Fifteen years ago, it's unlikely 425-pound Jared Fogle knew that by eating Subway sandwiches to lose weight, he'd end up a celebrity in his own right and the star of an online video series on the brand's website. But that's exactly what is happening as the sandwich chain celebrates its anniversary with long-time spokesman Jared the Subway Guy.
The new online video series, Jared's Journey, furthers the brand's health and wellness message while it also attempts to add a new dimension to its relationship with Fogle.
In each episode, Jared will share the story of a well-known personality and his or her path to a healthy and balanced lifestyle. The series will include six webisodes, which will air starting in June and throughout the remainder of 2013.
The first episode features an interview with celebrity host Mario Lopez in which Fogle and Lopez discuss career, family, lifestyle, and health. Future guests include sportscaster Erin Andrews and "Lone Ranger" star Armie Hammer.
Subway says each webisode is designed to inspire fans "the same way Jared has inspired millions over the last 15 years since achieving his 200-pound weight loss by eating from the Subway Fresh Fit Menu."
According to Subway Chief Marketing Officer Tony Pace, Subway will release about one video a month for the remainder of the year.
According to the timeline on the Jared's Journey section of the Subway website, Fogle's weight peaked at 425 pounds in 1998. After he lost more than 200 pounds, he was interviewed for a story in his college newspaper that was later picked up by Men's Health. The brand decided to shoot a commercial and the rest, as they say, is history.
"He said he didn't have to leave for LA until after his exams in December that year and, as Jared has said to me, it's a good thing [the shoot] was scheduled for the day after his exams [or he never would have shown up]," Pace says. "And then the commercial ran regionally and it started doing well and it got broader exposure. It was the start of a terrific relationship based on a real story."
Since then, Jared has starred in more than 300 commercials. He has also met U.S. presidents, ran marathons, visited U.S. troops, and worked with the American Heart Association and his own non-profit organization dedicated to the fight against childhood obesity, Subway says.
Fogle has become so visible as Jared the Subway Guy that he has become a celebrity himself.
"What actually happened with Armie Hammer when he met [Jared] was Armie says, 'I feel like I already know you,'" Pace says. "He's so visible in pop culture and has been with Subway for so many years."
Other endorsers include Mike Trout, Robert Griffin III, and Michael Phelps. Oftentimes, these high-profile athletes want to know if they get to meet Jared, Pace adds - proof of Fogle's visibility in American culture.
"Because we've been doing this messaging for a long time, we're trying to bring a new dimension. This allows Jared to grow on his own," Pace says. "Jared's conversation is really about healthy/active lifestyles, which is essential to the brand. You may have seen high-profile sports figures [in Subway advertising] - this is an extension of that...we're expanding our purview on health and activity and why it's important."
As of Monday, Subway has 23.2 million Facebook fans and 1.3 million Twitter followers.
In 2012, Subway says it became the first restaurant to meet the American Heart Association's Heart-Check Meal Certification Program nutritional criteria. In addition, Subway says 2013 marks the fourth straight year the brand has been ranked number one by consumers in the Zagat Fast Food Survey in the "Healthy Options," "Most Popular," and "Top Service" categories for food brands with 5,000 or more locations.
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Lisa Lacy is senior staff writer at ClickZ. In addition to ClickZ, her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.