Subway on how it plans to use Liverpool deal to get ‘everyday people more active’

Subway hopes to use its sponsorship of Liverpool Football Club, announced today (23 April), to push its growing Low Fat subs range and help “everyday people get more active”. Marketing Week spoke to Subway’s European regional marketing director Manaaz Akhtar on the thinking behind investing to become the Premier League leaders’ official training food partner. 

Liverpool Stoke BT Sport 2013
Subway chose Liverpool as a partner not because of the club’s recent form in the Premier League, but its commitment to grass roots sports, the fast food chain says.

Marketing Week: What links Subway with the English Premier League?

Manaaz Akhtar: Subway has been committed to encouraging active healthy lifestyles for the past couple of years and we’ve signed famous names such as [British boxer] Anthony Ogogo and [British gymnast] Louis Smith to talk about this in advertising.

Over the past year we’ve been looking to help get everyday people more active. Our sponsorship with Liverpool FC and particular its youth foundation is an extension of that work we have already done in the UK and will help us take this to a higher level.

Liverpool FC have had a very successful time at the moment but this was not around picking a particular English Premier League team as such – but we really believe in the work they are doing with their youth foundation as it really connects with what we are doing.

MW: What was the attraction to Liverpool FC – was the club chosen because of its recent run of form?

MA: No, not at all. We have been talking to them for a number of months – the discussions actually started last year. These things take time as we had to make sure it was right for us.

From our perspective we were really impressed by the club’s ongoing youth activity and their strong commitment to getting youth active.

The timing was great but we have been discussing it for a while.

MW: What kind of sponsorship activations can we expect to see from Subway next season?

MA: We want to engage with people around our “train hard and eat fresh” messaging and get that across to the wider community too. Our ambition is to work with grass roots community football across the UK and Irish market.

This partnership provides us with access to the foundation and to the players. We have committed to helping Liverpool’s youth foundation, delivering Low Fat Subs to participants but also to [Liverpool FC] players after they train and when they go on to the game.

You’ll also see Subway branding around LED [advertising boards inside Anfield], the Liverpool magazine and online. And going forward we will be working with Liverpool FC on how we can get everyday people active.

MW: What makes a fast food chain like Subway think it can encourage people to become more active?

MA: We have already started doing it. We began our 5k run series a few years ago. There were six events in the first year and we were up to 13 last year, which had a huge amount of participants, who were everyday consumers.

I think we can make this really big. We have our Low Fat range and famous fans talking about it which adds a credible side to our communications about it to the public. It shows that if you can eat this food when you are training then it must be good.

We have a commitment to exercise and nutrition and we want to get that message out there. Over the past two and a half years we have been able to show we are a credible voice in this area – it’s not just something that popped up out of the blue.

MW: Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator for the Sustain Children’s Food Campaign, said while your Liverpool partnership was a “step in the right direction” compared with the club’s Dunkin’ Donuts deal, Subway’s messaging around healthy lifestyles is mixed because much of your in-store communications [such as cookies being placed next to the till] highlight high in sugar or fat choices. What would you say in response to such criticism?

Subway Liverpool Daniel Sturridge

MA: In response, of course we offer choice when you go in-store. But we clearly show the low fat options, with the Heart Research UK emblem, low fat symbols and calories next to them to make it clear to customers.

From an advertising perspective, there’s hardly any cookies on our menu boards – yes they are next to the cash registers – but it’s more about the range of subs on offer. Our [advertising for our] value lunch deal shows a bottle of water [as the drink choice] and there is heavy promotion of low fat subs in-store.

From 2010 to 2011 we saw an 11 per cent increase in sales of Low Fat subs because we were promoting them heavily in store.

If you look at our Kids range, we have recently reformulated that to show a Low Fat sub and a Capri Sun – which is one of your five a day – or a bottle of water and a toy. We are deliberately persuading consumers to make healthy choices.

MW: How will you evaluate the success of your Liverpool sponsorship?

MA: Like any campaign we will evaluate locally using the usual brand trackers. In terms of understanding how many more people became more active: we had 7,000 people take part in our 5k run series last year and we would like to think this will help us improve those numbers.

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