Commentary: Do Reality Shows Build The Hot Tub's Image?

Cailley Hammel Headshot

Jersey Shore Hot TubI remember when I first joined the AQUA team and began learning the in’s and out’s of the pool and spa industry. Just one of the things I learned: The spa industry had been shifting its marketing message, talking about hot tubs as wellness products. It was a smart move, and a message wholeheartedly supported by the dealers I’ve met. 

However, I can firmly say that before I joined this industry, the notion of the hot tub as a wellness product was one I’d never heard. And honestly, as a regular Joe off the clock, it’s one I still don’t hear. But as a rabid TV viewer and someone who keeps up with the latest in pop culture, there’s one prevailing message I do see when it comes to hot tubs.

The hot tub is the place the various casts of “The Real World” and “Big Brother” had parties, hookups and booze-fueled binges. They’re places for flings with bachelors and bachelorettes, as nary a season goes by without a steamy (literally) hot tub date. 

“Jersey Shore” took hot tub debauchery to new highs with hot tubs featured just as frequently as any cast member, so much so that it was incorporated into promotional campaigns. As the show expanded into a franchise with international editions in Poland, Russia, Mexico the U.K. and Italy, there was one thing they all had in common: a hot tub. 

But if you’ve ever watched “Jersey Shore,” you know those kids weren’t using their spa to alleviate arthritis. 

The idea of the hot tub as party headquarters dominates TV (reality TV especially), and it’s an association that does more harm than good. It creates a discordant message that undermines what dealers are trying to promote. Some might say the hot tub can be both a sexy party platform for the young and a hydrotherapy tool for older folks, but can it really? Are those two identities compatible?

People have been partying in hot tubs since they were invented. There’s nothing wrong with that, and there’s certainly people who continue to buy them for that purpose. But if the industry is serious about growing sales by targeting health-conscious consumers, we need to re-evaluate the message we’re putting out there today. 

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