Johnnie O. Jackson shares the hardcore truth about sponsorships and money in pro bodybuilding.

Welcome to the Hardcore Truth – our new podcast and digital series staring one of the strongest pro bodybuilders in the world – Johnnie O. Jackson. Known for his incredible physique, strength, and hardcore training sessions with Branch Warren, Johnnie is gearing up with a mic and camera to share his most valuable lessons from a career in bodybuilding and strength training. This week, Johnnie O. Jackson dispels the myths and misconceptions about sponsorships and earning money as a pro bodybuilder.

As a powerlifter and pro bodybuilder, it’s safe to say that Johnnie O. Jackson has made a career out of strength sports and fitness. But to make something like competitive bodybuilding a career, it takes more than simply winning major bodybuilding shows. That’s why Johnnie spends this week breaking down the reality behind earning money as a pro bodybuilder.

The biggest misconception that up-and-coming bodybuilders have, according to Johnnie O. Jackson, is that they will start instantly seeing paychecks upon turning pro. While that might have been more possible in previous eras due to the illustrious Weider contracts – much has changed. In fact, turning pro won’t guarantee you any money.

Entering the professional league of bodybuilding is nothing like most other sports. In the NFL, once you get a on a pro team you are guaranteed a salary – wether you play or not. In bodybuilding, you only get paid if you win. And even then, most competitions don’t provide enough prize money to make a career off of it.

That’s why it’s vital for pro bodybuilders, now more than ever before, to understand how to sell themselves and earn sponsorships. Or learn how to build their own brand and business to bring in direct cash. That’s easier said than done. Which is why Johnnie O. Jackson has a few tips to share on how to turn your bodybuilding passion into a full fledged career.

Johnnie O. Jackson admits that bodybuilding is a selfish sport. It requires extreme focus and a very specific lifestyle. That being said, Johnnie also believes you need to learn how to give back to the sport as well. This is vital. What he means by this is to promote yourself. Use online tools such as social media and YouTube to showcase your progress, your personality, and build a connection to the bodybuilding audience.

That connection and following is key. It’s what will build your value to sponsors. Gone are the days of signing a major sponsorship just for winning a big show. Now brands want to know that you can directly connect with your audience – and that your audience is loyal and large.

This kind of following can not only help you get sponsors – but also help bring in revenue directly. Youtube videos can be monetized and, if you should so choose, you can use your following to sell your own products and begin a business venture. Even if that’s not your style, sponsors will be looking for bodybuilders who can speak directly to a loyal and large audience.

Johnnie O. Jackson doesn’t want you to believe that you have to be a “fake” version of yourself online to sell yourself. In fact, he believes that if you are simply honest and open about who you are, your training, and your lifestyle – that honesty will build loyal followers. Secondly, once sponsors do come knocking at your door. Don’t jump immediately for the first brand with a big paycheck. Make sure you truly enjoy the product they offer. That kind of genuine honesty will be infectious with your fans. They can tell the difference. It also makes your job under sponsorship more enjoyable.

Lastly, Johnnie O. Jackson goes through his experiences starting out, how he got his first sponsorship, and how he navigated multiple sponsorships throughout his career. He hopes that his personal experience will give insight as to how the process really works. And perhaps help you be prepared for the right and wrong things to do when offered a contract.

You can watch Johnnie O. Jackson go into full detail in our latest episode of Hardcore Truth above. Make sure to stick around every Thursday for new episodes!

Derek Dufour
Derek Dufour has been managing all digital operations on the Generation Iron Network for over six years. He currently manages a team of editors, writers, and designers to provide up-to-date content across the GI Network.