I have wanted to write about Beachbody for more than a year, but I’ve held back because I personally know a lot of people who are involved with the company, and I have a great deal of love for them. I should say right off the bat that it is not my aim to critique Beachbody Coaches. Quite the opposite: I believe that Beachbody attracts people with very big hearts and good intentions. I do not think that Coaches deliberately set out to be scammed or to scam their neighbors.
Let’s begin by getting clear about what, exactly, Beachbody is. Beachbody is a fitness product company that sells workout DVDs, nutritional supplements, and gym equipment. It does not sell through traditional retail channels but rather uses the Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) model. MLM businesses use individual salespeople to sell to customers, and salespeople are considered “independent contractors”, not employees of the company. Beachbody calls these contractors “Coaches.”
I first became intrigued by the company when I saw their “Portion Fix” product, a color-coded set of plastic containers designed to help people determine appropriate portions for specific food groups and food items. I am a big believer in eating everything in the world so long as it is done in moderation, so I thought the Portion Fix was genius in its simplicity: moderation is not intuitive for everyone, and the cups could be a great training tool to learn about reasonable serving sizes. The price was also fair: $24 for the whole set. I looked into Beachbody workouts too, and I think they are great! P90X and other Beachbody routines are intense, and it makes sense that, over time and with consistency, they are highly effective.
Most of the Beachbody activity on my social media was not centered around the workouts or the Portion Fix though, but rather, “Shakeology.” My Facebook feed became populated with Before and After photos of fitness success, featuring tired and puffy Before pics (usually post-natal pics– let’s be real) contrasted with smiley, thin After pics. The After pics often featured a fit woman holding a bottle of Shakeology, which is a powdered meal replacement and nutritional supplement. Shakeology selfies were everywhere!
The product is marketed as a proprietary blend of superfoods and special herbs, an appetite suppressant superior to whole food and providing better nutritional benefits than any competing powdered beverage. Of course, there is no medical or scientific research data to support this claim. According to doctors and certified nutritionists, Shakeology’s benefits are identical to any similar fortified beverage, no better than Ensure, that drink of choice for recovering anorexics and hospice patients. In addition to NOT being better than competing products, Shakeology is twice, three times, sometimes a hundred times the cost. It will cost you about $120 per 30 servings… but if you become a Coach, you get a discount.
Beachbody will have you believe that becoming a Coach is an opportunity to earn extra income- a side hustle with good potential to also become a career. Coaches pay for a business starter kit and a recurring monthly fee to begin. The cheapest option is $15.95 per month, but Coaches who desire marketing tools such as a website/blog or “club membership” can expect to pay around $130 a month. This means that the least invested Coaches pay around $190 per year and the most invested pay around $1500. Beachbody continuously reminds Coaches that their level of success depends on “motivation and work ethic,” but the numbers tell a depressing tale of painfully small ROI’s. The vast majority of profitable Coaches (69%) make an average of $550 per year. 22.5% make an average of $3,457 a year. The company does not publish median incomes. 44.73% of enrolled coaches did not receive any bonus or commission checks in 2014.
If you have an extra six hours today, you can read the entire Beachbody Coach Compensation Plan, which weighs in at 51 pages. If you don’t, here is a simplified breakdown of how the thing works:
The first part of the plan is retail sales, where Coaches make 25% on any customer purchase. If they sell a Shakeology or P90x for $120, they pocket $30. This is pretty straightforward and nothing to get excited about.
The second and more lucrative way to make money as a Coach has to do with Team Cycle Bonuses, which is the company’s cheerful euphemism for financially rewarding tireless recruitment. Look at the shape of the below graph:
Beachbody Coach Binary Compensation Plan
In order to begin receiving Team Cycle Bonuses, a Coach must acquire the rank of “Emerald Coach,” which involves recruiting and personally sponsoring two Beachbody Coaches. Then, based on Team Volume of retail sales, certain bonuses are distributed. The bonuses are capped based on Coach rank, and caps increase based on increased rank (team growth). These classifications have increasing dazzling names as a Coach recruits and sponsors more and more people, and their recruitees go on to recruit more (Ruby, Diamond, 1 Star Diamond, 2 Star Diamond, etc.). As a reward for sales volume, higher ranking coaches attend conferences and are sometimes treated to incentive retreats and cruises, all of which are heavily broadcast on social media with the message that YOU TOO CAN ENJOY THE GREAT LIFE OF A BEACHBODY COACH!
I live in a small town, and one of the more distressing things about Beachbody to me is how it functions in the context of a small community. Recruitment is done among friendly acquaintances and friends– as Beachbody gains popularity, more and more people become Coaches, filling the middle of the pyramid. Early adopters of the fitness trend may be able to make a significant profit, because, by luck or by excellent foresight, they find themselves with a high rank at the tip of the pyramid. But their success is still dependent on their retail sales and the sales of the Coaches they sponsor. Soon, everyone who wants to be a Coach is a Coach. The bottom of the Pyramid is populated by people who are not interested in recruitment or even making a lot of money, but people who want discounts on Shakeology and other Beachbody products. Many lose interest in Beachbody, but are enrolled in monthly purchases and feel awkward about asking their friend to stop sending product. They continue to spend money and pad the pockets of higher ranking coaches while making no money for themselves.
As a woman, it really chaps my ass that MLM companies have been targeting female salespeople for decades. Although I know that there are plenty of male coaches, I take specific, personal issue with Coaches target marketing stay-at-home mothers who are intrigued by the prospect of not only losing their post-natal weight but also bringing in some extra income for their family. In this way, Beachbody has joined other MLM operations like Mary Kay, Pure Romance, Stella & Dot, Plexus Slim, Jamberry, Nerium –the list goes on– in taking advantage of SAHMs and underemployed women everywhere.
It is awesome that people want to get fit and healthy and to help others get fit and healthy. The motivation behind the individuals who become Coaches is really admirable, but Beachbody is a shitty way of sharing health solutions with others. Why not start teaching an aerobics class at your local gym? Go get certified to teach Pilates, or start a running club, or go to school and become a nutritionist. Go start a blog about your fitness journey. Find a different, less shady way to spread and share healthy habits.
Note: I realize that this post may ruffle some feathers, so if I have gotten any of my facts wrong, please let me know in the comments or email firstname.lastname@example.org. I will correct any factual errors, but I don’t think there are any. See links for sources.
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