Getbig2004 Arnold Classic

Notes from the 2004 Arnold Classic
By Clark Jackson

  • My experience for the Arnold Classic Expo begins way before the show. I work for a supplement company, Maximum Human Performance, as a graphic ad and packaging designer. An expo to me means posters, autograph sheets-or better said, anything and everything that is handed out in paper form. I'm also in charge of packaging design so anytime we have new products coming into production; I'm making up mock packaging for 'show and tell'.

    I love to attend the Arnold more than any other Expo. The Mr. Olympia is half the expo that the Arnold has become. The competitions are really good contests. Plus all the other type of non-bodybuilding activity that comes along. Typically, you see a wall of people at the Arnold especially on the Sunday. Every day is new faces. The Olympia brings in less consumers and usually the people that walk through the Expo the first day walk by each day. The Mr. O contest is always pretty controversial but you know who the winner is before the show. Sorry if you are a Mr. O fans, but I like to know that everyone has a chance to win. I think it even dampens the spirit of who places.

    I get to Columbus the day before the first day of the exposition. We check into the Crowne Plaza and hit the expo hall floor running. We have to put together 6 booth spaces with our 'formal' trade show display and then 'decorate' the remaining portion not only to draw the attendee's in but also to make it functional to what we call home for the next 72 hours.

    Friday begins and you wonder who will make their appearance. We were situated next to Muscle Tech and down the aisle from Weider Publications. After years of exhibiting, you become friends with other people (sales people, bodybuilders and models) from other companies. I guess that makes it more worthwhile than anything getting to met and make new friends. We all have one thing in common we love bodybuilding.

    Chris Cook is easily the best guy for remembering faces. He is someone that you meet and like instantly. His attitude is tremendous and you can only hope for the best for the guy cause he is a great ambassador for the sport. Mat DuVall is another guy that you can't picture in your mind without a smile. As cornball as it might seem, I enjoy that he remembers me by name.

    MetRX is the leader in coming up with terrific gimmicks to entertain the crowd. This year they had a casino theme. The women wore "hat check girl" outfits. My hat is off to them for being able to reinvent the wheel for each expo. Just wonder how much that all costs. Hmmm, so they still aren't profitable?

    My favorite married couple working the expo is Terry Harrison and Kim Harris. I met them at the Arnold 02. We enjoy the one best thing in life, coffee. We end up getting coffee breaks together and it gives us a chance to meet up. It's great seeing Met Rx's utilizing Terry in their ads. If you have ever seen Kim in person, I think you would agree with me that she is the most beautiful woman on the planet.

    Color me stupid but I didn't know that Sylvester Stallone had gotten into the supplement business. He has 'In-Stone' and they had a nice size booth at the expo. You never know that is going to click with the consumer but plenty of other 'big names' with greater ties to the industry have giving it a shot and not made much of a dent. It will be interesting to see how his company does.

    My old favorites at Weider are Kevin Levrone, Shawn Ray and Laura Cravelle. I met them both when they were guest posers at a show I use to compete in in Oklahoma City. The promoter, Randy Sandberg, use to have me act as host for the guest posers and escort them around for the competition weekend. It is a blast to have the opportunity to be with someone at their level for that length of time. Now, they may have another story about having to spend time with me.

    Last year at the Arnold, I got to spend some unplanned time with Weider athletes Roland Kickenger and Tomm Voss. We all were in an elevator at our hotel when the elevator stopped. For the next 40 plus minutes, we spent calling on the elevator phone and our own cell phones to get help. I got nervous but not because we were stuck in the elevator but Tomm and Roland kept talking in german to each other. You never know when the germans might be planning to take over the world again-taking one elevator at a time.

    Two booths that use to have a bigger impact at the expo's were TwinLab and Pinnacle/Cytodyne. Both have recently sold and both had limited (if any) athletes working with them. It makes a difference in what kind of draw you create.

    Universal Nutrition had their gym set up. It's a gimmick I thought of years ago as a theme for MHP but not on the scale that they have taken it. Vinnie Galanti acts as a mc for them and does an amazing job of keeping the athletes and audience entertained. I met Vinnie years ago at a FIBO so I always seek him out to see how he is doing. Monica Brant is their feature athlete. I would guess that Monica draws the biggest crowd of anyone at an expo. She is there every day and every hour. Even the men pro's are never there for more than maybe 6 hours in the whole weekend. My hat is off to her for her stamina. I met Monica at a FIBO years ago, she recognizes me as well. I hope for only good reasons. She remembers my name as an "ark" name and usually calls me Mark. What can I say? At least she isn't calling the cops.

    This was the first year for me to see Dave Hughes in person. He was working the SANN booth. He seems like a personable guy. Their ad campaign really has given him great exposure to the public. I go around and take pics of various athletes and also the empty booths for my entertainment. I asked Dave for a photo about the time that he was packing up his booth on Sunday at the end of the expo. I felt bad stopping him. He didn't blink an eye. Through up the arms for a double bi plus an ear to ear smile. You know when someone can do that on Sunday at 4PM, they've got a great attitude for fans.

    Our booth (MHP) at this Arnold was the largest space that we have attempted ever at that expo. MHP has been around for 6 years now. Each year sales grow and our product line expands. Gerard Dente is the owner and is right there along side us during the whole show. He hasn't competed since 1996 but still gets recognized like if he competed yesterday.

    We did the MHP Strength Challenge. For competing you receive a free 'UpYour MASS' t-shirt. The contest consists of pressing 100% of your body weight for as many repetitions at you can do. Then proceed to curl 50% of you body weight for as many rep's as well. Combined totals are recorded and at the end of the show, the two first place, two-second place and three third place winners are selected. One for 185 pounds and below and one for 186 and above. After competing, we gave the person a shaker cup with a sample packet of our Up Your MASS powder and an Up Your MASS protein bar.

    Our male athletes include Tricky Jackson, Mike Morris and Chris Bennett. We give Morris a bad time cause we allow the athletes to sell their autographs. Mike comes in with a mini-mall of items varying from disposable head shavers to Mike Morris key chains.  Two new additions to the athlete group are John Reardon Jr. and Erick Seng. Both are amateurs. John, aka Junior, competes at the local level in Pittsburgh. He's a super heavy weight and looks it. Erick is a former Musclemannia champion and now competing at the NPC national level.

    Erick is a police officer from Chicago. He came to the MHP booth at the Arnold 03 and asked to talk with someone about sponsorship. That's how we met and that is how he got started with MHP. Each year, several people will stop by the booth and ask about sponsorship. It is just interesting to find out what people expect from a supplement company. It's amazing that people think that the pro's are paid a salary to take our supplements and workout-as a full time job. Sadly, most pro's don't have a contract with any companies. The companies that do contract with athletes can be pretty brutal.

    Two that come to mind, I won't mention names. One doesn't give more than two 15-minute breaks during a day. Not enough time to go pee and come back. They will fire someone on the spot if that person tastes any competitors' product. One expo, they had one girl in tears cause she brought back a new product to give to the sales group for informational purposes. The other company is a little better off about competitors' products but they don't give more than one 20-minute break. I know people at both booths so I run by and see what they need and run water bottles and coffee back for them.

    My boss, Gerard, was a TwinLab athlete and so he knows that side of the story. Makes a big difference in how athletes and employees are treated. Plus, he has a great loyalty to the people that work with us. Someone starts up with us they don't leave. So many athletes and so many with great attributes but it's a supply and demand situation. People that can promote themselves are those that find the jobs. Just having competed or having good pictures doesn't cut it.

    It's not surprising to hear that this Arnold's attendance was up by 20%. We could measure that in the amount of product we gave away. Glad my job gives me the chance to go every year.