Do you know Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod from those Bodybreak commercials? For years, I’ve heard rumours about their relationship — apparent fodder for bored Canadians, even this Vancouver marketing consultant. In the past few months, I’d heard the fitness pundits had divorced, since neither seemed to appear in the same scene in recent commercials. With each new Bodybreak commercial, I — and apparently many other Canadian viewers — wondered about the secret of this couple.

Today, CBC Radio’s DNTO interviewed Johnson and McLeod, revealing that, in addition to being business partners, the duo married five years ago. Why the 16-year secret? Apparently early TV execs felt that the 1988 public was not yet ready for an integrated relationship — 40 agencies rejected the show, before the Canadian government picked up Bodybreak for its Participaction promotions. Although the public has “overwhelmingly” accepted the couple, Johnson and McLeod have been subject to slurs and death threats. Nevertheless, the Bodybreak brand has expanded over the years to include fitness products, books, videos and even a restaurant. Johnson and McLeod have also gradually introduced persons with disabilities, persons of colour, and other under-represented groups to their shows.

Both Johnson and McLeod excel in several sports and bring charisma and business experience to their work. A former Team Canada baseball player, Hal Johnson grew up listening to his father’s stories about playing on the same team as Hank Aaron in the Negro Baseball League. Young Johnson was a seventh round draft pick for Cincinnati. Joanne McLeod was a Canadian national champion for track and field who went on to be a fitness expert for Toronto cable TV shows. The two met in a Toronto gym and, within a month of meeting, launched Bodybreak.

Shining examples of entrepreneurship, Bodybreak’s founders provide tips for starting a small business. But their own success is a fine example for other entrepreneurs. Success comes from following your own path, even whether others disagree.

(c) 2004 by Andrea Coutu. Vancouver Marketing Consultant. All rights reserved.