Subway Promo, Case study ELEVATING THE BRAND

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Industry Fast food
Media Promo & PR, Case study
Released July 2012

Credits & Description

Category: Best Use of Media Relations
Product/Service: FAST FOOD
Managing Partner: Bret Werner (Catalyst Public Relations)
Vice President: Rob Bronfeld (Catalyst Public Relations)
Account Director: Glenn Mandel (Catalyst Public Relations)
Account Supervisor: Carrie Kreiswirth (Catalyst Public Relations)
Media placement: Non-Paid, Online Editorial Coverage - / Wire - 17 September 2009
Media placement: Non-Paid, Online Editorial Segment - - 8 October 2009
Media placement: Non-Paid, Print Editorial Coverage - Advertising Age - 21 September 2009
Media placement: Non-Paid, Print Editorial Coverage - USA Today - 9 October 2009
Media placement: Non-Paid, Online Broadcast Editorial Coverage - FOX Strategy Room - 5 October 2009
Media placement: Non-Paid, Online Editorial Coverage - - 6 October 2009
Media placement: Non-Paid, Broadcast Editorial Segment - CNBC-TV - 8 October 2009
Media placement: Non-Paid, Broadcast Editorial Segment - Bloomberg TV - 8 October 2009
Media placement: Non-Paid, Online Editorial Coverage - - 11 October 2009
Media placement: Non-Paid, Print Editorial Feature - BusinessWeek - 16 November 2009

Summary of the Campaign
When most restaurant chains struggled, the $5 footlong helped privately held SUBWAY Restaurants lift U.S. sales 17 percent and reach a high of 96 percent in aided awareness in 2009. Shortly after the $5 footlong unveiling, competitors in the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) category started to copy SUBWAY. Although first to market, SUBWAY received almost no recognition of this trend with business media influencers. The PR Agency developed a communications program to showcase the SUBWAY Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust (SFAFT, the marketing arm of the sandwich franchise) as the success driver of the $5 footlong sandwich to both business influencers and the franchisees who support the marketing budget. With business media serving as the primary vehicle to shape perception, the Agency secured 173 $5 footlong business stories in 75 core identified media outlets over a five-month period. Ninety-eight percent of these stories were positive (compared to McDonald’s 82 percent and Burger King 76 percent). According to analysis conducted by Prime Research, SUBWAY solidified its position as the No. 2 brand in the QSR sector during this five-month period with business media, narrowly trailing publically held McDonald’s. Franchise satisfaction also reached new highs, according to internal audits.

The Goal
A study from Echo Research showed that during the previous year, McDonald’s and Burger King had secured two-to-three-times more media coverage than SUBWAY. Findings also identified competitor weakness in the health category -a strength for SUBWAY with its value-and-health focused $5 menu. Research also found media lacked knowledge of SUBWAY’s business strategies and executives. The Agency identified the most influential business media and developed a plan to engage this audience. The primary objective was to introduce, or raise the profile of, SFAFT executives to key business media influencers by demonstrating how marketing drove the success of the $5 footlong.

Post-campaign research conducted by Prime Research indicated SUBWAY was able to secure second position to McDonald’s for share of voice in both total media (14 percent) and target media (16 percent), while surpassing Burger King. Influencer tours directly led to major placements, including a four-page feature on the $5 footlong in BusinessWeek (also appearing as the lead story of, live segments on CNBC and Bloomberg TV, and a marketing-themed online discussion led by CMO Tony Pace on BusinessWeek coverage went “viral” and was picked up by MSNBC, Yahoo! Finance, AOL and more than 80 TV station Websites. While overall QSR sales declined during the campaign, SUBWAY continued to show sales increases. Additionally, Dow Jones News Service, AdAge and Reuters all stated that based on the meetings, they will utilize SUBWAY executives for expert insights for upcoming QSR stories.

Beginning in August 2009, the Agency began approaching key influencers to secure deskside meetings with key SFAFT executives. The influencers were informed that they would be told about SFAFT’s role in bringing the $5 footlong to a nationwide audience, how the promotion became a national phenomenon and how SUBWAY has continued to show growth during this down economy primarily due to the success of the promotion. Additional angles included SUBWAY’s health message, a healthy consumer survey with a Thanksgiving theme and details about SUBWAY’s holiday catering offerings. The Agency targeted specific outlets due to their audiences, overall industry influence and potential consumer reach. Meetings arranged included: BusinessWeek, CNBC, Forbes, BrandWeek, New York Times, Reuters and Dow Jones News Service. In addition, conference calls were conducted with editors from the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, AdAge and QSR Magazine.

The Situation
The story behind the $5 footlong provided SUBWAY a compelling opportunity to engage media and provide key background information, success stories and anecdotes that demonstrated how innovative marketing, focusing on value and health, helped create one of the most successful QSR menu additions in history and the biggest trend in the restaurant industry since the launch of “$1 menu.” However, with SUBWAY being a private company, industry analysts had little interest in the sandwich chain. In addition, senior executives, although extremely engaging, had limited awareness with key business media as interaction with the press was not a typical company norm.

The Strategy
To gain increased mindshare and establish/grow relationships between key SFAFT executives and high profile media outlets, the Agency executed influencer tours with two under-utilized top executives Jeff Moody, CEO, and Tony Pace, CMO. The influencer tour was timed to coincide with the introduction of the newest addition to SUBWAY’s $5 Footlong menu - the Buffalo Chicken sandwich. This launch was an ideal opportunity to engage high-level media as it was a new menu item and enabled the executives to discuss the success of the $5 footlong and also drive home SUBWAY’s health message. A new menu item provided additional incentive for influencers to speak with the executives to learn about ways in which SUBWAY continues to keep the menu fresh and appealing to customers and the role marketing played in the launch.