Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 21 No. 2
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

Ohno, Liukin, Griffin will carry torch for Subway campaign

Terry Lefton
It is as certain as the sun rising: If this is an Olympic year, there’s a Subway Olympic marketing effort in the works.

We were certain that when the brand signed Apolo Anton Ohno early last year it wasn’t just so that he could run the New York City Marathon, which Subway also sponsors. Sure enough, once we dug through the restaurant chain’s current love affair with the avocado, it turns out Ohno will be featured on point-of-sale material in Subway’s 25,000 U.S. stores during the London Games and on TV ads that will run during Subway’s heavy NBC Olympic buy.

Winter Olympian Ohno will co-star with avocados in some of Subway’s summer advertising.
Since McDonald’s is the longtime International Olympic Committee TOP sponsor in the quick-service restaurant category, IOC rules prevent Subway from using decorated swimmer Michael Phelps or any participating athletes in marketing just before or during the Games. Ohno, a Winter Olympic athlete, will do the job nicely, the same way Phelps was featured in Subway ads during the 2010 Winter Games.

Ohno will continue Subway’s relentless sales push for sandwiches with avocados.

Other Subway endorsers to get some airtime include gold-medal gymnast Nastia Liukin, who did not qualify for this year’s U.S. Olympic team. Blake Griffin, off the USA Basketball squad after knee surgery, will also appear in some ads. Even new Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III will be featured in his first TV ads for Subway.

“There are very few places left where you can reach a large and diverse media audience, but the Olympics are one of the best and one of the only places to get that, especially in the summer,” said Subway CMO Tony Pace, adding that Subway has been working with all of its Olympic-tied “famous fans” for some time and continues to feature them within an “official training restaurant” platform.

Any love letters yet from McDonald’s, which wasn’t thrilled with Subway’s use of Phelps during the Winter Olympics?
“There’s always some arm twisting, but we are sticking to long-term themes with our athletes,” Pace said. “We’ve always abided by the rules and we both know that the preponderance of Olympic revenue comes from broadcast rights. Obviously, we are a big supporter of NBC and the Games in that regard.”

DROP BY DROP: Consumer products company Fuse Science, which signed Tiger Woods last November to one of his first endorsement deals after the golfer’s sex scandal, continues to add athletes. Latest in the fold are Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz and Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista. Both are repped by Alex Radetsky of Radegen Sports Management.

Fuse Science, which signed Tiger Woods, now has more athletes under its umbrella.
Next on board for Fuse with a similar equity-based deal is New York Knicks center and 2012 Olympian Tyson Chandler. More importantly, there are some product launches coming and expanded distribution, via an agreement with Mission Products, through which Fuse says it will gain distribution within CVS, Duane Reade, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Modell’s and Rite Aid locations.

Scheduled for a Labor Day Weekend launch are products delivered by drops under the tongue. Fuse CEO Adam Adler described PowerDrops as “5-Hour Energy in a drop form with 20 percent of the caffeine.” Another product, ElectroFuse, is a Gatorade challenger also delivered in drop form. That launch is particularly interesting since Woods was once a Gatorade endorser and because his image will be used on packaging and in market for both products, Adler said.

Terry Lefton can be reached at