In a flashy infomercial rollout, the Mad Dogg Athletics company is offering its own "Johnny G Spinner" bike as a part of a package deal with videos and workouts that "guarantee that you'll feel dramatic results in just one workout ... or we'll send your money back."
According to the infomercial and corresponding website (www.spinningtv.com), the "Spinning System" costs $14.95 for a one-month trial, after which consumers are charged either a monthly fee or one lump sum of about $500. A "deluxe" package costs $650.
"The intent is to reach out to consumers who may, or may not, be intimidated by the intensity of a Spinning program as they see it in clubs or depicted elsewhere," Erika Bruhn, communications manager for Mad Dogg/Spinning, told SNEWS(r). "It's not necessarily cannibalizing the market, but rather drawing the two together."
In comparison, most indoor cycling bikes cost about $1,000 to $1,300, not including any videos or other goodies, and are made to withstand numerous workouts a day at clubs. This bike, made in Asia, Bruhn said, is geared down to the home user's needs of only a few workouts a week. Nevertheless, the basic bike weighs 75 pounds and the deluxe version is 82 pounds, both with wheels so users can move them easily around rooms.
In February 2002, Star Trac gained the exclusive license to manufacture and market a Spinning bike for clubs and to use Johnny G in promotions, after a parting of the ways between Schwinn Fitness and Mad Dogg and Johnny G during and after Schwinn's bankruptcy purchase by Nautilus. As a part of the agreement with Star Trac, Mad Dogg was to continue to run the indoor cycling program's education and teacher training.
"As the exclusive manufacturer and distributor of institutional Johnny G Spinner bikes, we believe Mad Dogg Athletics' Spinning infomercial and their efforts to reach into the consumer market are complementary to our combined efforts to expand Spinning in the club market," Craig Petinak, Star Trac's marketing manager, told SNEWS.
"We know consumer fitness equipment is often purchased as a supplement to health club membership, not as a replacement, and the millions of impressions the Spinning infomercial will make can only help brand recognition and participation in the club market," he added.
He also said that Star Trac isn't concerned about any consumer confusion over the products since the bikes are quite different.
"The differences are comparable to the many differences between a commercial grade treadmill and a treadmill that is built exclusively for home use," Petinak said.
At least one retailer SNEWS spoke with in the Southeast was suddenly inundated with about a dozen phone calls over three days asking for the Johnny G Spinner bike they saw on TV.
The infomercial ran in small tests last fall in major metro markets including Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. A larger rollout with more airings in most the same markets began in early January, Bruhn said. As of now, it is only available direct-to-consumer or via Mad Dogg's Spinning catalog, with "no plans now" for retail sales.
The package comes with three workout videos or DVDs with Spinning master instructors and one with Johnny G called "Johnny G Live" -- "Ride with the creator of the Spinning program, Johnny G! Work your body and your mind on this inspirational journey, filmed live in Miami Beach!" The infomercial package also includes a manual and Spinning water bottle, according to the website, where you can also view the infomercial.
The bike, with a one-year warranty, has handlebars that can adjust to be used more vertically, and also has a much wider seat, Bruhn said, to accommodate the perhaps less fit home user. She said it is packaged with a "sense of solution" aimed at weight loss or getting in shape for those who can't or don't want to go to a gym.
The website states: "Johnny G has created the Spinning system, which combines the patented Johnny G Spinner with his Spinning videos for a fun and effective workout you can do right in your own home!... With the Johnny G Spinner, there is no guesswork. You will burn fat and calories, while you sculpt and shape every major muscle in your body."
SNEWS View: It's about time there was an indoor cycling bike that was built "down" a bit for the less-demanding rigors of home use. And leave it to the marketing wizardry of Johnny G to come up with that AND take it to TV. Although Star Trac has said it is not worried about confusion, the consumer calls we heard about from a retailer suggest otherwise. But time will tell on that front. The website and infomercial are filled with lots of infomercial-typical hyperbole, but Johnny G always knew how to work a crowd. Once again, he's proved he's the master.