Promotional materials touting GNC's Marked nutritional supplements… (GNC )
Mark Wahlberg stands to make some money for all of his pain and gain -- and in more ways than one.
The actor's own line of fitness supplements, called Marked Nutrition, is being used to promote his new movie, Paramount Pictures' "Pain & Gain." Wahlberg developed the products with Pittsburgh health and nutrition company GNC Holdings Inc., which since August has sold them at its stores and online.
In interviews and in promotional materials, Wahlberg has touted his use of Marked in preparation for playing a bodybuilder in the Michael Bay-directed film.
Kurt Frederick, a Wedbush Securities analyst who covers GNC, said supplement companies have been known to sell products that are endorsed by bodybuilders. But, he said, "this is the only one I am aware of that has a product named after an actor.... It's not a normal type of agreement."
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Wahlberg has said he used the supplements to help him gain 40 pounds for the action-comedy movie, which also stars Dwayne Johnson. "Pain & Gain," based on a true story about a group of weightlifters who go on a crime spree, will be released April 26.
“Thank God I was doing all the tests for my own supplement line, Marked, that I was creating with GNC, because I was able to use all those formulas while I was training” for the film, Wahlberg said during an April 15 appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America."
This week, journalists covering the film industry received promotional packages from Paramount and Marked that included a T-shirt, a protein bar and an advertisement that features Wahlberg discussing his use of Marked while training for "Pain & Gain."
It's part of a marketing push that also includes deals with drugstore chain Rite Aid and fitness website ProSource.net, which are offering a free ticket to "Pain & Gain" with the purchase of $39.99 of Marked products. GNC also is offering the promotion at its stores, which are also serving as pick-up locations for tickets to free screenings of the movie that Paramount is hosting in cities across the country.
"To me, it makes sense -- why wouldn't you do something like this?" said Lewis Henderson, chief executive of Davie Brown-TMA Entertainment, an entertainment marketing company. "It appears to be authentic, and if so, it appears to be a smart move for both sides."
GNC's arrangement with Paramount is not a product placement or integration deal: Marked supplements do not appear in "Pain & Gain," though other similar products make appearances.
Instead, the partnership involves GNC paying for advertisements that promote both the film and Marked in forums and venues that Paramount would not normally target -- such as GNC stores. In return, Paramount has made intellectual property from "Pain & Gain" available to GNC for its promotional efforts. The deal also extends to the movie's home entertainment release.
The financial details of Wahlberg's deal with GNC are unknown. Analysts said it is likely that Wahlberg receives a percentage of revenue generated by sales of Marked products. The company's website indicates that a portion of sales benefit the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation. GNC declined to comment.
Marked makes seven products, including a whey protein shake, a daily multivitamin pack and a protein bar.
Wahlberg, 41, said in a June 2012 interview on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight" that he approached GNC about creating a line of supplements. "I said, 'look, I have to have access to the best scientists, get the best formulas and the best stuff out there.' "
Barclays Capital analyst Brian Wang, who covers GNC, said that when Marked debuted last year, it wasn't entirely clear why the actor would lend his name to the line of supplements.
"Mark Wahlberg is a big movie star and obviously in shape, but he's not an Arnold Schwarzenegger or a Lou Ferrigno," Wang said. "But now you have the movie tie-in and he plays a body builder. They obviously saw all of this, and now it makes a little more sense and they are pushing it with the movie."
Frederick said sales of Marked products were "fairly slow-moving" at first.
"The feedback was that it tasted really good and the ingredients were of good quality," he said. "I wouldn’t say it is a huge piece of overall GNC sales, but it has grown over time."
GNC, which is publicly traded, does not disclose sales figures for its various lines of supplements.
Joseph Fortunato, CEO of GNC Holdings, said in a Feb. 14 conference call with analysts that Marked has "done pretty well in our own stores." The supplements are also available at third-party retailers.
"We're trying to get as broad expansion on that line as possible," Fortunato said on the call discussing fourth-quarter earnings.