Subway

Two years ago Subway was radio’s second biggest quick-serve restaurant account and No. 20 overall with nearly 800,000 spots placed in 2019. But last year the sandwich shop fell off radio’s radar, apart from October and November 2020 when it aired about 5,500 and 6,500 spots per week. Now the chain has launched one of its largest media investments ever. Will that bring Subway back to radio?

The QSR chain is planning what Ad Age calls “a heavy dose” of marketing to draw attention to its Eat Fresh Refresh campaign, which involves a menu overhaul and makes major changes to the chain’s packaging, app, and even how it delivers. The goal is to reverse seven consecutive years of sales declines. The global pandemic took a bite out of annual revenues for the sandwich shop as total sales plummeted 18.5% to roughly $8.32 billion last year, according to data compiled by Technomic and cited by Ad Age.

Carrie Walsh, Subway’s Chief Marketing Officer for North America, tells the publication the chain is making one of its biggest media ad investments in the brand’s history. Subway has been working with McGarrryBowen, Current Global, United Entertainment Group, Jack Morton, Carat and Proof Advertising since last year on the Eat Fresh Refresh campaign.

The campaign supports what the Milford, CT-based company says are the “biggest changes in the brand’s history.” More than 10,000 Subway restaurants closed at 6pm local time July 12 to prepare more than 20 menu updates and 11 “new and improved” ingredients, six all new or returning sandwiches, and four revamped signature sandwiches. Subway says it worked with a panel of bakers to develop its new baking recipes and baking method.

The new menu launched July 13, when the chain gave away up to one million free subs from 10am-noon local time.

“Subway has been serving freshly made, customizable and better-for-you sandwiches for more than 50 years, and we wanted to give our guests more new and improved flavors. Our new culinary team is delivering monumental updates to the entire core menu,” Trevor Haynes, President, North America at Subway, said in a news release. “The Eat Fresh Refresh makes Subway better than ever with freshly made, craveable and delicious sandwiches to excite new and returning guests.”

The updated Subway app features a new dashboard, improved ordering flow and insight into out-of-stock items with further updates planned for the fall. In addition, Subway Delivery is rolling out nationwide in select areas and allows guests to place delivery orders through the Subway app and Subway.com.

Subway is the largest restaurant chain based on the number of stores – 22,000 in the U.S. and 40,000 globally.

Subway, radio’s second biggest QSR account of 2019 and No. 20 overall, was absent from the list of radio’s top 100 advertisers of 2020. The chain favored cable TV last year – it was the medium’s No. 14 advertiser in 2020, airing over 1 million spots, per Media Monitors. Subway ranked No. 92 at broadcast TV in 2020.

Subway is the No. 44 advertiser at radio by detections so far this year, per Media Monitors, with 4,900 detections. From July 9 to July 19, Media Monitors found less than 100 Subway detections. For context, McDonald’s has more than 666,000 occurrences so far this year, while Wendy’s has over 400,000.