Can Oprah’s Weight Loss Success Save Struggling Weight Watchers?

Share of Weight Watchers International (NYSE: WTW) closed 5 percent higher on Thursday after rallying more than 17 percent in early-day trading. The rush came after Oprah announced she had lost 40 pounds, total, since starting the program.

This is the second time that the media mogul has influenced such a jump. In late 2015 the company saw a much bigger bounce after the talk show host became the face of the company (and bought significant stakes in the company). Still, the company remains more than 50 percent below that initial bump, with year-to-date shares still low because of poor subscriber growth.

In a new release for the company, Winfrey says: “Weight Watchers is easier than any other program I’ve ever been on. It’s a lifestyle, a way of eating and a way of living that’s so freeing. You never feel like you are on a diet and it works.”

She goes on to say, “I believe others who are looking to make a change will be as inspired as I am about the stories we are sharing in this new campaign.”
The announcement, though, comes in the form of an ad in which the 62-year-old Winfrey talks about her weight loss success since joining the program in August of 2015.
In the ad, she says, “I can honestly tell you, I struggle no more,” as she works in her own garden, harvesting and preparing food. “I’m eating everything I love — tacos, pasta. I’ve never felt deprived.”

Weight Watchers has been long struggling to stay afloat the past few years thanks to the massive rise of free fitness and weight loss apps and a migration in the “dieting” industry away from calorie counting. But Oprah Winfrey has broad appeal and a wide range of influence that could—and has—continue to bring new life to this aging brand. In fact, after years of declines, Oprah’s original announcement in August of last year helped the company find three straight quarters of growth.

“It’s vitally important that Oprah is living the program and articulating it in a way that’s authentic,” explains Weight Watchers head of marketing, Maurice Merrera. “It really connects with prospective members.”

As such, Winfrey continues: “I would say to anyone who’s thinking of joining Weight Watchers: Take the leap. And get about the business of enjoying a fantastic and full life.”

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