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QSR Feature
Subway’s Savior

To celebrate his decade of healthy eating, Fogle is spending 2008 traveling the country on a “Tour de Pants,” which kicked off in Times Square in February. Along the way, he’s stopped at the XLII Super Bowl in Phoenix, the Final Four in San Antonio, Texas, and a Cinco de Mayo celebration in Denver. While on tour, he’s also visited elementary schools, telling what he affectionately calls “my story” and encouraging children to lead healthy lifestyles. Though the majority of the students were born after Fogle’s commercials began airing nationally, they recognize him. “The kids from about third grade and above definitely know who I am,” he says. “That’s also why that’s a really good age to target. They really haven’t made up their minds as far as their habits, so they’re reachable.” Ironically, he points out, they probably know who he is because they watch too much TV, “but I guess that’s a result of being a part of pop culture,” he concedes.

During his yearlong Tour de Pants, Fogle hopes to raise $1 million to help fight the childhood obesity epidemic. Although Fogle says partial blame for the obesity crisis lies with the quick-service industry, he believes consumers are ultimately responsible for their own health. “When I was losing my weight,” he says, “I didn’t expect the burger places and pizza places to close their doors to me. The bottom line is that it still takes an individual person’s effort, and you’ve got to want to change.” He reinforces this idea when talking to young people about leading healthy lives. “I really try to make sure that they understand that they have to make their own decisions, like I made for myself, to avoid wearing a size 63 pair of pants,” he says.

Fogle, who comes across as a humble man, admits that he believes his ad campaign with Subway has had a positive effect on the foodservice industry. “I think it’s forced a number of restaurants out there to up their number of healthier options,” he says. “It’s gotten consumers to say, ‘Hey, there’s no reason I can’t have something that tastes really good and is also good for me.’”

One would assume a go-with-the-flow media darling such as Fogle would be a hot commodity in the fast-food marketing arena, but in his years with Subway no other brands have tried to lure him away. Of course, they have never had the opportunity. Fogle says he never eats quick-serves other than Subway—a decision he attributes to his goal of staying healthy rather than his contract with the chain. “I’ve never had to go out and push Subway, it’s part of my story,” he says. “Subway is what allowed me to lose weight, it was the mechanism and is still a big part of my life.”

Being in front of the camera is also a big part of Fogle’s life. “I’m a lot more comfortable in front of a camera, and I’m not nervous anymore,” he says.

I think it’s forced a number of restaurants out there to up their number of healthier options.”

In an age where company spokesmen seem to change with the seasons, Fogle has experienced almost unrivaled exposure. Through TV appearances, hometown tours, national ad campaigns, and, yes, even a book tour, Fogle collects thousands of enthusiastic fans. One man even asked him to sign the hood of his car with a black Sharpie. “I kept saying, ‘Are you sure? I’ll do it, but are you sure?’” he recalls. “It was pretty funny.”

Fogle zealots not only want autographs, they also want to repeat his weight-loss success. Ever since Fogle’s story became public, Subway has been flooded with letters and e-mails from fans claiming to have experienced years of obesity only to be saved by the Subway Diet. The number of Subway Diet followers grew so large, the company formed the group, Friends of Jared—a play off recovery groups like Friends of Bill W. “Subway decided to actually do a small campaign, about a year or two into my ads, involving other people saying that it wasn’t just me doing it. There’s a lot of other people who have become inspired,” Fogle says. “Whether it was 30 pounds or 100 pounds, it’s been really neat to see.”

With 10 years of healthy living and thousands of fans and franchisees behind him, Fogle says he will continue trying to motivate people to get fit for as long as the brand will let him. “I’d love to be with Subway for a long time to come, and the great thing is that the future is an open book. It’s been a surreal 10 years, and I hope the next 10 years are just as surreal.”

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Blair Chancey is QSR’s associate editor.