Between 2000 and 2003, Rothmans, Benson and Hedges ran “Goldclub” events to market its brand in popular urban venues. The events were visually rich and featured big-name dj’s, big prizes, go-go-dancers – and even circus performers.
When the ban on sponsorship promotions came into effect on October 1, 2003, Rothmans pulled back on these promotions. This decision was quite different than that taken by Imperial Tobacco (which re-branded them under the Definiti label) or JTI-Macdonald (which made no apparent changes to its promotions).

We asked Waterloo graduate student Tara Elton to review gold club events in Kitchener Waterloo that spring. Here’s her report.


The Gold Club Jet to Cancun Series ran in Kitchener at Club Elements on March 29th and again the following weekend (April 5th) 2003. This club seemed to target university or college aged students as their main clientele.


Pre-Party Publicity

The advertising for the Gold Club Series was listed on the marquee of Club Elements, many weeks in advance. Additionally, the University of Waterloo student newspaper “the Imprint” had a magazine insert “Marquee” which is similar to the kinds of magazines found at the local movie theatres (such as “Tribute” magazine). On the back of this magazine was an ad for Gold Club with the website address provided. No mention of the upcoming part at Club Elements was included in the ad.

Additionally, the Gold Club event at Club Elements on March 29th seemed to serve as a precursor to the main event to be held the following weekend. All of the decorations, etc. were the same but the draw for the trip was to be held the following Saturday and anyone who entered the draw received a VIP pass for entrance into the club the following weekend.


The GoldClub Website

Accessible at (withdrawn on October 1, 2003) The Gold Club website first asks individual’s their age range (although it doesn’t seem to matter if you are under-age it still provides the dates that the Gold Club Series will be held at the clubs (which are bars and therefore restricted to those over the age of 19 in Ontario).

The goldclub web-site was taken down on October 1, 2003
The page uses Benson & Hedges colours (gold, black and grey) and features pumping music. This page also promotes the upcoming club events (with a comprehensive calendar which you can search by the town that you’re interested in). The Jet to Ibiza series is currently highlighted. There is also a host of images and information about the DJ who are involved as well as a promotion for the “big DJ small club series”. This series involves having a well known DJ play a small club. The only way to get in is to try to win on the website or to line up outside the club the night of the event and hope to get in.

Another series advertised is the “Premiere Series” which boasts the premiere in Montreal of some of new movies at an “unbelievable” party. This premiere is also presented in conjunction with the Imperial Cinema Centre. Past movies at the premiere series include “The Red Violin”, “One Night at McCools”, and “15 minutes”.


Gold Club’s “Jet to Cancun”

Security entering the club was extremely tight with bouncers checking ID and the use of metal detectors as well as searching purses for weapons etc. This confirms initial theory that the target of this event was University or College students (19-25) since those in attendance appeared to be youthful but were old enough to get in to a bar. The DJ (Matt Daddy) played music that would have appealed to people in this age range as it was popular back when these individuals would have been a teenager. The main dance room had several dancers in cages waving glow sticks and some wearing glow sticks in their mouths and other areas of the body. While smoking is banned in the Kitchener Waterloo region, smokers were able to go out a side emergency exit to smoke (and often left the door open).
Promotion within the club

There were numerous advertisements for the Gold Club Series within the club. Upon entrance, patrons were required to pay a $5.00 cover charge. This fee was paid to a woman in a booth. Adorning the booth were many upright cards for patrons to take. These cards were advertising the DJ provided as well as the fact that they were giving away a chance to win a trip to Cancun Mexico. Underneath all of this text was the reminder that Gold Club was sponsored by Benson & Hedges’.

The club also had several posters advertising the Gold Club series event that was in progress. It is unclear as to whether these posters had been in the club on previous evenings leading up to this event or not. These posters advertised the trip as well as the DJ and once again Benson & Hedges was credited.

The club’s décor was transformed to evoke images of Benson & Hedges. Over one of the bars was a billowing material in the Benson & Hedges colours of gold, grey and black. Designs (i.e. bubbles etc.) were projected onto the surface of the material and would often shift catching one’s attention.

Screens were placed beside the dance floors. These screens would show the Benson & Hedges Gold Club logo interspersed with people partying on the dance floor.

Yet the most striking aspect of the Gold Club Series was the use of attractive females to promote the Benson & Hedges image.

These women were adorned in Benson & Hedges colours and promoted the sale of Benson & Hedges products. Besides selling cigarettes from cigarette trays, these women also stood beside glass display cases (similar in appearance to vending machines). These cases contained Gold Club mints in a small silver tin with “Gold Club” engraved on the top, Benson & Hedges cigarettes in a variety of brands, cigarette cases, and Benson & Hedges zippo lighters also engraved on it.
For each variety of cigarette strength, there was a corresponding colour of tin, mints and lighter. The cigarette cases were exact replicas of the cigarette packages without the warning labels. The price of the cigarettes were $8.00 for a pack of 20. Cigarette cases were $2.00. The total cost to purchase 1 pack of cigarettes, 1 of the mints, 1 cigarette case, and 1 lighter was $22.00.


Gold Club Staff

Beautiful women clad in shiny gold pants and matching midriff tops exposing cleaving were found throughout the club. There were several different roles that these women played. The cigarette girl walked around the club with a tray of Benson & Hedges cigarettes. These women were similar to the cigarette girls of the 1950’s but much more visible and not meant to actually partake in the transaction. The cigarettes were stacked in 3 tiered plastic holders that were lit up from the bottom so that they were immediately visible in the darkened club. The cigarette girl would hold these trays high above their heads so that they could be seen around the club. The packs themselves were stacked so that the warning labels could not be seen on the bottom 2 rows. This particular club had 3 rooms each playing different music. The cigarette girls were found in each of these rooms many dancing with their trays. The primary task for these girls was to be alluring and direct curious patrons to the display cases to purchase the cigarettes.

Similarly, there were girls who were not roving cigarette girls but stood beside glass display cases containing various Benson & Hedges merchandise (see section on publicity within the club). These saleswomen were dressed in the gold outfits as well, or some wore a simple tight black tank top with “Gold Club” written across the chest and black pants. These women sold all of the merchandise in the cases.
Another class of Gold Club girls I would term the contest promotion girls these women did not sell anything. The main role that they played was to meet the patrons as they entered the bar and direct them to the stations set up to enter for a chance to win the trip to Cancun. In this particular club, contest promotion girls were situated at the top of a flight of stairs. Patrons entering the bar would pay their cover and then their first sight would be 2 attractive females in gold outfits at the top of the stairs.

Patrons would have to walk directly past these girls to enter the club. The contest promotion girls handed patrons a card that they were told to take to the stations behind them to enter for their chance to win a trip to Cancun. These cards had the promotional reminders of the Gold Club series as well as Benson & Hedges written on it.

Both males and females worked at the stations set up for entering the contest. The females were dressed in the same alluring outfits as their counterparts. Males wore a black t-shirt with Gold Club written on it. Similarly, male and female bartenders wore the same outfits; black t-shirts with Gold Club written on it and black pants (presumably they were not employed by Benson & Hedges).

The Contest

Several stations of computers were set up in an area that every individual had to pass to get into the club. Behind the stations was a backdrop set up to look like a beach hut. These computers were flat screens raised up so that the patron didn’t have to sit down to fill it out. The Gold Club staff would ask the patron for his or her driver’s license which they would swipe into the computer. Additionally, one was required to provide a phone number, mailing address, and e-mail. Patrons were asked their smoking status and if the person responded that he/she was a smoker, they were asked which brand they smoked.

On the final screen, the staff member would ask the patron to sign their name.  After filling out the form, patrons were told that the winner would be randomly drawn from the names and announced later in the evening.
When it came time to announce the winner of the trip to Cancun the DJ proclaimed “our friend’s at Benson & Hedges who have put this thing on are giving away a trip to Cancun”. The winner was announced as well as the sponsorship by Benson & Hedges several times thereafter.

Future Promotions of the GoldClub Series

The next Gold Club Series is a trip to Ibiza, Spain. This new promotion has been much more visible. Radio spots on the local radio station have been advertising the Gold Club series and its contest. The student newspaper “the Imprint” has run a full page coloured ad promoting smoking (the rest of the newspaper is black and white with the exception of the Du Maurier arts ad on the opposite side of the Gold Club ad). Additionally, the Imprint has included the Marqee magazine which includes a Gold Club ad once again on the back cover.


Downtown Toronto (which incidentally has a number of future club dates for the “Jet to Ibiza series”) has posters for this future series on traffic posts along University Avenue.

A popular club in Waterloo “Revolution” will hold a Gold Club event on Saturday, June 21st. The promotion for this event has already begun. On Friday, May 30th I visited this club. A sign outside the club (where everyone must have his or her ID inspected by the bouncers) advertises the future Gold Club event. Inside promotional pamphlets were everywhere (on all tables and bar surfaces). These substantial booklets listed all of the “Jet to Ibiza” club dates in every Canadian city. Also included were descriptions of the DJ’s (one of whom is releasing a cd produced by Gold Club). Even the bathroom had a one page ad for the upcoming Gold Club party beside every sink.

For those that signed up for the Gold Club mailing list or who entered the contest,  an e-mail was sent out informing them about the upcoming Gold Club Series date at their local club and that the trip contest was now to Ibiza Spain. Information on the website also indicates that individuals who enter this next contest will also receive a Max Graham Jet to Ibiza Compilation CD.

It was a great time to be clubbing during this era as those behind the marketing would go all out and ensure anyone who attended the event had the time of their lives.  There were Big DJ Small Club events, Boat Cruises, all of which were catered to people in the club industry.  We only wish that type of marketing would be allowed to come back as it made the scene electric.

Maybe one day it will.

article credited to Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.

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