Subway and Jared Fogle have been linked for two decades through hundreds of commercials.
In one, Fogle recounts his weight-loss story, which the sandwich chain originally highlighted, sparking a long and lucrative relationship: “I knew I needed to make better choices about my health and change the way I ate. So I walked into a Subway and made a plan,” Fogle says.
Now, that relationship appears in jeopardy. Subway suspended, but did not permanently sever, its relationship with Fogle after authorities raided his Indiana home Tuesday in what Subway said was an investigation connected to the child pornography charges against a former employee of Fogle’s charity.
The charity is focused on battling childhood obesity. Its former executive director, Russell Taylor, was arrested two months ago. Fogle cut all ties with Taylor.
“Jared has been cooperating, and continues to cooperate, with law enforcement in their investigation of unspecified charges, and looks forward to its conclusion,” Fogle’s attorney Ronald Elberger said in a statement.
But the damage may already be done. Jared Fogle and his weight-loss story have been tied to Subway’s image. Now the company has to perform a balancing act.
“Subway has been doing very well, and a lot of it has been about their healthy positioning. And I think Jared has been a part of that image,” says Barbara Kahn, professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania. “You certainly don’t want to abandon someone inappropriately, but in this particular case, the accusation is a particularly bad one for a brand to be associated with.”
Khan says it’s better for Subway to walk away, whether or not Fogle faces any charges himself. Other marketing experts have come to a similar conclusion.
Subway has already removed all mention of Fogle from its website.