Online Extra: How George Foreman Sells

His latest push is for an environmentally friendly cleanser. Says the champ: I have to believe in the product

George Foreman is among the advertising world's most successful celebrity endorsers. More than 55 million George Foreman grills have been sold worldwide. Now, the former heavyweight boxing champion has lent his name to a line of clothing for big and tall men sold by Casual Male (CMRG ), as well as a new collection of household cleaning products, called, appropriately, George Foreman's Knock-Out Household Cleaning System. It's billed as an environmentally friendly product with fewer harsh chemicals than are found in mass-market cleaners.

BusinessWeek's Arlene Weintraub sat down with Foreman recently to talk about his business ventures. Here are edited excerpts from their conversation:

Q: How do you choose what products you want to endorse? Why did you feel Casual Male was a good match for you, for example?


Because I like to dress, number one. And I want to help big people in this country. A lot of people of size keep bumping around these shopping centers, and there's nothing there for them. They just keep wishing. Now they know where to go to get something that will make them look nice.

Q: The first product you ever put your name on, the grill, wasn't of much interest to you at first. What changed your mind?


I didn't want to bother with it. It stayed there for about six months. But my wife was using it all the time. So I tried it. [Then] I said, "How can I get about 20 of these?"

Q: Now you're getting into cleaning products. That's a very competitive field.


Yes. If people start buying this stuff by the millions and a company like Clorox (CLX ) sees what I'm doing, they could beat me. They have more power, and they'll tear me up. Who wins though? I win, because all I want to do is clean up the environment.

Q: How involved do you get in the structuring of your endorsement deals?


Too involved. I have fears and concerns. There was a time when I didn't, but I have a financial interest in most of the things I do now. It's not just endorsements. I have to O.K. all the products. And for the commercials, I make sure we're not knocking anyone else's product.

Q: What's your selling philosophy?


I have to believe in the product. You can't fake that in television ads. Like they say, television adds pounds to you. If you're insincere a little bit, it will add pounds to your insincerity.

Q: Who's an example of a role model in business for you?


Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's. He was sincere. He was raised as an orphan. He really enjoyed what he was doing. That just came out on the television. You could tell he loved the company. He wasn't just doing it for his own personal wealth.

Q: What are some future products you're working on now?


I'm doing a workout video, called Just a Little Walk with George. There will be some exercise equipment to go along with it. I'd like to do a talk show. I've been campaigning for that.

Q: You talk about making a boxing comeback. What would be a typical workout for you?


I'll start in the morning about six, and I'm done at nine at night. I like to get up before daybreak and get my roadwork done. Then I rest, have a little breakfast, then go back out and chop wood and dig holes. Then there's the weightlifting.

On my off days, I do maybe half those workouts. I've got 25 pounds to lose, and they're the hardest 25 pounds. But you've got to be strong, too, if you're going to enter the ring and make an impression.

Q: Why try to come back into the ring at 55?


If I tell you it's about the money, I'd be lying. It's an adventure. Existing is terrible. Having adventure in your life -- that's living.

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