Slim Subway spokesman has expanding influence

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Jared Fogle has become a weight-loss franchise that could rival the likes of Weight Watchers' Sarah Ferguson, the duchess of York.

The Subway Restaurants spokesman, who lost 245 pounds while subsisting on a diet of Subway sandwiches, has become so influential to waist-watchers that the Milford, Conn.-based chain will run a new campaign called "Jared Inspired Me" during the Super Bowl. The commercials will feature testimonials from five people who also lost weight while eating the chain's subs.


The effort marks the latest iteration of the campaign first launched last January by former Subway shop Publicis & Hal Riney, Chicago, (now Publicis in Mid-America). Current agency Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer Euro RSCG, New York, produced the upcoming campaign supporting the "seven under 6 [grams of fat]" menu items as the figure-friendly component of the chain's dual positioning. Other spots featuring a shadow-puppet voiced by comedian Gilbert Gottfried will continue to support Subway's other positioning: fresh flavor.

The first new commercial features Jared as inspiration for four real-life dieters who lost at least 90 pounds each (including Toronto native Zoe Gemelli, who dropped 147 pounds). In the spot, Jared enters a Subway restaurant, holding the door open for the others.

Subway, owned by Doctor's Associates, said it has received more than 250 letters from people with their own weight loss stories. "So it seemed a natural evolution to the campaign to feature some of those people in new TV spots," said Chris Carroll, director of marketing for Subway's Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust. "The reality of [Mr. Fogle's success] is what is driving people to try it for themselves." He said same-store sales for the privately held chain have held steady in the 20% range since the first campaign broke.

Andy Barish, restaurant analyst with Robertson Stephens, said such gains are "almost unheard of" considering the sluggish sales among most fast-feeders. "Quick service restaurants have been running flat all year, and better operators have been able to get mid-single digits," he added.

Mr. Carroll said the core spots will later include promotional shells for local franchisees to feature dieters from their region. "Every time I go to a franchisee meeting, they say `You should put this person in my market in a commercial,' " he said.


Mr. Fogle has become so popular on the personal-appearance circuit that he's taken a leave of absence from his job at American Trans Air to accommodate the demand.

"Jared's doing 90% awareness," Mr. Carroll said. When asked how the company's new star was being compensated, he said, "Jared's doing OK," noting that the chain's new Pied Piper is not on the corporate payroll. "He wouldn't have the same credibility."

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