Supplement Company Of The Month: Universal
You've seen the ads. We all have. The black-and-white photo featuring some huge dude and a statement like "Shut Up and Train" in old-school typewriter print. You can practically smell the sweat and feel the chalk dust.
They're known as the "Animal" ads, and while they're fairly recent, the company behind them, Universal Nutrition, has been around since the late 1970s.
Bodybuilding.com sat down with Eric Schwartz, brand manager at Universal Nutrition, to learn more about the company's innovative marketing campaigns, their cutting-edge products, and their illustrious history.
Here's what he had to say:
Founded in 1977, Universal Nutrition was born from the mission of providing elite bodybuilders around the world with the highest quality nutritional supplements.
From the beginning, Universal Nutrition was a family-owned company, one that valued old-school ways of doing business with a handshake.
Even today, this is how business is often conducted. As a company, Universal Nutrition's strengths were in manufacturing, and early Universal Nutrition products consisted of many of the basics, from amino acids to vitamins, protein to powders.
Today, our basic foundation is still based upon our stringent GMP manufacturing, packaging, bottling, and shipping facilities. But in addition, our belief is that to control one's destiny, you must first control your capabilities.
To that end, at Universal Nutrition we have our own full-service marketing department.
Here, all of our ads, creative, support materials, and strategic marketing goals are imagined, created, and implemented. The marketing team works hands in hand with the design department, which brings the vision of marketing to life, whether in the form of the latest Animal ad or the newest Universal brochure.
We also have a full printing department that prints posters, product labels, flyers, and other collateral marketing and sales pieces.
The sales department works tirelessly to move product through the retail pipeline. Many in sales have been with the company for nearly three decades.
Animal Pak is our most popular product and one that's been around since 1983.
Almost every bodybuilder out there has used Animal Pak at one time or another, from former Mr. Olympia competitors and top IFBB pros to the dedicated young lifter looking to make solid gains.
Animal Pak is the bodybuilder's training pack. Animal Flex is a complete joint supplement geared specifically for hard training lifters.
In our Universal line, some of our popular products include Shock Therapy, Real Gains, Torrent and Uni-Liver. Outside the United States, we are very strong in amino acid supplements, along with those products I've already mentioned.
On March 1, we launched the brand new Animal product, Animal Rage. We are hoping this pre-workout product can provide consumers with important benefits with efficacy and safety.
The supplement landscape is changing every day, both in terms of consumer needs and regulatory issues. As with all of our products, we wanted to make sure we could formulate and manufacture a product that worked and one that could stand the test of time.
For us, building consumer confidence and trust is paramount. Having consumers involved in our product launch process and creating products that won't change on a regular basis is very important.
At Universal Nutrition, I'm not sure there is such a thing as "big news." Over the past three-plus decades, Universal Nutrition has grown surely and steadily.
I don't think we've ever been comfortable making big news or making a huge splash or promoting something with excessive hype and hyperbole.
If you look at the way we promote our products, if you look at our ads, you notice that we don't make claims for products at all. Our approach has always been the same over the years, to treat our partners (resellers or consumers) with honesty and integrity, and try to earn respect one individual at a time.
This process takes a long time, but for us, this is the way we prefer to approach business. This is one of our core values-to treat people as family.
Aside from new products, I think our biggest news is the recent launch of the new website, www.UniversalUSA.com for the Universal brand. This is unlike any other website we've developed, and it reinforces the brand's idea of community and interaction between consumer and company.
It is a website that hearkens back to our roots as a company and the Golden Age of Bodybuilding. As such, you can find some great articles from legends in the sport like Frank Zane, Leon Brown, Casey Viator, and others.
Unlike other companies, we have a different way of measuring an athlete's fit with our company. It's not based on professional accomplishments or the potential for trophies or wins on the stage.
We're not looking for bodybuilding stars or celebrities; that's not our priority. What we look for are intelligent and articulate individuals who are good spokespersons for us and for the sport itself.
They must understand and share our values. Whether someone meets a top-level employee at the company in a meeting or a sponsored athlete in a booth, our expectations are always the same. Treat people with respect and courtesy.
Animal Pak. This single product lays down the foundation for everything else. It has a multivitamin/mineral component at its core, plus many other ingredients to ensure optimal health and performance.
We call Animal Pak a "foundational" supplement as it lays down a solid foundation for any athlete. Animal Pak also has the potential to make every other supplement work better and more efficiently.
The best thing? The supplement industry provides the consumer with many choices. All too often, in other industries, companies get larger and larger, giving consumers fewer and fewer options. In recent years, our industry has been consolidating too and I think this is the natural progression of things.
Sometimes though, a thing that is good can also be bad. For many consumers, too many choices can be detrimental, especially if that consumer has a hard time making decisions or doesn't have all the information needed to make sound, informed ones.
At times, even those consumers who put in a lot of effort to educate themselves will run into problems because of the nature of advertising and marketing in the supplement industry. This makes for potentially frustrated consumers.
At Universal Nutrition, we try to take the time to walk through every single question a consumer might have about our company and our products.
Team Animal Spotlight: Vinny Galanti
One member of Team Animal has a unique perspective on the brand. That's because no athlete has been with one supplement company as long as Vinny Galanti has been with Universal.
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No athlete has been with one supplement company as long as
Vinny Galanti has been with Universal.
We asked him about their longstanding business relationship and the reasons behind it.
I first went to Universal back in 1995 or 1996 and talked to them about a possible working relationship. I told them that everyone wants to look like then Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates, but people can relate to me better. I landed a year contract and have been with them ever since.
For 3 or 4 years, I was in most of their ads and traveling around the country-I was "living the dream." All good things must come to an end, and that's what happened-they started using other guys for ads. I had to find a way to make them keep me as a part of the company.
I think a lot of bodybuilders and even fitness competitors try to look elsewhere when they feel their run has come to an end, but the way I looked at it was that I wanted to be a team player, and look for ways to be of good use to the company.
When they started to promote the Animal line in "The Cage" at the Arnold expo, I found a way to reinvent myself by getting on the microphone and emceeing the activities that took place during the weekend.
Now, after 7 or 8 years of being the emcee, I've found that I'm an integral part of getting the customer and fan base to feel like they are family, and to have a great experience during the expo.
It's a great feeling, and knowing how much they respect me makes me want to do a great job. I have been to the Arnold Expo 13 or 14 times, and I've seen a lot of companies come and go. I've witnessed the growth of not only Animal, but also the Expo.
I always go around to the other booths and make small talk before the day gets started, and I can't tell you how many guys are miserable being there, and never having a professional attitude in representing the company they are endorsed by.
I don't understand the "hard-guy" attitude at all, and with attitudes like that, it makes me want to have Universal look great. So I go out of my way to give a positive vibe to everyone I talk to while at The Cage or any event I'm working.
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I go out of my way to give a positive vibe to everyone I talk to while at The Cage or any event I'm working.
I've been with them so long...I can't remember if it's been 14 or 15 years. Right now I am playing a major part on their new website UniversalUSA.com, where I play the role of a mentor to the up-and-coming bodybuilder.
With Animal we did events called Animal Barbell Clubs (ABC's), where we brought back the old-school camaraderie of getting everyone to train together in the gym.
Now with the new universal website we are promoting Universal Bodybuilding Camps (UBC's), where we will have stations set up to teach individuals about exercises, posing, nutrition, and what it takes to be a bodybuilder.
With the UBC's, we are excited to go in another direction in educating with a one-on-one approach in the gym. It's just another way to give back to our fans.
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