John Romano talks about the challenges of Muscular Development battling for athlete exclusivity in the era of the Weider Brothers.
Back before digital took over the journalistic space, bodybuilding magazines battled for supremacy in the bodybuilding industry. Muscular Development was a big name at the time – but nothing compared to being a Weider sponsored athlete. To be with the Weiders was the smartest call. They owned the Olympia itself – the biggest bodybuilding competition of the year. So how did John Romano and the MD team survive against the biggest name in bodybuilding? They used guerrilla tactics and it seems Weider and company resorted to some as well. In our latest GI Exclusive interview, John Romano recalls how the Weider brand played dirty against Muscular Development.
During the Golden Era of bodybuilding, if you were the best bodybuilder in the sport, you were likely a signed Weider athlete. The Weiders made bodybuilding what it is today – and they knew how to successfully promote athletes. They could provide the biggest payout and the most exposure. So of course if an athlete has the opportunity they would certainly go with Weider.
But the Weider brand was not a monopoly and other magazines battled for the spotlight. One such magazine was Muscular Development. And for a time they stood out well as one of the biggest bodybuilding magazines in the industry. Still, they needed to battle against the hardest challenge of all – the Weider contract.
If an athlete signed with Weider, they couldn’t appear in any other magazine. They were exclusive. That made it hard for competing magazines to get in edge wise. Thats why when we talked with John Romano over a video call, we wanted to know what kind of tactics MD used to stay relevent.
According to Romano, it was all guerrilla warfare. They attempted to find athletes that seemed promising and lock them in before they won an Olympia or became famous. It was a gamble, but it was the only way they could lock in big name athletes down the road. Even then, if a Weider contract came an athlete’s way – they would sometimes still bail and go for the bigger sponsorship. It was just the way the industry worked.
It didn’t help that the Weider brand also played a little bit dirty. At least, according to John Romano. In our interview, Romano looks back on some situations that prevented MD from displaying their brand name at the Olympia, despite paying to be a sponsor of the event. This could all be here-say. Or perhaps it’s just part of a playful rivalry. A sort of “all’s fair in bodybuilding and magazines” mentality.
Regardless, John Romano’s stories provide some interesting and revealing insight into the old world of bodybuilding and bodybuilding media. An era with less outlets to promote yourself (much less than social media and digital provides today). An era when bodybuilding as a whole was smaller.
An era a smaller number of brands were hungry to leave a permanent mark on the bodybuilding world.
You can check out John Romano’s full comments about competing against the Weider brand in our latest GI Exclusive interview segment above!