How Long Will Supplement Companies Support Contests?

by Matt Weik

As some of you might know, I write copy for many supplement companies across the globe to help them sell their line of products. That being said, a common topic keeps coming up, and that is the place of supplement companies in the sport of bodybuilding. Most of these companies aren’t truly associated to the sport, and their line doesn’t even cater to a bodybuilder. Yet, each year brands from across the nation come to places like Columbus, OH and Las Vegas, NV for the Arnold Classic and the Olympia. But, what exactly do these brands get out of it?


The heading pretty much says it all. But at what cost? I’ve seen and heard companies dropping hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to these types of events. And we are talking about only one or two shows, that’s not even counting some of the smaller IFBB or NPC shows they are contractually bound to be at. But why? I understand the industry is a multi-billion-dollar book of business, but many of these brands aren’t even a blip on the radar. Dropping so much money on a booth at these events in my opinion is a waste.


Talk to any supplement company and ask them what their return on investment is, to be at the Arnold Classic or the Olympia. Their answer? “We can’t measure it.” Meanwhile, they dropped a ton of coin on the booth space, travel, food, people working for them at the booth, and then had to give away free samples on top of it. Do the samples translate into sales? Not necessarily. And if you are a retailer in Columbus or Vegas following a show, your sales drop considerably for the next few weeks or even over a month due to the number of samples everyone picked up at the show. So, giving out samples not only hurts the retailers, but if the retailers aren’t buying product from the manufacturers, then they aren’t making money either.


Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Brands give out thousands of dollars of samples at events. And if you know me or have been around me at these shows, you’d know I absolutely hate the Arnold and the Olympia from an expo standpoint. All you have are a bunch of mooches walking around in what smells like one big protein fart taking free samples. They don’t ask about the product, they don’t look at the profile, heck, they don’t even look at what they are grabbing. Their main focus is to go there, fill up a bag or backpack, go out to their car to dump everything, and then go back in to start all over again. Leaving the event with hundreds of samples which generally they showcase on social media.

Where do many of these samples end up? On eBay. The week after any of these shows, check out eBay and you’ll find samples, swag, and just about anything else given away at major shows. Heck, when I was working for supplement company, I had a guy ask me for a bottle of product that he could use and then give a review on his YouTube channel. So, I mailed him a bottle and a week later I was told by a friend in the industry that he has my product for sale on eBay. WTF?! Mooches are one thing, but trying to profit off of a brands willingness to give you FREE samples or product to hopefully have you enjoy the product and come back to buy it is complete BS.

On the last day of expos, you’ll find many brands simply giving away full containers of product that they don’t want to ship back to their office or warehouse. This is the day that I book an early flight and get the heck out of dodge. Generally, Sunday’s are the last day of major shows and this is when the savages let loose. They come from all directions to load up on as many full tubs of product as they can. They will push, shove, elbow, and bite their way through a group to grab freebies. 9 out of 10 of these people won’t make eye contact, won’t say thank you, and aren’t happy with just getting one free tub of product, they stand there basically expecting to be given more.

Supplement companies are what actually makes the industry go around

I often wonder why supplement companies don’t push back more in the industry when it comes to shows and events. It’s their fees for booths and such that pay for all of these events. Yet, as the prices for booths keep going up, brands continue to open their checkbook and sign on the line—some, not all.

This brings up a good point. If you have noticed over the last few years, not all of the brands you are used to seeing at events are showing up anymore—including some of the larger well-known brands. Many of them got sick of the outrageous booth prices and being bent over without any lube. Personally, I would love to see for one year all of the brands rally together and boycott expos. See what happens after that. People will still be buying products, but everyone associated with the show wouldn’t have any income from supplement companies. By the following year, they are either going to be begged to come back for a cheaper price, or they at that point know that they no longer need to invest in events with little to no ROI. It would also be a good way to figure out where the sport of bodybuilding is on its own. Are the masses coming out to watch the sport of bodybuilding, or are they coming out to load up on free samples and product?

To close out this article, I want to say that this is my take and experience in the industry when it comes to the subject. I’ve seen these things with my very own eyes and have been part of them from a manufacturer point of view. Some may agree with my position above, others may disagree. And that’s ok. But from a business standpoint, I don’t see any real value in having a booth at these shows. It’s an expense that I wouldn’t be willing to take since I can take that money and actually create an ROI through deals, promotions, and spiffs. I would much rather run an Olympia special or an Arnold special the week or even the month of the show to move product. THAT, in my opinion is a much better spend.