Weight-loss companies are increasingly using male celebrities and former athletes as spokesmen to attract a segment of the market that had long been largely ignored by this industry, and it seems to be paying off. Weight Watchers International hired Charles Barkley last year, and Terry Bradshaw became the face of Nutrisystem in December. Bradshaw is not Nutrisystem’s first male sports star, though—the company has also hired former NFL quarterback Dan Marino, baseball manager Charlie Manuel, and famed ESPN sportscaster Chris Berman.
“They’re definitely targeting men—and that’s smart, they should be,” says Susan Kleiner, a nutrition expert and founder of the International Society for Sports Nutrition. “Men need to be losing weight, too.”
Sports nutrition companies may have a hard time selling women a product that has always been intended for men by simply changing its appearance, but a weight-loss program can be repackaged a little more easily and effectively with the right marketing or by customizing certain pieces of the program.
“Men tend to approach the idea of dieting different than women,” says Cheryl Callan, senior vice president of marketing for Weight Watchers. “We see humor resonating much more with guys. We’ve also seen great success with our marketing to date to men because, as soon as men understand we have an online product that’s perfectly customized to meet their needs, they are very excited.”
The unisex solution?
Visalus, meanwhile, has found success with a more unisex approach with its weight-loss program. “We have been targeting men and women, and that’s why we’re growing so rapidly,” says Sommerfield. “Our messaging is not too feminine, and I think a lot of weight-loss companies go so feminine that it’s off-putting to men. I think that we’re targeting both quite well right now.”
But it wasn’t always that way, and Sommerfield has noticed a difference. “Three years ago, we were a little bit more feminine in our colors and our packaging and our male distributors were saying, ‘This is great, but can I use it?’ So we sharpened our sights a little bit,” she says.