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Bodybuilding Legends vs Influencers

Shawn Ray

The Evolution of Bodybuilding From 1965 to Today

As we continue down the long and winding road of our Bodybuilding and Fitness journeys, I’ve witnessed the inclusion of new divisions, new classes, global expansion, increased prize money, more contests, more sponsors and yes, more Fitness Stars! Since the first Mr. Olympia contest took place back in October of 1965 in Brooklyn, New York, where the late Larry “The Legend” Scott won the first of his two Mr. Olympia Titles, the sport of bodybuilding has evolved into a global fitness phenomenon!

Mr. Olympia 1965-66, Larry Scott

Social Media Stars: The New Faces of Fitness

Over the past 60 years, the sport of bodybuilding has grown into 11 pro divisions with classes for Masters (Over 40 yrs.) and Wheelchair Athletes, with more actively competing amateurs around the globe inclusive of paid sponsorships and job opportunities to help elevate the sport to what it is today! Along the way to where we are now, the sport has hitched its wagon to social media influencers who are people that may have never stepped on the competitive stage, yet are so impressive to others that follow the sport, they’ve created a demand for them to be featured at Expos, Contests and Promotions worldwide due in large part to the following they’ve created for themselves. Where there are Followers there are Fans and where there are Fans there’s opportunities for promoters to promote product sales, contest attendance and fitness fellowships that include lots of camaraderie and new business for the Influencer.

The Digital Revolution: Bodybuilding's New Frontier

So how did we get here?

When we look back at our sport’s origins, we remember a time when they called the sport of bodybuilding a “Cult Sport” where only certain types of people participated, and the mainstream media frowned upon them as different. Today, it seems every sport is attached to some form of bodybuilding roots via franchise gyms, personal trainers, nutrition stores and sport supplement companies. somewhere in the mid 2000’s a digital marketing campaign moved in to swiftly replace print information, magazine cover shots and media advertising pages which was where our sports elite athletes dominated the game and its contest coverage that created a select few mega stars in the sport!

The growth of our digital reach and its algorithms squashed the print business and soon everything moved to the electronic consumer access market meaning, anyone with a cell phone could become self informed and have the ability to select where they want to invest their time, interests and whom they want to follow. More importantly, they’d now have direct access to anyone and everyone without censorship or editing.

The Impact of Digital Media on Fitness Culture

In summation, the addition of; Digital Media via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Vine, YouTube, X, Threads and TikTok has allowed anyone with the ability to diet, train and articulate their training techniques or nutrition programs to have a platform to preach the gospel of fitness. Some do it better than others just as a physique contest is judged and scored. Fans choose whom they like, whom they want to follow and yes, even who’s best! Social media stars are celebrities in the eyes of those fans they impact and their following bears that fact out as the numbers don’t lie. An influencer can have millions of followers/fans and yet never step on a stage and still could become more well known than an 8X Winner of the Mr. Olympia who’s been in the game since the 90’s!

Appreciating Diversity: Legends and Influencers Unite

Personally, I don’t see the rivalry nor the comparison which is why it’s hard to hate on social media celebrities. I appreciate what they “add” to our industry because they work hard at branding themselves. Typically, a social media star arrives on scene with a message of positivity, motivation, and encouragement which our sport needs more of, so for me there is no place for jealousy nor comparison on my end. The game has changed and is more inclusive of things and people we may not fully understand immediately, but over time we realize the common thread in all this inclusion which is health and longevity regardless of the athletes resume or pedigree.

In a head-to-head, 1-on-1 comparison between Social Media Influencers and Bodybuilding Legends I say everyone’s a winner and there’s room for all of us to coexist and inspire the next generation of fitness enthusiasts.

And that’s my bottom line.


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