Unachievable Bodies: Promotional Culture and Fitness Influencers

Promotional culture within fitness drives influencers invite us to consume a product or service through visual persuasion that allows us to re-unite with our fantasy selves (Wernick, 1991). As fitness influencers and social media continue to grow, so does misinformation and body negativity as consumers strive to look like their favourite influencer, a visual advertisement signifying a euphoric, connotationally saturated image of what is for sale (Wernick, 1991).


Promotional culture is at its best in the fitness industry, whether it is diet, food, exercises, gyms, or people we all see the grass being greener on the other side. Images of unachievable bodies are used by fitness influencers to maximise appeal and draw in consumers (Wernick, 1991). To increase their brand or personal value influencers use their bodies as avatars to communicate their services and products online (Powers & Greenwell, 2016).

Promotional culture grows through doctored images and performance enhancers, as fitness influencers use these to achieve their incredible physiques. Moreover, they are promoting an unhealthy lifestyle of body image and drug addiction. The ideal body image is created by these influencers to sell their products, reflecting the effort required for beauty and health (Scott, Cayla, & Cova, 2017).

Advertising has grown past the textual level and has become visual, as messages have become more figurative, allusive, and pictorial (Wernick, 1991). The most prominent advertising has become visual – billboards, magazines, TV and now social media, the visual aspect of advertising is the most important (Wernick, 1991).

My objective is to increase awareness and warn consumers that wanting these bodies is dangerous for their own health. Through shares and views I will attempt to decrease body negativity across the world as it is reported that 91 per cent of people are unhappy with their body image (Palmer, 2018). My objective is to raise awareness and decrease body negativity be 25 per cent in the next year, so people understand that these influencers are unhealthy, and can accept their own bodies.

The target audience for my video is young people, in the age range of 16-25 who spend the most amount of time on social media. These young adolescents and adults spend over 5 hours a staring at their screens (Feeley, 2019). Every minute they spend looking at their screen is another minute that they could be affected by a fitness influencer trying to push their program or their ‘perfect’ and unachievable body onto consumers.

My communication tactic is to engage the target audience through using examples of past fitness influencers, on this occasion I used Ronnie Coleman. Coleman was a past fitness influencer who sold programs online and was also a professional bodybuilder. Due to his injuries from excessive steroid use and excessive lifting, he now has to have continual surgery to keep his body from breaking down and cannot even walk. This is an example of the dangers of vanity, where people may look fantastic in their prime but be crippled by the time, they are older. The visual ad, like depicted by fitness influencers, acts as a mirror for consumer’s projections, which makes them susceptible to a sale (Wernick, 1991). Fitness influencers use promotional culture to promote an unhealthy and unsafe lifestyle that is unattainable to the average person.

My goal is for the target audience to realise that achieving ‘influencer’ bodies is just about impossible without performance enhancers. It can be extremely dangerous to strive for these bodies and creates a lot of body negativity across consumers which almost ‘forces’ people to buy fitness programs. I want consumers to be able to experience human relationships and have their own interpretations on the ‘perfect’ body, allowing for different readings of reality by visual terms (Scott, Cayla, & Cova, 2017).

I want to educate consumers about the secrets behind the fitness industry and the dangers that striving for these bodies have on mental and physical aspects of their body (Marianny & Silva, 2019).

The effectiveness of the video will be measured mainly from shares and views. Overall, I want the video to be spread across a variety of medias to reach my target audience, as some people are not on all social medias. Therefore, I would measure its effectiveness through all metrics such as comments, likes, shares and views but the main two metrics that I will follow are shares and views.

Another metric that I would be eager to follow is influencer impact, by engaging high profile accounts so they can share and spread the message. Influencers are highly respected, and consumers often listen to them more than anything else (Powers & Greenwell, 2016), their influence on awareness and body positivity is becoming more prominent.

Feeley, M. (2019, May 2). Screen time survey reveals consumers spend 50 days a year on smartphones. Retrieved from The Drum: https://www.thedrum.com/news/2019/05/02/screen-time-survey-reveals-consumers-spend-50-days-year-smartphones

Marianny, J., & Silva, S. (2019). Journal of Relationship Marketing Online Engagement and the Role of Digital Influencers in Product Endorsement on Instagram Online Engagement and the Role of Digital Influencers in Product Endorsement on Instagram. Journal of Relationship Marketing 19, 1-10.

Palmer, M. (2018, Febuary 24). 5 facts about body image. Retrieved from Amplify : http://amplifyyourvoice.org/u/marioapalmer/2013/05/21/byob-be-your-own-beautiful

Powers, D., & Greenwell, D. (2016). Branded fitness: Exercise and promotional culture. Journal of Consumer Culture 17(3), 60-87.

Scott, R., Cayla, J., & Cova, B. (2017). Selling pain to the saturated self. Journal of Consumer Research, 50-62.

Wernick, A. (1991). Promotional Culture: Advertising, Ideology and Symbolic Expression. Promotional Culture , 250-281.