Gold's adds muscle to 'Marshall'


NEW YORK -- Although its association with Hollywood dates to a starring role in Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1977 hit documentary "Pumping Iron," Gold's Gym is making entertainment tie-ins a major focus of its marketing strategy for the first time, starting with Warner Bros. Pictures' "We Are Marshall," which opens today.

Gold's Gym, which bills itself as the largest co-ed gym in the world with 610 facilities, has been a favorite training ground for hundreds of Hollywood celebrities including Nicolas Cage, Keanu Reeves, Bruce Willis, Pierce Brosnan and Bruce Springsteen since "Iron" thrust it into the limelight. Because of its cachet, Gold's has been featured in such films and TV shows as "The Longest Yard," "The Dr. Phil Show," "Wheel of Fortune" and "Hogan Knows Best."

But now, with a new management and marketing team in place, Gold's has decided that rather than wait for Hollywood to feature the gym in its films and TV properties, it actively will pursue its own entertainment promotion strategy and has hired branded entertainment agency Norm Marshall & Associates.

"From a grass-roots association going all the way back to 1977, entertainment marketing has now turned into a corporate promotional strategy," said Joe Flanigan, chief marketing officer at Gold's Gym. "Entertainment has been a part of our roots, but now this is our first major push into the national entertainment space. Today we're looking at entertainment clearly as a marketing opportunity and a national promotional strategy tied into movie releases and celebrity affiliations."

Dave Reiseman, director of corporate communications, said Gold's previous associations with entertainment were based partly on luck, but starting next year they will be based primarily on strategy. "Norm Marshall has been showing the studios we're incredible promotional partners," he said.

Flanigan said that for film tie-ins, Gold's can run trailers on its internal television network, market movies to members through direct mail, place movie posters in its gyms, run promotional audio spots on its phone lines and market movies on its Web site.

For "Marshall," Gold's is implementing those promotional strategies -- with the exception of direct mail -- and is running an online sweepstakes giving consumers the chance to win free NFL tickets and other prizes.

Flanigan said Gold's chose "Marshall" as its first major movie tie-in because the film's appeal to families and men fits with the brand's goal of broadening its own demographic target. The movie is based on the true story of a young football coach determined to rebuild a West Virginia college team after 75 of its players and coaching staff were killed in a plane crash.

"We're in the process of evolving our brand position from a gym to a modern-day fitness club," he said. "People have traditionally thought of us as a gymnasium for muscle-bound men, but we're bigger and broader than that."

Gold's next major film tie-in will be with 20th Century Fox's "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer," due in theaters in the summer.