Athletes today are not only known for their moment of fame on the big screen during game day, but also, for their many appearances endorsing popular products, brands, and, restaurants. Subway is a restaurant chain not only known for their popular array of sandwiches, but, also for the many athletic spokespeople that work to promote their healthy food options. Surpassing McDonald’s in number of worldwide restaurants, Subway is most definitely a force to be reckoned with in the fast food industry.
Being so high on the fast food chain, a restaurant of such magnitude wants only the best to represent their brand. This is why Subway has chosen to use well-known athletes as celebrity endorsements. They have been quick to snag star athletes from a plethora of sports and now appear to be greatly reaping the benefits of their decisions, but, why? How do these athletes help encourage everyday consumers to eat Subway? Easy!
Subway prides themselves on being able to partner with big name athletes such as Nastia Liukin, Michael Phelps, Robert Griffin III and Apolo Ohno, but, they did not pick these celebrities at random. According to Tony Pace, SVP and global CMO of Subway “We choose fans of Subway who just happen to be famous.”
One of Subway’s newest marketing campaigns utilizes their celebrity endorsements by asking them the simple question; what’s your favorite Subway sandwich? Each athletes answer can be found on the Subway website under the “Famous Fans” tab.
The page includes a brief description of each of their fourteen supporters alongside the name of their favorite sandwich. Subway’s slogan is, “Subway, the official training restaurant of athletes everywhere.” This goes hand in hand with their promotion of healthy eating and low-calorie sandwich options. Yet still, many want to know why just the sight of their website or viewing of a thirty-second commercial clip makes us want to eat Subway.
It has to do with the attribution theory, studied in many communication and psychology classes. Viewers of Subway commercials see famous celebrity athletes supporting Subway and attribute their success to Subway and its healthy sandwich options. One of Subway’s newest commercials features the famous Washington Redskin’s quarterback, Robert Griffin III, better known as RG3. Throughout the commercial the narrator makes Comments such as, “RG3 trains hard and smart with low-fat protein-rich turkey breast” and “RG3 always scores with his fav, Subway turkey breast with spinach and tomatoes.” This creates an automatic correlation in the mind of consumers between the success of Robert Griffin III and his decision to eat at Subway.
As we continue to see RG3 and other athletes on Subway commercials, and hear about all of their many accomplishments, we will most likely continue to choose Subway as a top fast food restaurant. I mean, who else wants to eat at the same restaurant as Jarvis Jones, Mike Trout, and Carl Edwards? We do! This healthy promotion is one that has everyone giving Subway two thumbs up and a stamp of approval.
-Caitlin Ford, Kaitlin Bateson, Parker Farfour, Alex Corrigan
This is an Interesting case of celebrity endorsement—glad you looked into it. Many athletes are likely to be cheaper and less risky than popular culture celebrities such as actors and singers. They also align better with “health” not just “pleasure.” It’s in their best interest and even in their contracts with their sport to stay healthy. No Lindsay Lohans here! You also nail the specific aspect of the endorsement that makes it work. We all know Shaq does not drive a Buick. He comes across as a standard celebrity pitch. “What is your favorite sandwich” puts it at a much more personal level. Beyond attribution theory (which is a good fit) is Kenneth Burke’s notion of identification. This very personal choice brings it from promoting ALL of a chain or brand into “what I like about Subway” and that is something a fan can identify with. We will never promote Subway, we can have a favorite sandwich. Question, could they use more obscure people within this campaign, let’s say hometown heroes, veterans, award winning educators, etc.? Is the appeal restricted to athletes or is the appeal grounded in a “everyone has a favorite sandwich and it’s always fun to find out what it is” dynamic?
Dr. Olsen, thanks for your comment, you have brought up a great point! But, to answer your question, I think it so much is more than “everyone has a favorite sandwich and it’s always fun to find out what it is.” The fun and mystery of wondering what kind of sandwich is favored by celebrity athletes is all in the fact that we know who they are, but, we don’t know everything about them. We want to know more because we see them constantly, watch their successes, and have a concept of their popularity within the public. We want to be eating the same thing that they are eating! If Subway chose to endorse hometown heroes, veterans, or award winning educators I foresee two problems that may arise. First, they are not guaranteed to have a large following. In other words, I like sports, but, I do not spend every waking hour watching them. Even though I don’t I still I have an understanding of who each of their athletic endorsements are and still feel myself feeling curious about what they eat. If Subway chose a hometown hero from a city that I was not familiar with, I probably would not have as good of an understanding of who it was, and Subway would spend more time on the campaign to explain the achievements of the person rather than advertising their food. Second, home town heroes and veterans are not tied to a contract like pro athletes. They are not required to stay healthy or continue doing great things for their team or community. This could mean that they did one great thing, sign with Subway, advertise their food, and then do something bad or wrong, still being tied to the name Subway and could lead to some very negative outcomes. Thanks again for your comment!
This blog entry really makes me think more about the correlation between the smart eating the Subway endorses, and the use of celebrity athletes to present their product. The athletes are integrated in the advertising to make the consumers want to have their positive healthy living, and the idea that if you eat Subway, you too will be successful.It really is the perfect marketing strategy to have your product being endorsed by “big name” athletes to make the Subway sandwich the better choice. This marketing strategy, whether crammed into a 45 second commercial or posted on Subway’s social media website works not only because of the athletes, but also the endorsement of a smart decision of a healthy lifestyle is a trend that is seen as important and beating out many other fast food restaurant chains.
Being an athlete, this blog post really appeals to me. Not only are athletes huge proponents to success in the food industry, but also every other industry there is known available to man kind. From sneakers to cars to sporting equipment, athletes play such a key role in marketing and advertising for products. I completely agree with what you had to say here. Athletes are successful; in our minds, the clothes they wear, the food they eat, the equipment they use leads to their overall success. We may not initially realize why we spend fifty dollars more for a pair of Nike shoes that Tiger Woods promotes, rather than a less expensive pair of shoes like New Balances, but if you really sit down and ponder why that was our impulse reaction, it all points us to the attribution theory. I really enjoyed reading this article!
I find it interesting that Subway kept their usual “healthy” advertisements and just added a twist by including well known faces that people will recognize and want to relate to. The fact that they chose athletes rather than say musicians, was a smart stance for Subway as they continue to maintain their aspect of being able to appeal to the wants of Americans to stay healthy and fit. In the minds of the average American, professional athletes have become not only idols that young teens want look up to and long to be, but they are also portrayed as some of the most in shape. I also like how Subway did not simple chose their product endorsers at random, going along with which pop star is most famous at this moment, but rather they chose strategically and ethically the men and women whom now represent their brand. Aside from the aspect of being athletes, Subway chose people who are actual fans of their product. To me this seems to be very ethical as it can often be deceiving watching a commercial for a brand, where the celebrity promoting the product is only in it for the money rather than the actual brand. Overall this was an interesting topic to look into and I enjoyed reading!