Gold’s Tries to Shed ‘Intimidation Factor’

Chain hires Henderson in quest for more consistent and inclusive brand image

Gold’s Gym International made its name in the 1970s when it was featured in the film Pumping Iron with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno. Its T-shirts were soon de rigueur for muscleheads nationwide, and its image as a place for those with big biceps has endured.

Trouble is, not everyone looks like Arnold. Gold’s wants its new agency, Henderson Advertising, to lower the intimidation factor while also maintaining the chain’s image as gyms for serious athletes, shop executives said.

“People have been intimidated by the notion of Gold’s. They’re afraid they’ll be surrounded by Arnolds and look like string beans by comparison,” said agency evp and executive creative director Andy Mendelsohn.

The Venice, Calif.-based client tapped the Greenville, S.C., agency last week following a review. The other finalists were Riester-Robb in Venice, which won the public relations portion, and Dentsu’s Colby & Partners in Santa Monica, Calif. Advertising was previously done in-house, while PR was with Fleishman-Hillard.

While the ad budget is just over $1 million, Henderson and Gold’s are going to ask individual gym owners to increase their monthly contributions at the national sales meeting in July. The individual gyms collectively spend about $15-20 million to advertise their clubs. The national ad fund could grow to that amount within the next few years, said Derek Barton, client svp of marketing.

“We’ve been fortunate through the years not to have to spend a lot of money. But the gym owners have to decide—if they want to put more in, they get more out of it,” Barton said.

Gold’s turned to an outside shop in an effort to promote a more consistent brand message, Barton said. Henderson presented seven campaigns during the pitch, all of which positioned the 38-year-old-brand as the “fitness authority,” said Henderson CEO Ralph Callahan.

Gold’s print ads are tagged, “It all starts here.” New work will likely introduce a new tag, Mendelsohn said.

The national TV and print campaign will use a humorous, offbeat approach to address how certain things in everyday life can affect fitness, Mendelsohn said. Gold’s is trying to attract more families and young people with spinning and kickboxing classes added to its traditional weight lineup.

Riester-Robb will work on spokesperson positioning, product placement and guerrilla marketing to demonstrate that a gym used by movie stars, athletes and bodybuilders can also be the right choice for the public, said Dave Reiseman, senior account executive at the shops’s Venice office.

“The perception is that it’s for serious fitness, and there’s an intimidation factor,” Reiseman said. “We’re trying to reach out to a new generation of customers while maintaining the integrity and sacredness of the brand.”

Gold’s Gym has 650 gyms in 34 countries. Competitors include Bally Total Fitness, which operates 415 gyms under different banners, and 24 Hour Fitness, which has more than 300 locations.