Subway tackles childhood obesity

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Four years after introducing a diet craze capitalizing on the 245-pound weight loss by Jared Fogle, Subway Restaurants is taking on the childhood-obesity epidemic with a massive public-awareness campaign that will account for one-fifth of its annual advertising budget.

Called Subway F.R.E.S.H. Steps, the effort includes a pledge program for kids to adopt healthier lifestyles, activity-based toys in Kids' Pak meals and an expansion of the chains' relationship with the American Heart Association as its first-ever sponsor of the AHA's Jump Rope for Heart program.

At least 15% of people between the ages of 6 and 19 are overweight, according to the most recent survey from the National Center for Health Statistics.

"We have a firm belief that we hold a position within the consumers' consciousness that we can actually change people's awareness and people's understanding of eating and exercise habits," said Chris Carroll, VP-marketing for Subway's Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust. He said this is the chain's largest corporate-responsibility effort to date.

Central to the effort is an 11-spot campaign of 30-second and 60-second TV spots that feature a trio of kids who have changed their lives by eating better. The spots detail how Madison Newberry can now wear jeans, Isaac Villarreal can play football and Cody Lawler can live without fear of being teased. None show kids eating, but they do talk about how Subway can be part of a healthy lifestyle.

`choose well'

The spots were created by former agency Fallon, Minneapolis, before it parted ways with Subway. Spots carry the "Choose Well" tagline created by interim agency McCarthy Mambro Bertino, Boston.

David Lubars, Fallon Worldwide president-executive creative director, said the spots were shot simply and focused on the how the kids felt better. "You don't want to exploit kids and we just wanted it to be the truth," said Mr. Lubars. "None of the kids are skinny and we were not promising any miracles."

Four months ago, Subway tapped youth and family agency Strottman Consulting Group, Irvine, Calif., to survey 2,682 kids ages 5 to 12 on their attitudes about eating, physical activity and wellness as part of an ongoing study (see Fast Facts, P. 4).

Subway hired Fleishman-Hillard, New York, to set the public-relations strategy and integrate the campaign elements. The agency tapped into more than 30 influential nutritionists, educators and government officials, and coordinated outreach to them, said Nancy Selliger exec VP-senior partner at Fleishman-Hillard.

MediaCom came up with the idea of a TV morning-show news package on childhood obesity that the marketer could participate in and support with advertising. It struck a deal with Viacom's CBS to run a three-segment story package on the topic.

The agency also struck a deal with Viacom's Nickelodeon to create 30 "up close and personal" health and wellness vignettes that mimicked the ads. One set of 15 60-second segments about girls involved in athletics breaks this month and another 15 about boys and girls break in September.

"You'll see a lot more of this kind of integrated work from us going forward," said Mr. Carroll.

See the spot at QwikFIND aap80z

Fast Facts

Eight in 10 kids say they know someone who is "very overweight."

20% think it's "OK" that the person is overweight because "he/she is happy."

92%of kids believe they are "very/kind of healthy"

Tweens (ages 10-12) are more likely to describe themselves as overweight (36 % vs. 20% of 8-9-year-olds) and are less likely to describe themselves as "very healthy" (46% vs. 59%).

Source: Subway

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