Affiliate Marketing: Worse Than Ebola, Hitler and Gluten Combined

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Let first state for the record that:

1. I generally avoid confrontation. In fact I hate it.

2. I’ve long ago accepted that no one can make everyone happy, and that by choosing to make myself more of a public figure with my writing and speaking, that it opens up the flood gates to (more) people being candid with their opinions and criticism (both negative and constructive) with my work.

Photo Credit: Subramanyan Guhan

When I first started writing – especially when my prose (if you want to call it that?) started to appear in more mainstream outlets – it was hard for me to pull a Jay-Z and wipe the dirt negative comments off my shoulder.

In time I learned to do just that. I either ignored said comments and moved on with my life, or I played along with them.

Like the one time I caught flak for writing an article on bench pressing and a reader commented that he stopped reading after the first paragraph because I had noted my best lift was 315 lbs.

I replied, “yeah but my internet max is 405 lbs, so we’re all good.”

I’ve just learned not to let certain comments bother me, that many people just things (and themselves) way too seriously, and that some people will suck at life no matter you say or don’t say.

As the saying goes, hates gonna hate.

But then every so often someone chimes in with a comment that, like an unexpected case of explosive diarrhea, makes your day pretty shitty.

Pun intended I suppose.

A few days ago I wrote a blog post titled The Forgotten Quality of the Fitness Industry. In it I discussed the virtue of integrity and how, like any profession, there seems to be a lack of it in the fitness industry.

It’s grown to be an industry that predicates itself on quick fixes and individuals who prey on other individuals in order to charge their credit card $49.99 for some detox elixir that contains goji berries, flax seeds, and grass fed dark chocolate mixed in Unicorn tears.

Moreover, it seems anyone with an Instagram account and has an ass, and is willing to showcase it 24/7, can become an authority on fitness. Credentials, education, and actual experience be damned.

At the end of the post I made a soft pitch/endorsement towards Examine.com, a nutrition and supplementation website that’s dedicated to providing factual, peer-reviewed, UNBIASED information to the masses. A site I feel epitomizes integrity.

Apparently I lack integrity for doing so.

The following is a comment I received yesterday:

Wouldn’t lack of integrity also be the affiliate market which you are such a huge part of?

I mean promoting a product in 99% of your posts that I can bet the majority you haven’t tried personally or used with clients falls into lack of integrity as well.

Just because another coach is in your affiliate circle doesn’t mean you should pimp out their products as the next greatest thing.

There is a difference between recommending something you have actually used, but pimping out a product just because of someone’s name or reputation without testing it on yourself and/or your clients is just as bad and misleading as your claims on this post.

For the record: I don’t feel the commenter was being a “troll,” and giving credit where it’s due: he didn’t resort to ad hominem attacks and he even used his real name. But I do feel his “attack” was unwarranted.

Against better judgement (and the advice of friends and colleagues who told me it was a waste of time to do so anyways), I decided to comment on his comment.

Yes I realize it’s (probably) going to fall on deaf ears. And yes, I realize that by responding to someone who’s not in my “Tribe” in the first place, is more than likely never going to sign up for my newslettter, purchase anything from me, much less vote for me for Class President, can be seen as a waste of time.

However, his commentary and tone is something that needs to be addressed, because it’s a theme that constantly pops up.

That, and My Integrity is Something I Take Very Seriously.

For starters lets address the comment: “I mean promoting a product in 99% of your posts that I can bet the majority you haven’t tried personally or used with clients falls into lack of integrity as well.”

This. Is. False.

This comment is crazy.

Since it was directed towards Examine.com in the first place, let me say this. It’s a good product, and one I think will help people. Does my soft pitch at the end of the post in question help move some units? I sure hope so.

But consider this:

In the back end of my blog, my metrics indicate that, including this one, I have now published 1514 posts. Of those, if I had to take an educated guess, less than 100 have mentioned or “promoted” some type of program or product.

Less than 100.

That comes out to about 7%. And I think 100 is an aggressive number. In addition that isn’t counting any of my articles published elsewhere, which, like my blog, are a FREE resource.

So, really: it’s mathematically unarguable that I only “promote” stuff I believe in. Programs and products that I really and truly think will add value to my readers or the fitness community and industry over all.  It’s my intention, always, to direct people towards products I feel will educate the.

But for shits and giggles, lets take a look at the last five products I’ve helped pimp (and as a result, sold my soul) endorse1.

Examine.com – As noted above, a nutrition and supplement website that prides itself on using peer-reviewed, factual information to educate the public. It doesn’t sell supplements.

Yes, I use it. I’d be a fool not to!

Lift Weights Faster 2.0 – Developed by Jen Sinkler who, admittedly, is a friend of mine, but a stellar coach nonetheless and someone I have a ton of respect for. She’s an accomplished editor, writer, and someone who has never pigeon holed herself into any one specific training modality or approach. She’s literally done everything.

Oh, and she was a former member of the National USA Women’s Rugby team. So, yeah, I’d trust her training advice.

And yes, I routinely used LWF (1.0) when programming conditioning workouts for myself and my clients.

Complete Speed Training  – Developed by renowned speed coach, Lee Taft. Someone who has worked with a litany of professional athletes and teams, and has coached countless athletes all over the USA and world at every level.

Yes (again). Many of the things Lee discusses in this product are principles we use at Cressey Sports Performance.

Ultimate Athleticism – Developed by Max Shank, a guy who’s about as diverse and open minded as they come. Here’s a guy who can not only deadlift 500+ lbs, but can also perform amazing feats with his own bodyweight. Handstands, flips, you name it…he can do it.

You may have me here. While it’s unlikely that I’ll ever do a walking handstand (or have any interest in doing so), I did read the manual and felt it was a nice fit for my audience. Especially those looking to challenge their bodies in different ways.

Plus Max is an accomplished coach who knows what he’s doing. I loved the progressions he used.

Core Training Facts & Fallacies and Top Techniques – Developed by Nick Tumminello who’s one of the most respected fitness educators on the planet, and someone who’s about as evidence based as they come.

Yes (again) – many of the things he discusses are things I’ve used with my own clients.

All of this to say…..

Geez, I’m such an asshole.

I feel it shows more integrity to point people in the direction of coaches who actually know what they’re talking about and do good for the industry than to link to any number of things that make my corneas perpetually bleed on the internet.

Now lets discuss this whole concept of an “Affiliate Circle.”

Or circle jerk as it’s more affectionately known as.

Apparently whenever someone is set to release a product, all any of us “affiliate circle” coaches do is fellate one another while sitting in our evil volcanic lairs as we refresh our Clickbank pages every five minutes.

Note: this is NOT my Clickbank page. If it were I wouldn’t be driving an Elantra and I’d most definitely have my own evil volcanic lair built.

It has nothing to do with supporting one another and relaying SOLID information ti people. Nope, never.

People fail to realize how small this industry is.

On top of that there’s only so many trainers and coaches who consistently put out fantastic content and are the ones that many of us (Us = the fitness industry) recognize as the cream of the crop. I’ve been fortunate enough within my career to work with, interact, and become friends with many of them.

They say you’re the equivalent of the five people you surround yourself with the most.

I feel this has merit in the professional setting as well.

Coaches like Dan John, Mike Boyle, Eric Cressey, John Romaniello, Nia Shanks, Molly Galbraith, Mike Robertson, Mike Reinold, Neghar Fonooni, Dean Somerset, Bret Contreras, and many, many others, are all friends of mine. They’re also colleagues that I’d defy ANYONE to say don’t go out of their way to educate people and put out damn good products.

Am I an individual who lacks integrity because I help to promote their products? Products I know work and that don’t pretend to be something they’re not?

And honestly, how is it I lack integrity because I make money from affiliate income?

1. None of this conversation takes into consideration the metric shit-ton of shit that gets sent my way on a weekly basis.

People whom I have NO idea who they are, have never met in person, much less interacted with in any fashion, are always asking me to “pimp” their products.

Why? Because of point #2.

2. I matter.

I’ve worked my tail off to make this site into something that, not only serves as a labor of love and something I thoroughly enjoy, but has also granted me the opportunity to use it as a source to supplement my income.

You know, make a living.

Plus, I’ve taken pride that people trust me enough to trust my opinion. I think my track record speaks to and shows that I don’t go out of my way to be shady with what I endorse.

I don’t say this lightly, because I’ve never been someone who pounds my chest and uses bravado to get my point across. If you ask most people who know me well, they’ll back me up when I say that I’m a very humble person.

I don’t walk around bragging about how many Twitter followers I have or how many “Likes” any particular article accumulates. In fact, I took that function OFF my site when I updated it.

However, I’d be remiss not to recognize I’ve been able to build this site into one of the most visited fitness sites on the internet. I’m proud of that. I’ve worked my ass off for that. Why wouldn’t I try to monetize it (or my time)?

And at the expense of blowing sunshine up my own ass, I feel I’ve done so in a very non-pushy, non-invasive, non-douchey way. I don’t have any paid advertisements on my site. I don’t have any (direct) affiliate banners on my site. And much to the chagrin of several of my colleagues, I’m not even super aggressive with collecting emails for my newsletter.

(This isn’t to suggest that people who DO take that approach are wrong. They’re not! It’s just an avenue I choose not to walk down).

Since We’re On the Topic of This Site

It’s a FREE site (for you).

But guess what?

It’s NOT free to maintain.

Here’s a little transparency for everyone. When I decided I had reached the point where getting a professionally built/custom site made sense (back in 2010) – I had used free templates up until that point – it cost me $5000 to hire someone to develop and another $1000 to add updates and aesthetic changes.

(Shout out to Copter Labs for the phenomenal job they do).

And this doesn’t take into account hosting fees, etc.

The site re-design (this past September) costs me another $6000. And with the site growing (thank you, everyone!), even higher hosting fees.

But in the end that’s a good problem to have. I’m not complaining.

Does it show lack of integrity to try to offset those costs? Does it show lack of integrity to take advantage of free enterprise?

In the End

Do I help promote products I like? Yep. Do I know a lot of smart and well intentioned coaches who have REAL WORLD experience, actually coach people, and use research and science to back their claims up? Yep.

Do I have ANY reservations in helping to spread their message? Nope.

I can live with that.

UPDATE: my good friend, Adam Bornstein, wrote a rebuttal post (of sorts) about this post that I think would serve as a nice follow-up.

The gist: why what I did was a waste of time. Check it out HERE.

Bornstein: 1

Gentilcore: 0

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.
  1. Affiliate links left out for the sake of “integrity.”

Comments for This Entry

  • Ad

    Always enjoy your informative articles and your writing style.

    March 20, 2015 at 11:07 am | Reply to this comment

  • Benjamin Pickard

    For every hater out there know that you have 100+ supporters that know you are a great coach, honest person and provide great information, usually at your expense (webstesite, time, etc.). The reason I started to read your blog a few years ago and still continue to do so is because of your honestly, quality of info and writing style. Brush off the BS comments like that one and keep doing what you have built a following around - doing a great job.

    March 20, 2015 at 11:31 am | Reply to this comment

  • Jessi Kneeland

    Love this. Integrity is one of my highest values too- for myself and for the people I surround myself with. <3

    March 20, 2015 at 12:20 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Jess Mather

    Well said!! And holy bologna did your website cost a lot! Is that the norm!?

    March 20, 2015 at 12:37 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Not the norm, no, It all depends on what you want your site to be. Mine's fairly extensive and interactive. I.e, more bells and whistles. So in that sense, not every site is going to be as expensive because most people don't need their site to be more than a blog. Mine is more than JUST a blog. But something to consider (and speaks to the price point), is that it's custom made. It's own unique design and coding. You pay a more premium price for that. And it's something that's worth it IMO.

      March 26, 2015 at 8:57 am | Reply to this comment

  • Dunkman

    "I’ve taken pride that people trust me enough to trust my opinion" That's all anyone needs to know - you rely on your integrity and the trust your readers have in you.... Something you are not going to risk for a few dollars to "pimp" a product you don't believe in. I'm always amazed at how rude and self-righteous people can become behind their keyboards, especially when they haven't taken the same risks and put in the same hard work to accomplish what you have. Keep up the good fight, Tony.

    March 20, 2015 at 12:42 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Tim Vagen

    What a great read , Tony. Personally, I think I have a nice ass, but my 34 years in the industry makes up for my any flaws in my glutes. Perhaps I need a few more sessions with Bret Contreras. As a a trainer who entered this industry PI (pre internet), I have seen a great rise in this profession with people like you and the ones who you mentioned, all of which I think highly of, and yet I have seen the scum rise to the top as well because of unsubstantiated claims to make them experts. I've seen many so called experts come and go so I have a tendency to wait and see if someone is good or not. It took me a couple of years to really grasp Eric's great work because he was so good, yet so young. I tried going the big internet route a few years ago and yes, my stock grew. I was not any better because of it, but many more knew of me. I guess that's just modern marketing. I don't have a huge following, but those who know me, know of my integrity and my quest for great work. Those who do not know me don't think of much because I am not an "in your face internet marketer." I love to go to conferences and find many great professionals who are not big marketers. It's kind of like a secret society of amazing pros. I'm certain the person that wrote to you is not in that circle.

    March 20, 2015 at 1:03 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Steve

    I thought this was a great article....... you're one of the few voices of reason out there..... and some dodgy bloke from up here near my neck of the woods... Dean something or other....... As my old chief used to say.... 'F*ck em, Steve... if this is not going to effect you in 5 years time, then f*ck em'.... although I am not sure how he pronounced the '*' so well ;) You give quality info, and if you get some money out of a portion of your articles, so freakin what.... there's no such thing as a free lunch..... Have a great one, matey

    March 20, 2015 at 1:30 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Fabrice LR

    I don't know If you've listened to Tim Ferriss podcast with Ramit Sethi, they talked about "the problem of haters". Haters gonna hate...you wouldn't have any affiliate marketing and they would find another thing to bash on. And yes, Examine.com is an amazing ressource!

    March 20, 2015 at 1:35 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Guzzy

    Tony! Next to JH my trainer you are the best and your site would be boring if you didn't include all the third party stuff ! :) Seriously keep doing exactly what you are doing, read Brene Brown on how to handle shit heads and it's just jet lag! Makes you cranky and less patient. We love you in Vancouver!!!!!

    March 20, 2015 at 3:01 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Manuel Ruep

    Enjoyed it - haters gonna hate anyway ;-)

    March 20, 2015 at 3:39 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Adam Trainor

    Tony, I didn't comment, but I enjoyed what your article on integrity... and for what it's worth, at no point did I question your self-actualization. I really appreciate every piece you post. To go even further, and to your credit, you consider the tough feedback. Even if you don't like it. Even if it hurts. Let's go ahead and throw courage on top of the pile. At the end of the day there's a lot of yakkity-yak from a lot of fitness pros, which doesn't match their Wakkity-wak... er, walk. Whatever. It needs to be said by somebody. I don't know if I'm that guy, but clearly you are, and I stand with you. Do what you say, even when nobody's watching, even when nobody will know the truth. You will.

    March 20, 2015 at 4:41 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Travis Pollen

    I'll vote for you for class president, Tony! Or at least VP.

    March 20, 2015 at 7:00 pm | Reply to this comment

  • RobW

    I actually like your product recommendations (and Eric's) because I trust you guys and have total trust that you wouldn't recommend products that you don't believe in. I don't buy them all because I am on a budget and already have quite a few fitness resources, but I always make note of the people you recommend for future reference.

    March 20, 2015 at 9:09 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Brent

    Great stuff Tony. While you may have had second thoughts after reading what Adam Bornstein had to say on this article, I actually agree with what you wrote. Couple pts. Bornstein mentioned, that I don't agree with. You mentioned, your site is growing and for good reason. Therefore your audience won't necessarily know most of your work (aside from articles here and there from online and print publications) and may not know your intentions. Bornstein seems to imply that most your readers know your work. What about your new readers that came here from Men's Health? If they, (like I used to be) falsley believe that affiliate marketing is all bad, they would probably read however many of your blog posts you put up until you promote another product and then leave, claiming you lack integrity, are in it for the money etc etc. (affiliate marketing seems to get a pretty bad rap overall). Heck, they may even throw you in the same camp as the Food Babe! BUT this blog post at least clears the air for them, so they see your transparency and integrity. Every now and then it is needed. This blog post wasn't all about the guy that you responded to. It wasn't a simple response to that guy. Let's face it, most likely he isn't going to be like 'wow Tony, you sure made a good pt. I take back everything I said' That's isn't how the internet (or really life for that matter) works. This blog was for him AND most importantly all your readers, new and old so they understand how you (and probably your fitness friends) approach promoting products on your website. Contrary to what Bornstein said, there is an ROI on this post, and it wasn't a waste of time. Being transparent to all your readers is huge. 99% of your blog posts don't even respond to 'haters' so you really don't have to worry about being one of those guys. 99% of your stuff is gold, with a side of much funnies! Every now and then though being candid and open to how you feel about the industry and the people who call you out is beneficial to everyone. It makes people see controversial business practices like affiliate marketing in a new light. In an industry where so much is treated as black and white this is needed. It's interesting that Bornstein mentions no need to defend what you are doing if it is aligned with your principles. I don't think of it as a defense, but rather a justification to clarify and help other fitness professionals like myself see affiliate marketing for what it is. PLUS with how royally screwed up this industry is, it actually helps people like me feel more confident in promoting products I believe in w/o that affiliate guilt. I don't have a big deal website, but if I did I would have no qualms about promoting great products because this industry needs the names of those people out there even more than they are now. It also shows that you aren't a one man show and can't do everything. You believe in other people and the quality of their work. Some people's egos are so damn big in this industry, they think they can do it all! Think of it this way, if 10 of your readers were on the fence about affiliate marketing, but came to your side after reading this post, starting promoting products they truly believed in, then more of the good stuff would be seen by all. The good people in this industry are few and far between. The Biggest Losers right now are running the show. Anything you can do to defend promoting quality products I'm all for, therefore the ROI on this post has the potential to be huge for the entire industry. PS - I guess you could say I didn't get a huge ROI on this response, seeing that I threw down a couple hundred words and few will see it, but you always seems like a upstanding guy in this industry Tony, and your blog has been invaluable to me so I have to throw down 10 min. to give you a lengthy defense of this blog post.

    March 21, 2015 at 12:06 am | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Thank you for that Brent. I appreciate the time it took you to write that thorough response. Many points mirror my own and served as the reason why I wrote it in the first place. Thanks again!

      March 26, 2015 at 9:01 am | Reply to this comment

  • Mia Cross

    Earn extra by adding Binfer's affiliate program to your mix. Link is See http://www.binfer.com/affiliates.

    March 21, 2015 at 2:42 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Ben Solomon

    I really don't understand the hate against you promoting products as an affiliate, nor against affiliate marketing in general. It has been a main stay in business for a long time. It's called referral marketing in the offline world. As long as we promote products that we can stand behind, and have at least reviewed, I don't see the big deal. Haters are gonna hate. don't worry about them. In a Robert Kiyosaki program he said, 33% are going to love you (and your work), 33% are going to hate you and 33% are going to be indifferent.

    March 23, 2015 at 5:28 am | Reply to this comment

  • Shane Mclean

    Tony, I didn't think you needed to defend yourself. You've wasted your time and energy on this moron. That being said, i really enjoyed this blog post.

    March 24, 2015 at 10:28 am | Reply to this comment

  • Kelly

    This article is just perfect! Keep up the good work so I can continue to enjoy this amazing free service all the way from Dublin! :)

    March 24, 2015 at 10:48 am | Reply to this comment

  • Trevor Christensen

    You rock! Side question...have you ever considered changing your last name to Hardcore?

    March 25, 2015 at 12:37 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Rachel

    I love this post! Funny enough, I just went through something similar (albeit on a much smaller scale). I am a Exercise Science student who has been creeping all the fitness blogs for a few years now and I finally worked up the confidence to start commenting on posts. Within a few weeks of my doing so, I've had other commentators reply to my comments with vehement disagreements. I just commented, even that attracts negativity? What?! Just goes to show that the more you put yourself out there, the more vulnerable you will be. I really appreciate how you defended your integrity, makes it clear that you value it highly. And from an industry newbie, thanks for all the free info!!

    April 7, 2015 at 9:19 pm | Reply to this comment

    • gizzard of oz

      In London, public speakers are asking that audiences use jazz hands instead of clapping, as they find it intimidating. People putting themselves out there are facing discomfort at every turn. The world badly needs some care bear stares so everyone's getting 100s of FB likes per day, and we can put all this negativity behind us.

      April 10, 2015 at 7:33 am | Reply to this comment

      • TonyGentilcore

        At the same time I feel we're building a society that are ill-prepared to deal with ANY form of discomfort. For example, we have kids who are given trophies just for showing up now. Some are taught at any early age that everyone wins, everyone is special, and everyone is a delicate flower. I'm by no means condoning how some people act on the internet. Some people just suck at like no matter what you say or do. But at the same time, people do need to learn to grow some thicker skin and be able to deal with the haters. I don't respond to many negative emails or comments I receive, and when I do I usually play along which diffuses the situation most of the time. I know some may be thinking to themselves: "then why did you respond to this one, Tony?" Because someone was questioning my integrity, which is something I take seriously. I feel my response to this particular email was warranted, and I don't feel I came across as someone who was butt hurt or as someone who can't deal with any animosity. The whole thing about speakers asking audiences to use jazz hands instead of clapping, in my eyes, reeks of "everyone gets a trophy, because we don't want anyone to feel bad." People do need to toughen up to a degree.

        April 10, 2015 at 8:46 am | Reply to this comment

        • gizzard of oz

          I agree, "sticks and stones... ". For the record, I wasn't implying you were butt hurt. The re(pain-free)buttal seemed quite fair in my eyes. Even if you were appearing to need a diaper change, my borderline psychotic admiration for you would preclude me from mentioning it. The jazz hands story is pretty cringeworthy - I had hoped it was an April fool's joke, but the ban was called for by a student's union statement in March http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/32032291 . Jazz hands are used as applause by the deaf community, so as someone with sensitive ears, I'd nearly go along with it. But you can be sure these delicate flowers were down the pub later that night, sand-blasting their eardrums with your beloved techno.

          April 10, 2015 at 9:44 am | Reply to this comment

          • TonyGentilcore

            Oh, I realize you weren't referring to ME as butt-hurt. Sorry that that's how it came across. I was just trying to make the point in general. The re(pain-free) buttal comment was hilarious. Thank you for that....;o)

            April 13, 2015 at 7:27 am

          • gizzard of oz

            https://a.disquscdn.com/uploads/mediaembed/images/2124/4362/original.jpg

            June 7, 2015 at 11:11 am

  • Michelle Richardson

    Enjoyed this post! Love your honesty!

    November 26, 2017 at 9:56 am | Reply to this comment

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