Martial arts guru Blanks targets TV push to kids, seniors, adults

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The Tae-Bo fitness craze will be coming at consumers in a flurry of new marketing punches, including three more infomercials and a chain of health clubs.

The "Tae-Bo With Billy Blanks" home video has practically rebuilt the market for fitness videos. Since the kickboxing regime was first hawked via TV infomercials last September, the video has rocketed up the charts and, at times, been No. 1 in sales, besting heavy-selling Walt Disney Co. children's movies.

Now a $75 million-a-year business, there'll be a Tae-Bo pay-per-view event and a four-month tour that will take founder, trainer and karate champion Billy Blanks to the masses.


"It's almost unheard of that an exercise video is No. 1," said Laurel Bleadon, marketing analyst at VideoScan, which tracks retail video sales.

Mr. Blanks, and his marketing company, NCP Marketing, are looking into moving into traditional advertising.

According to NCP General Counsel Daniel Bohlmann, the company may hire an agency to start year-round advertising.

The new infomercials, to start in August, each will target one consumer group--senior citizens, children and adults. A new series of videos also is aimed at these demographic groups.

Currently, there are about 2,000 local and national airings of the original Tae-Bo infomercial each week, said Mr. Bohlmann, adding that the airings will remain at that level or go higher with the new infomercials.


Magic Johnson Productions will produce the four-month, 35-city tour, which starts next month. It will have Mr. Blanks doing his Tae-Bo routine before a paid audience.

Tae-Bo health clubs will start opening in August, with Houston as the first location. Other proposed sites include Chicago, Miami, New York and Seattle.

NCP Marketing also is striking a number of licensing deals. Agreements are in the works for fitness books, athletic shoes, nutritional products, apparel and motivational art.

Mr. Blanks, a veteran B-movie actor, got a huge shot of publicity this year via a guest appearance on NBC's "ER" and on talk shows such as "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

Copyright June 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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