‘Loser’ brand breaks new horizons

'The Biggest Loser' 200th Episode

An endorsement from a pop star or a pro athlete has value, but not nearly as much as a stamp of approval from a certain reality series. Over the course of 13 seasons, “The Biggest Loser” has grown into a health-and-fitness outlet, one that has advertisers clamoring for space.

Diet books, fitness equipment and wall calendars are obvious partners, but even certain brands of avocados, cereals and credit cards are lining up to be part of the show.

“A lot of advertisers want to capitalize on the living-better niche,” says Noah Everist, broadcast supervisor for Compass Point Media, the media buying arm of the Minneapolis-based Campbell Mithun agency. “We’re still in a health-crazed zeitgeist. I mean, we’re actually reading labels now.”

While he wouldn’t comment on how much it costs for product placement on “Loser,” Everist says it’s “significantly more” than it would be to buy a 30-second spot during a traditional commercial break. That’s because there’s little chance you’ll be taking a bathroom break or checking your cellphone during a plug that’s integral to the competition.

“The numbers may show that you were physically there during a commercial, but were you engaged?” Everist says. “You also get to see the product in a different way that goes beyond the pitch. You get to see it being used by real people that you’re rooting for.”

Monica Austin, the senior VP for brand development at “Biggest Loser” producer Reveille, says brands are getting more savvy about how to get their messages across.

“They want to be seen as an integration rather than an interruption,” she says.

That doesn’t mean that any company can cut a deal. Products are heavily vetted by nutritionists, doctors, trainers and the sales team to make sure they truly do support a healthier lifestyle.

“We want to make sure the relationship is organic and not off-putting,” Austin says. “We want to make sure we’re doing what’s best for the show.”

NBC is also wary of product placements that come across as pandering, something “The Apprentice” was accused of doing in its early years.

“We’re not randomly sticking ads in there,” says Kim Niemi, senior VP for NBCUniversal Television consumer products’ group. “If it’s not organic to the show, it’s going to irritate the audience.”

Branding was part of the show’s plan from day one, Niemi says. Jennie-O Turkey, Subway and Brita were all quick to sign up and have remained with the series.

Some companies go beyond the primetime exposure by developing “Biggest Loser” products. Walgreens stocks “Loser” meal bars and shakes. Fitness Ridge Resort & Spa operates a pair of “Biggest Loser” resorts where guests can share similar experiences they’ve seen on the air.

The show’s approach is catching on. “Fashion Star,” which premieres March 13 on NBC, will give viewers a chance to buy designer clothes they’ve seen on the air the very next day. “Smash,” which debuted in early February, is hoping to sell music spotlighted on the show through iTunes, a model that worked well for “Glee.”

But this kind of relationship won’t work for everybody.

“It’s a matter of understanding the model and connecting the right concept with the right product,” Niemi says. “It’s really about having the right partners.”

The Biggest Loser’ 200th Episode
Series a good fit for NBC, overweight public | ‘Loser’ brand breaks new horizons | Trainers accept being in the spotlight | Sweeney takes host gig to heart | Past contestants spread the message