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Hold On For The Ride: Charles Barkley Takes Weight Watchers In A New Direction

If you’re a man, watch television with a man, or watch the TV programs that advertisers like us to believe that men watch, chances are you’ve seen one of these ads from Charles Barkley, former pro basketball player and self-described “round mound of rebounds”:

Yep, that’s Charles Barkley. For Weight Watchers. You might expect to see this guy endorsing Nike or ESPN, but a commercial weight loss program? Not so much.

Weight Watchers, like other weight loss brands, has centered its advertising and PR campaigns around celebrity endorsements for some time now. But this partnership is definitely not par for the course. Barkley is the opposite of Weight Watcher’s last spokesperson, Jennifer Hudson. He’s not sophisticated or eloquent or stunningly beautiful… and well, he’s a dude.

It’s clear that the brand has been wildly successful with the ladies – 82% of their consumer base is women. And it makes a lot of sense. I hate to be stereotypical here, but striving for a svelte figure through a diet program is considered lady business. So what better way to expand that image and break into the male demographic than with an off-the-cuff, “man’s man” athlete like Charles? Not only does get he get the average guy’s stamp of approval, he’s the last person you’d imagine doing a weight loss campaign… and that’s why he’s making it look cool. The campaign’s called “Lose Like A Man” and the Weight Watchers folks (and their agency Ketchum) have hit it hard with big time ad placements, plenty of PR, and liberal doses of digital and social media.

Of course, it couldn’t all be smooth sailing. Leave it Charles Barkley to mix things up for the well established brand. You might have heard about the little bump in the road they recently hit, when good ol’ Charles didn’t know he was live on NBA.tv, and called his Weight Watchers deal a “scam.” The viral video’s been taken down, but Charles said, “I ain’t giving away no money… I thought this was the greatest scam going — getting paid to watch sports. This Weight Watchers thing is a bigger scam.”

While many were quick to call this a “PR fail,” Weight Weighers wisely embraced Barkley’s comments, releasing a statement saying, “We love Charles for the same reason everyone loves Charles, he’s unfiltered. We are thrilled that he is having great success and inspiring millions of men to join him. We agree that being a spokesman for Weight Watchers is a pretty great gig.” The best part? The “scandal” got the campaign a whole lotta press.

Will Weight Watchers be able to leave its ladies-only image behind with an unfiltered guy like Charles Barkley? That remains to be seen, but I really love their gusto for going in a new direction. It’s refreshing to see a brand that could easily rest on their laurels with their current base to commit to this kind of a campaign whole heartedly.

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