Subway: King of Product Placement

Subway: King of Product Placement

Food & Drink

Subway: King of Product Placement


The DVR era has ushered in the golden age of product placement in TV advertising. Now that viewers can fast forward through commercials with the push of a button on their remote, advertisers are teaming up with show producers to incorporate their products right into the programming.

And nobody does it like Subway.

You can’t say “Subway” without “Sub” and you can’t say “subtle” when it comes to the company’s product placement style either.

The sub sandwich chain has really cranked up the PP in the last few months. In the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” teamed up with Subway for a contest they called “Subs Across America.” Night after night for weeks, host Jimmy Fallon called on his home viewers to submit videos of themselves tossing a Subway footlong like they would a football, standing in front of a recognizable landmark. He emphasized that the show wanted to get submissions from all 50 states, which they eventually received. The show’s editors then spliced them together into a four-minute music video (with Fallon singing lead) that was featured on the show, and it got lots of play on YouTube, of course.

Then there was an episode of NBC’s “Community” in which one of the students at Greendale Community College had his name legally changed to—you guessed it—“Subway,” in perhaps a reference to former fat guy Jared, who has made a career out of touting the chain. The episode revolved around Greendale’s decision to bring a Subway sandwich shop on campus, and additional episodes have continued to show the restaurant in the background.

Perhaps the most blatant example of Subway’s PP strategy was on the CBS cop series, “Hawaii 5-0,” which basically incorporated a TV spot into an episode in January. A rather obese fellow is seen chowing down on a footlong, while extolling the health benefits of Subway’s sandwiches—he even references Jared as he chats with the show’s detectives. There’s not much subtlety in this product placement, although you have to wonder why such an overweight person was cast as the “spokesman.”

We don’t expect to see the product placement trend to end anytime soon, both in movies and on TV. The strategy seems to work especially well for food products. Recent installments of AMC’s “Mad Men,” for example, have featured story arcs around Heinz Beans and Cool Whip. Even though that show is set in the 60’s, those products are still around.

But whatever you think about product placement, you gotta hand it to the Subway folks. They really know how to get it done.

I’m half expecting to see Brian Williams eating a Subway footlong while delivering the Nightly News.

For more insights and innovations check out CultureWaves®, the place to go for the latest observations in the World Thought Bank – events, ideas, trends and more. Add your own thoughts about anything in life – entertainment, design, technology, well-being and, yes, food trends. And, take a look at a few of our other Hot & Cool Food Trends.


More TFC