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Julian Power

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6 marketing lessons from the world’s biggest trade show for fitness

fitness women with barbells in red clothes

One of my favorite business topics is marketing. I think it’s relatively easy to create a great product or service, but the hard part is to get noticed in the marketplace. People get flooded with information in their daily lives and they couldn’t care less about you or your product. It’s a painful lesson I had to learn with my productized service company.

I am always looking for inspiration by looking at what other companies are doing because I think that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Marketing channels are constantly changing (Instagram, Snapchat, etc.), but there are some recurring underlying marketing principles, which are based on human psychology.


FIBO Global Fitness is the world’s biggest trade show and it takes place in Cologne every year. The FIBO covers different topics, but the centerpiece is the Power area, which revolves around the perfect physique. The FIBO 2018 had more than 1000 exhibitors from 49 countries and more than 140000 visitors. I am interested in fitness and healthy living, so I thought about visiting the FIBO the last couple of years and in 2018 I finally pulled the trigger and bought a ticket for $36.


Fitness is one of those huge industries, which affect everybody. A lot of people are passionate about fitness and therefore they are more likely to spend a significant amount of money on it. Sports nutrition and supplements are an exceptionally attractive niche, because of the recurring revenue and the high-profit margins.

Marketing lessons

My highlight was the FIBO Power Strongman Challenge, but I also enjoyed observing the marketing strategies from the exhibitors. I discovered six important marketing principles.

Sex sells

Pretty hostesses have been a common sight at trade fairs for years. Some industries like the car industry have started banishing “booth babes” recently. The fitness industry is not one of them though, the Power area felt like the playboy mansion at times. Bodybuilding is all about physical appearance, therefore you could argue that pretty hostesses are only consequential.

People love free shit

This one is remarkable. Start giving away free shit and people lose their mind. A few supplement companies threw cheap samples into the crowd and people went batshit crazy. It seems the only thing standing between civilization and anarchy are 20 cent protein samples.    

People love games

I haven’t seen so many wheels of fortune since I was a kid. I have to admit I wanted to try my luck as well, before being informed that it costs $6. I also (successfully) participated in a free throw challenge, where I showed my mad Basketball skills. Long story short, people love to do shit and get involved.

Branding is everything

If you come to the FIBO without a strong brand as an exhibitor, you are fucked. Without a brand, you have to compete on price, which is a race to the bottom. Essentially, everyone is selling the same stuff with a slightly different spin: Protein powder, shaker, protein bars, sports drinks, gym clothing and so on. German social media stars like Pamela Reif and Flying Uwe transformed their following into massive brands.

Be approachable

One of the stars of the FIBO was Michelle Lewis (13 million Instagram follower). You could line up for a picture and an autograph. I didn’t bother to line up, but I noticed how friendly she embraced her fans. She took her time for everyone and seemed genuinely interested in every interaction. When you think about it, it’s hard to stand out as a fitness model, because there are too many good-looking people around. Consistency and friendliness go a long way. On the flip slide, I went to a booth to buy a protein bar and the seller was horrified that I didn’t recognize him. Apparently, he was a famous bodybuilder and he sent me to one of his employees. Too bad, from now on he is on the Julian Power blacklist and I am taking my protein bar business elsewhere.   

Watch trends

Bodybuilding used to be male-dominated, as you can see in one of my favorite documentaries called Pumping Iron. This isn’t the case anymore. The number of women in gyms has increased in recent years and now the majority of gym members in Germany are female. This new customer segment brings new opportunities for fitness brands and if you don’t keep an eye on the Zeitgeist, you risk becoming irrelevant.


There is no way around it if you want to become a successful entrepreneur you have to learn how to sell effectively. I see this time and time again, the inferior product with the superior marketing wins. Think about how you can apply this marketing lessons to your own company.
The rest is up to you,   



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