by Matt Weik
I saw a video on social media that Sergio Oliva Jr. posted a few days ago talking about how someone leaked that they weren’t going to do an upcoming show and how it messed up their “business”, and I think he gets it to a valid point that not a lot of people think of and that is the fact that bodybuilding is a business.
There are many factors that go into bodybuilding and one small mishap can wipe out any income a bodybuilder might seek. The unfortunate thing about bodybuilding is that it’s not like other sports in that you don’t sign a contract and have guaranteed money whether you win, lose, or don’t play. There is no such thing as “guaranteed money” in bodybuilding and everything they make comes straight from their efforts. They can’t even sit on the sidelines and pick up a paycheck when they’re injured. If you can’t compete or win, you won’t get paid.
Since bodybuilding is a business, we need to look at all of the things that can affect a bodybuilder’s income and how they make a living. Every single bodybuilder has their own methods and plans for making money, but for the majority of the top bodybuilders competing today, they all share the same five sources of income that need to be considered.
1. Guest pose
If you are one of the best bodybuilders in the world, some opportunities will arise to guest pose on an NPC show. While it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme, you can make a few thousand dollars while taking a trip to another state to get on the scene and flex a little. Not a bad way to make some extra cash when you’re doing next to nothing, right?
For bodybuilders, this is a great way to make money all year round – provided you are a bodybuilder who attracts a lot and gets a promoter to pay the money to have you cum. In general, the top five bodybuilders in the world are the most sought after for guest poses.
Since bodybuilding is a business for these athletes, they have to go out and get paid. Luckily for them, gyms and supplement retailers are always looking for ways to get people on their doors, and having a professional bodybuilder showing up for an appearance can be worth the expense for them while also being a decent payday for the bodybuilder .
Performances usually only last a few hours, but in addition to the fact that the bodybuilder is on site to take photos, they are often also able to sell their own professional photos to fans and also sign them – like this they can offset more money.
While it’s not as big these days as it was in the 90s and early 2000s, sponsorships are another way bodybuilders can make serious money out of.
Back then, bodybuilders were given nearly seven-digit numbers to sign on the dashed line and tie them into a contract with a specific supplement company or fitness equipment company. These days, top bodybuilders, even if they are not that lucrative, are looking for sponsors who can offer them a number of perks, including a flat fee, competition entry fees, free supplements, and accommodation in nice hotels for their shows.
These are just some of the things some bodybuilders ask about, and there are some other personal things many bodybuilders try to get into the business, but these are usually the most important ones. But bodybuilding is a business here too. Every bodybuilder wants to get something for using it to sell a brand’s products.
4. Clothing / complements
It may not work for all bodybuilders, but there are quite a number of success stories of top bodybuilders who used their name and accomplishments and put them on physical products. If you look at Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler, I’m not sure if anyone has ever done this as well as these two guys.
To capitalize on the fact that bodybuilding is a business and top competitors have opportunities to seize it, it may make sense to start your own line of clothing and / or supplements.
Jay and Ronnie did both, and you even have some of the old school bodybuilders like Arnold, Rich Gaspari, Lee Labrada, Kevin Levrone, and Jimmy Mentis (to name a few) who have their own line of supplements – regardless of whether they have or have not used their own personal name as a trademark.
5. Contest selection
Last on our list of ways to show that bodybuilding is a business is through competitions. Unlike most sports where you have an entire season of games and matches, bodybuilders can choose which competitions to enter (or skip).
Some prefer to skip them all and only go to the Olympics when they qualify, while others spend the year looking for a paycheck and climbing as many stages as possible to make ends meet.
It’s a business for them. If you want to grow your “business” you have to go out there and win shows. The more you win, the more recognized your “business” becomes. And then, when it’s time to go to the big dance (the Mr. Olympia competition), it is the climax that proves bodybuilding is a business. Win the show and watch the floodgates open before your eyes. You will sign contracts and have tons of options piling up at your feet.
While many bodybuilders will never make the sport they love their career that keeps the lights on, the best of the best get the chance to take the stage once a year and take home a healthy six-figure check.
While many do not consider bodybuilding a sport, bodybuilding is certainly a business.