Strongman tends to be a little slow to getting with and adapting to the times and throughout my time in the sport, first as an athlete and now as for lack of a better term an influencer to some extent, that was nowhere more apparent than in embracing social media. When I founded Starting Strongman in 2013, it was because Strongman’s web presence was (to put it nicely) abysmal and I wanted to help change that. When I started I was told by everyone in the industry I was crazy and that no one cares about Strongman because the fitness industry is all about abs. I knew they were wrong, and that of course people would be interested in learning more about the sport full of the biggest and strongest people in the world. I believe I did, in my own little way, being an early adopter of Instagram and putting out regular content just devoted to Strongman. I am sure the fact that others were absent in social media helped Starting Strongman grow to what it is today.
Strongman may have been slow to adapt to social media and influencer culture but it sure has made up for it. In 2020 I’d say some of the biggest influencers in fitness are now Strongman.
Let’s look at the numbers.
Instagram 3.3 million / Youtube 473 thousand
Instagram 2.3 million / Youtube 1.37 Million
Brian Shaw Instagram 1.2 Million / Youtube 1.4 Million
Those are some massive numbers for the people at the top of the sport, and if in 2012 you would have told me Strongman would have these types of followings it would have been hard to believe.
So what impact has influencer culture had on Strongman?
I would say the most positive outcome has been that the superstars in the sport are finally being compensated and recognized as they deserve to be through Youtube ad revenue and ambassador deals. The sport itself does not pay much with no first place prize in the sport even coming close to 6 figures. For example, the Arnold Strongman Classic gives out $72,000 for first place. So while you may not be able to “make it” by competing in the sport, you can by gaining notoriety and following off of competing in the sport.
The downside to this is if an athlete makes more money off making youtube videos and being a character than they do actually competing in their sport, then it is likely the athletes will focus more on that than competing in the grueling sport which once you are known and established offers a now relatively low financial compensation. There is no clearer proof of this than Hafthor Bjornson, the biggest current star in the sport stepping back from Strongman for a boxing match with Eddie Hall. In an ideal world, the individuals would receive a bigger payday and more publicity from actually doing the sport of Strongman they are actually known for.
While Strongman rising as influencers and being viable for sponsorships and other deals that allows them to quit their day jobs and dedicate more of themselves to the sport is a huge benefit, the biggest downside is that there are certain cases of athletes likely getting invited to big competitions in place of more qualified, stronger athletes simply due to their big social media presence. If you were a promoter, who is likely to sell more tickets to an arena? A guy with over a million Instagram followers or a journeyman with 4,000 that has more experience in Strongman?
Like it or not, if you want to make it as a Pro Strongman and set yourself up for more opportunities both in the sport and finically. You are going to have to work on your deadlift, atlas stones and your Instagram.