CAMPAIGNS: Subway relies on fan favorites in All-Star comms push

PR Team: Subway Restaurants (Milford, CT) and Schneider & Associates (Boston) Campaign: Subway/MLB All-Star Balloting Time Frame: May 2003 Budget: Under $20,000

PR Team: Subway Restaurants (Milford, CT) and Schneider & Associates (Boston) Campaign: Subway/MLB All-Star Balloting Time Frame: May 2003 Budget: Under $20,000

The slogan for this year's Major League Baseball All-Star Game was "This time it counts," with the winning team scoring home-field advantage in the World Series for its respective league - American or National. Aware that fans pick most of the game's participants, and that baseball's All-Star voting represents the largest balloting program in pro sports, sandwich-maker Subway looked to get in on the action. Leveraging its existing relationship with Pepsi, a sponsor of MLB All-Star balloting for the past six years, Subway secured a role as the only fast-food chain where fans could vote. With only three weeks to go before balloting was set to begin at more than 15,000 Subway locations nationwide, the company turned to Boston-based PR firm Schneider & Associates to spread the word. Strategy The campaign sought to build media awareness of Subway's involvement in All-Star balloting; drive customer traffic to its locations; and reinforce the brand message that Subway helps keep up a healthy, active lifestyle. Schneider decided to orchestrate an in-store photo op during a much-anticipated Yankees-Red Sox series, which coincided with the balloting program's launch in late May. "We felt a compelling photo would give the story a much better chance to get picked up," says Julie Hall, VP in Schneider's consumer group. Liz Markman, Subway communications supervisor, adds that the MLB campaign continued a trend for the company involving sports-related PR. "We support a variety of sports and fitness programs," says Markman, noting Subway's recent involvement with NASCAR, the NFL, and the American Heart Association's Heart Walks. "By doing so, we encourage our customers to stay active, eat healthy, and create a balanced lifestyle." Tactics Subway's Pepsi ties enabled Schneider to get brothers Jason and Jeremy Giambi - who play for the Yankees and Red Sox, respectively - to appear with company pitchman and diet-success story Jared Fogle at a Portland Street Subway in Boston. Although featuring players from New York and Boston gave the effort an East Coast flavor, agency staffers felt the popularity of Jared among lifestyle and sports media would also provide "national pull," according to Hall. "Photographers asked Jared to bring out his 'big pants,'" Hall recalls. "We felt it was too promotional, but it's what they wanted." Schneider sent out a media alert to print and broadcast outlets notifying them of the appearance. In addition, a b-roll package was distributed nationally, and a photo and caption were released over the newswire. Results A nearby breaking news story that took place just prior to the event cut into the broadcast coverage of the campaign. Still, the event did earn more than 7 million print impressions, and the story was picked up by the AP, The Boston Globe and Boston Herald. The Wall Street Journal also ran a photo from the event. "It was the best year ever for All-Star balloting," says Hall. "The client was very pleased." During the balloting program, Subway also offered limited-edition cups featuring various baseball players, and saw a sales boost as a result, according to Subway promotions manager Suzanne Landino. "We did see a rise in drink incidence," she notes. Future According to Markman, Subway has not yet finalized PR plans for the coming year. "We continuously seek programs that will raise awareness, drive traffic, and facilitate consumer loyalty," she explains. "Our 2004 programs are still in the planning stage."

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