For more than a century, the advertising world has been ruled by corporate mascots – smiling, often cartoonish characters designed to increase brand awareness and boost sales. But, of course, no matter how hard ad agencies try, all mascots are not created equal. Although some go on to become cultural icons, many others are quietly retired with the hope that increasingly-distracted consumers will forget they ever existed. For every Ronald McDonald, there’s a Mayor McCheese or the original Grimace, both of which ran afoul of copyright laws. Taco Bell put down their talking chihuahua campaign amid accusations of racism. Quiznos lost big with Spongmonkeys, bizarre, rodent-like creatures so disturbing some franchisees hung signs in their windows to apologize. Burger King had that uber-creepy King.
And Subway had Jared Fogel.
For a sixteen-year period between 1999 and 2015, Fogle’s name was practically synonymous with the sandwich chain. As their national spokesperson, the seemingly non-threatening, slightly goofy Indianapolis native appeared in hundreds of commercials, magazines, and talk show segments touting the benefits of “fresh” food without any discernible taste. Over time, he became so associated with the ubiquitous brand that many people knew him only as “The Subway Guy.” To at least dozen underage victims, however, Jared Fogle was a monster.
The body-morphing Indianapolis native was a business major at Indiana University when he began his ascent to relative fame. Only 22 at the time, Fogel already weighed more than 425 pounds. As luck or fate would have it, though, his off-campus apartment happened to be located next to a Subway store, and one day it occurred to him that the bland brand could be the answer to his weight problem. In that moment of inspiration, “The Subway Diet” was born.
By sticking to a strict regimen of Subway sandwiches, baked chips, and diet sodas, Fogle quickly lost 100 pounds. Suddenly more mobile, he peeled off even more weight by walking the short distance from home to class. On one of these excursions he ran into Ryan Coleman, his freshman-year roommate. Coleman was so impressed with Fogle’s transformation that he wrote about it in the school newspaper. Within months, Men’s Health magazine picked up the story, and a formerly shlubby star was born.
(Please return Monday for Part 2 of this article.)
*Legal disclaimer: Although Jared Fogel has confessed to statutory rape,
he is technically not a child rapist, much in the way that
Subway’s sandwich rolls aren’t technically bread.