NEW YORK – Sandwich chain Subway Restaurants (search), portraying itself as a leader in the fight against childhood obesity, unveiled a new ad campaign Wednesday that brings back a long-time spokesman who lost nearly 250 pounds eating Subway sandwiches daily.
Spokesman Jared Fogle (search) disappeared from the chain's commercials about a year ago at the request of franchisees who wanted to broaden the chain's message, Subway President Fred DeLuca said in an interview.
Now, the Subway Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust (search) is spending about 20 percent of its annual budget on advertising that will include a lineup of new television ads featuring Fogle as well as other young people.
"It will pay off for the brand in the long run," DeLuca said. "When people start to make better choices, they are more likely to choose Subway."
As part of the new campaign, Subway will offer children's meals featuring sports-oriented toys like Frisbees to encourage exercise.
The chain will spend about $30 million on the campaign at the national level and an equivalent amount locally, DeLuca said.
Earlier this year, privately held Subway dropped advertising agency Fallon Worldwide, which crafted ads featuring offbeat characters such as a man in a cheerleading outfit. Fallon spent less than a year on the account.
Just two months later, Fogle and the healthier eating craze are again taking center stage at Subway. The new ads were produced by Fallon before it was dropped.
DeLuca said Subway is not trying to compete with McDonald's Corp. (MCD), whose children's Happy Meals include toys that are often tied in with major motion pictures.
"The real message we are delivering is focused toward parents," DeLuca said.
As concerns fester over the roughly 15 percent of U.S. children considered overweight, several of the nation's food and restaurant companies have taken measures to portray themselves as helping to eliminate the problem.
Kraft Foods Inc. and Coca-Cola Co., for instance, said earlier this year they were co-sponsoring an after-school health and wellness program with the Boys & Girls Club of America (search).
McDonald's is producing videos with Warner Home Video in which its clown mascot, Ronald McDonald, will dance and play sports with kids from around the world to promote active lifestyles.