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Gold's Gym Addresses 'Cankles'

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Gold’s Gym on Wednesday will break a humorous awareness campaign behind "cankles," a slang term that refers to a disproportionate amount of weight gain between the lower leg and the ankle.

The campaign comes at the peak of summer bathing suit season. Gold's Gym will pump up digital and social media ads to educate consumers on the prevalence of the condition. “Cankles are the fastest growing ‘aesthetic affliction’ in the United States,” reads the fitness chain's microsite, Saynotocankles.com. Its rate of growth surpasses that of “bathing suit killers” such as “muffin tops” and “saddlebags,” and, by 2012, “will surpass love handles as the number one aesthetic affliction in the world.”

Saynotocankles.com houses a contest where consumers can vote on “who has the best legs in Hollywood,” said Gold’s Gym communications director Dave Reiseman.

Gold's Gym is also using public relations and an “intrigue” type of direct mailing effort to drive membership sales. CMO Lisa Zoellner said the chain is curious to see if the phrase, “Say no to cankles,” minus the “Gold’s Gym” branding, is enough to drive visitors to the web site. (MWW, an agency in East Rutherford, N.J., handles public relations. McKinney in Durham, N.C. oversees creative.)

“There are a lot of different awareness-type [campaigns] for everything. We thought this was a fun, lighthearted way to drive attention to a very serious issue in our country, and that’s obesity,” Zoellner said.

The effort includes ads that read: “Friends don’t let friends get cankles,” as well as Facebook applications, which allow consumers to send muffin tops and cankles to their friends as gifts.

Other incentives to join the fitness chain include a “calf-busting workout,” nutrition and exercise advice, and a free, one week VIP gym membership for first-time visitors.

Additionally, Gold’s Gym will run in-network TV ads across its 600 locations in 28 countries, and it will distribute e-mail reminders in its monthly membership newsletter.

Meanwhile, rivals like Bally Total Fitness, are dangling offers such as “$0 enrollment fee” and “try us out free for 7 days” during the recession. Smaller gyms have also tried to mobilize members with seasonal promotions. A recent American Heart Association study found that 25 percent of those with a gym membership have cancelled it in the last six months.

Despite the economic slump, Gold’s Gym—which spent $3.6 million on advertising in 2008, and $1.7 million through April of this year, per Nielsen—is confident it can continue driving consumers to its health clubs. Zoellner said oftentimes, fitness ads tend to focus on losing weight or monitoring cholesterol, and while there is a place for that, this campaign helps to “differentiate [the] brand and stand out above the rest.”