by Christian Duque
Most outlets don’t care about Masters Pro’s. That’s not an opinion, it’s very much a fact.
For about three years, I covered a huge number of bodybuilding contests, and of that number, a significant amount included Masters competitions. I was very fortunate to have worked closely with one of the most respected promoters in the world. I learned a great deal about customer service from him and the value I brought to contests. I can honestly say, no one did what I did, and in my absence, no one has even attempted to slip into my shoes, either. I made a point to interview Masters competitors – not even just the ones who won overalls, but folks who earned all sorts of placings. I won’t go off on too much of a tangent, especially not by patting myself on the back, but I will say this, coverage of Masters competitors is very important, especially if we’re wanting to grow bodybuilding into more of a mainstream sport.
While I won’t sit here and tell you that it’s conceivable to see the sport in the Olympics, it is very possible to see it far more popular, maybe even by early 1990’s standards. The fact is, bodybuilding and the fitness industry are geared towards 20 somethings and those in their early 30’s. Beyond that, the opportunities and the interest start waning. While muscle knows no age, sponsors and reporters, apparently, do.
Some of the best interviews I ever did were with competitors who discovered training later in life – or – who returned to the sport after decades away from it.
When you talk to an individual that’s lived a life, that contributes to their perspective. While what I did was pretty darn special, it could be duplicated, but no one wants to try. It’s like media outlets just don’t care and many promoters don’t seem to want to change things, either. This is also a fact. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but I’d like to speak to ways that we can turn the tide without finding a dark corner and throwing one huge pity party.
The #1 way to get more coverage for Masters competitors, is for masters competitors to create their own programs, get views, and then market themselves to potential sponsors. Whether we’re talking supplements, contest accessories, therapies or personal training, everyone would want to be on a site that caters to the people who have their lives, most in order. Think about it. Most masters-aged people have already made it, they’re either in the prime of their careers or potentially looking towards retirement. They’ve already bought homes, multiple cars, their credit scores tend to be high and their disposable income is definitely something of note. Masters competitors usually don’t have to cut as many corners as broke college students or late teenagers depending on their parents for allowances. That being said, how many companies market to masters-aged people?
Open a fitness magazine, visit a bodybuilding website, or look around some of the marketing campaigns for the products you like. I say you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone that’s over 40 in a prominent spot in any sales push. And while there may be a handful of guys and gals in that 40 or above group represented – they spend all sorts of money making themselves pass for competitors 10-15 years their junior. No one is older and proud of it. If they’re older, they’ll go out of their way to look young. Youth sells, age apparently doesn’t. But who’s really tested this bullshit logic? No one.
Age is just a number and aging gracefully can include carrying tons of streamlined muscle, making gains, and making improvements. Nonetheless, the industry that celebrates muscle, frowns upon aging. Even though there are 60 year olds with physiques that bury 20 year olds, companies don’t want to be seen as featuring older athletes. Perhaps this is because they think it might lose them the backing of the young crowd, but I reiterate, the young crowd has limited resources. If ROI (return on investment) is what companies are really after, then a platform that’s aimed at the most well-to-do age group, could crush numbers, and put up some serious referrals and code usages on the boards. That being said, many companies would have no problem continuing to go after the same age demographics that have been the case for decades, but all it would take would be for a small handful of them to break with the norm and give masters outlets the time of day.
I’m so confident that these new pages would do so well, that even if they only backed masters-based outlets for a 1-3 month block, they would see returns unlike anything they’ve ever experienced in the industry. And all that’s needed are a small number of really hardworking nationally-ranked amatuer and pro masters-aged competitors to create outlets. Whether it’s men or women, the less muscular or the more muscular divisions, it doesn’t really matter. In fact, the owners and hosts don’t even have to be competitors, but it would certainly help. If only some masters athletes would get together with a solid game plan and just put out a dozen shows that would be liquid gold! That’s all it would take – 12 shows – one per week, for a three month run. I know the offers would come, but a lot of people just can’t do it, unless they get instant gratification, especially someone in their 40’s, 50’s, and beyond. While these age groups have lived the most and have accumulated the most in terms of wealth and achievements, the idea of doing a number of episodes where all you hear are crickets, probably would seem beneath them. Also, the idea of asking for ad money, just like hitting up media for coverage, might also seem beneath these very well todo folks. They might view it as undignified. They may see it as begging. Successful people don’t bow down, but it’s not bowing down, it’s just playing the game. Someone has got to do the business of bodybuilding. What’s going to turn the tide when it comes to masters coverage, is masters-aged people taking a proactive approach. Is anyone going to step up?
I have spoken to countless amateur athletes who have turned pro. And for that special day, they have some really brilliant ideas about making themselves a brand. They have real drive while holding their trophies and IFBB Pro League awards, but maybe they’re just caught in the moment. Maybe once they get the posing oil off, once they shower and grab a cheat meal, maybe a few days back at home, they just figure it’s not worth the effort. Maybe they think the card – all on its own – will bring them fortune and fame. Or, maybe once they turn pro, that’s something off their bucket list, and they disappear from the stage. That, too, is a factor we cannot deny, but I think there’s more to it than that.
There’s a reason Masters Nationals draws nearly a thousand, sometimes more competitors, but the Masters Pro shows have very low turnout. Clearly, there’s a huge number of masters pro’s, but once they get the card, many just move on. This can also be attributed to a general lack of interest from sponsors and the media. If only there was coverage and if only there was SOME money, I think we’d see more masters pro’s competing as well. But again, it’s not just going to happen, it’s going to take some real groundbreakers and trendsetters to brave the elements, risk failure, and just do it!!
To me, it’s shameful that IFBB Pro Marc Lobliner earned his card and got virtually no media exposure from fitness media outlets. Here’s a competitor who was a social media influencer even before that was a thing; Lobliner even predates Rich Piana! He owns a number of successful brands, he’s hugely popular with younger people (in that heavily marketed 20-30 age group), but even all of that being the case, Lobliner was still ignored! If Marc Lobliner turning pro can’t get mainstream fitness coverage to bite, then what masters athlete will?
The cold shoulder is so apparent, that the media sites don’t even try to hide it. They could have been hypocrites and put out tons of content all centered on Marc’s victory and elevation to pro, but they ignored him, too. This is why it’s imperative for masters competitors to take action and get the ball rolling. If the existing pages don’t care, then new pages have to be created. If that ever happens and these pages pick up some steam, then the tide will undoubtedly change. That is, in my estimation, the only way we can see a break from the norm. What say you?