To build a brand, you first must have a hit, say JD Roth and Todd Nelson, CEOs of 3 Ball Productions. That’s been their experience with The Biggest Loser, NBC’s weight-loss competition show, which has turned into a worldwide marketing and merchandising phenomenon complete with an online weight-loss program, cookbooks and fitness guides, Wii computer games and two fitness resorts, one in St. George, Utah, and a new one in Malibu, Calif.
“Everything stems from the creative,” says Roth, who began his television career at age 11 as a child actor. “It’s very hard to wedge some brand into a show. The key is to emotionally hook the viewer into something that’s meaningful and then build the brand after that.”
Roth and Nelson fell into brand-building once The Biggest Loser, which premiered in 2004, became a phenomenon and lent itself so easily to spinoff products and product integrations. “It wasn’t really about how quickly we could monetize the brand,” Roth says. “It was about using the brand in creative ways to help people change their lives. We saw all of that happening pretty early on. Everyone was coming up to us and saying what an inspiration the show was.”
Roth has been executive-producing since 1988. He was hosting the syndicated kids game show Fun House, and he got the idea to take a live performance of the show on the road. He ended up producing and hosting the show’s resulting four-year tour to more than 70 U.S. cities. Roth hired Nelson to be the show’s tour manager, and a partnership was born.
Biggest Loser might be 3 Ball’s best-known program, but since founding the company in 2001, Roth and Nelson have been behind plenty of reality shows, including NBC’s For Love or Money; The CW’s Beauty and the Geek; NBC’s Age of Love; and Fox’s Unan1mous, which Roth hosted. They’ve produced innovative shows for both broadcast and cable networks, including VH1’s The Pick-Up Artist and Breaking Bonaduce, and Bravo’s The Fashion Show.
This August, 3 Ball will premiere Master Chef, a hot import from the U.K. that last year became the biggest hit in Australian TV history. Roth, Nelson and 3 Ball are working with superstar chef Gordon Ramsay and Elisabeth Murdoch’s Reveille/Shine Productions to bring the show to Fox.
3 Ball also is creating the docu-reality series Obese, which tracks the weight-loss journey of several very heavy people over the course of one year and then dedicates an episode to each person. ABC is slated to premiere the show in 2011.
As Roth puts it: “We had a passion to create these reality shows and tell stories and witness to human transformation. Building the brand was a secondary thing.”
Where the Brand Builders Are
2010 Brand Builder JD Roth is scheduled to speak on day two of the Promax/BDA Conference.
What: Winning Big: The Anatomy of The Biggest Loser
When: June 23, 3:30 p.m.
Where: Salon E, JW Marriott, LA Live
Details: It’s one of the biggest success stories in television, with not a loser in sight. Join Executive Producer JD Roth in a presentation on the global sensation of The Biggest Loser, the marketing and promotion that drive its continued success, and the strategies that have extended the brand through television and beyond.
Where: Salon E, JW Marriott, LA Live
Speaker: JD Roth, CEO, 3 Ball Productions and Executive Producer, The Biggest Loser
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Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.