TV trainer Steve ‘Commando’ Willis gets ticked off by daughter for being mean in launch of Garmin product for kids

The daughter of former Biggest Loser trainer Steve ‘Commando’ Willis has become the face of a new Garmin fitness product in a campaign that sees the eight-year-old tick off her dad for being too mean.

Ella Willis appears alongside her dad in a marketing campaign for the Vivofit Junior in which she interrupts his aggressive advertising spiel and urges him to “be nice”.

A global campaign will roll out today with the father and daughter duo spearheading the local push for the wearable activity tracker from mid October. Vivofit Junior also features games and family challenges with tasks.

Willis, a brand ambassador Garmin for two years and who has fronted a new Biggest Loser-style content series for the brand called ‘Commando Raids’, described his daughter “as a natural in front of the camera” who someone who can relate to and become a role model for other kids.

Speaking with Mumbrella, Willis claimed the campaign, and the development of a new product, was not simply designed to increase sales for Garmin but to get Australians active in a society where obesity is becoming a mounting problem.

“I reminded Ella that it’s not just about having your face on the TV screen or on a picture, there has to be deeper meaning and purpose to this,” he said. “To an eight-year-old that may not mean a whole lot, but asking those questions of her will help her realise that she is doing this to help other less fortunate kids, and to encourage those that might not be that active to get active.”

Willis acknowledged that all advertising is ultimately about generating sales, but stressed brands have different drivers and appeared to question the motives of Nestlè brand Milo.

“Nestlè have a tracker out there for kids and you get a tin of Milo with it. What is that? What is their agenda? What are they trying to get out of it?,” he said. “My manager always says to me ‘permission and capability’. Does society give you permission to do it, and do you have the capability to back it up.

“It comes back to purpose, meaning and why. I understand that the aim of Garmin, like a lot of other brands and even things that I do, is to sell a product but the reasons why you sell that product is important.

“This devise for children and the products I represent are designed for people to create better versions of themselves.”

He added: “What society lacks is actioning things. We talk a lot but we don’t action things and in this digital and technology age this devise engages children and families to get off their backsides and move.”

The launch of the marketing campaign follows the creation of a branded content series for Garmin in which Willis ‘raids’ the home of overweight people and sets about changing their habits, with the help of a Vivo Active.

People in the ‘Garmin and Commando Steve communities’ were asked if they would like to be ‘raided’ with those selected receiving unscheduled visits, Willis explained.

“It’s almost Biggest Loser-esque.” he told Mumbrella. “We just show up at someone’s house who had put themselves forward, go in – not ranting and raving or coming from a place of fear – but genuinely trying to help people implement and effect change. The budgets are limited but at the same time you are getting your message out there.”

The Biggest Loser returns to TV in 2017 after being shelved by Ten this year. But both Willis and fellow TV trainer and partner Michelle Bridges will be absent having chosen to “opt out” of another series.

Explaining the decision, he said: “The Biggest Loser has been going for a long time now. I am a lot more confident in myself and what it is that I do, and my message. I also have an online program that takes up a lot of time and I enjoy the relationships I have with Garmin and Sage [for which Willis is brand ambassador].

“I also have four kids, so I’ve got a lot on and you have to make those calls.”

The tough-talking trainer, who first appeared in the franchise in 2007, said too many TV reality shows are “very 2000s” with many struggling to come with “new formats to engage society like they once did”.

“A lot of industries, not just TV, are reactive these days and don’t have time to sit back and be proactive. They are reacting to change and that is constantly occurring,” he said.

Asked about the view of fellow TBL trainer, Shannon Ponton, who said the show had lost its way and called for it to “return to its roots” – which the new series is expected to do – Willis said: “They were reacting to what they believed society wants.

“Unfortunately I had no say [in what went to air], and that is one of the reasons for going out on my own and doing what I do best because I don’t have to conform to other people’s ideals. I can choose who I align myself with, and that may mean that I am an agitator and I see that as a good thing.”


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