loss program similar to what contestants on the series experience at the show’s ranch.

“So many viewers have watched contestants change their lives and bodies over the years, and now they have an opportunity to try it themselves at this resort and spa,” said Kim Niemi, senior VP at NBC U TV’s DVD, Music and Consumer Products Group, which oversees the line of “Biggest Loser” products with Reveille.

Fitness Ridge opened in 2002 as a collaboration between health and wellness entrepreneurs Tami Clark, Michelle Kelsch and Cameron Kelsch. The venue will be featured in upcoming episodes of the show.

“There are a limited number of golden tickets each season to be a contestant on the show,” said Mark Koops, managing director and co-head of domestic TV for Reveille. “This will enable people to achieve the same goal.”

The THQ game, which bows today, is playable on Nintendo’s Wii and handhelds, and includes recipes from “The Biggest Loser” cookbook.

Producers always had intended to launch a line of products that viewers could use to change their lives as they watch the show.

“The question was always, ‘How do we create a Weight Watchers for the 21st century?’ ” Koops said. “Television is still the greatest marketing tool, and we felt we could use it as a platform to expand.”

After the series launched its first season in 2004, it paired up with Rodale to publish books and with Lionsgate to produce a series of fitness DVDs that feature the show’s nutritionists and trainers, Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper.

Since then, Rodale has sold more than 2.5 million copies of the books, while the DVDs were the bestselling fitness videos of 2008.

Early on, it also launched “The Biggest Loser Club,” whose website has 450,000 subscribers.

Newer products include a meal delivery plan; music compilations; calendars; appliances like blenders, food processors and grills; fitness equipment; and protein supplements.

All deals are scrutinized because “we want to strengthen the bond with our fans,” Koops said. “There’s nothing worse than when something falls apart in your hands. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”

Helping to push the products, of course, is that “Biggest Loser,” going into its eight season, has become a staple on Tuesday nights on NBC, as well as a worldwide hit, airing in more than 90 countries, with localized versions produced in 25 of them.

Also contributing are outside partners such as QVC or sandwich chain Subway, which can boost the show’s exposure to even more consumers. Subway has tied in with the show by creating a “Fresh Fit Choices” menu at its stores. The availability of the menu varies throughout the season.

While the products have created a lucrative source of revenue for the Peacock and Reveille, and generated a dialogue on health with consumers, “Tuesday night is still the cornerstone of ‘The Biggest Loser’ brand,” Koops said. “It’s where we deliver all our efforts. From there, everything is secondary, but ever-increasingly important.”

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