March 2013 marks Jared Fogle’s 15th year as a spokesperson for SUBWAY Restaurants. In a day and age when ad execs are always on the lookout for the ‘next big thing,’ Fogle’s 245-pound SUBWAY sandwich weight loss story, coupled with his likeable everyman persona, have made him one of the most durable and recognizable product pitchmen on the planet. And, according to SUBWAY.com, the association is not likely to end anytime soon. As the page entitled “Jared’s Journey” notes, “Losing 245 pounds – and staying healthy – is never over.”
Jared spoke recently with writer Becca Gladden at a Phoenix Coyotes hockey game, where he was participating in a promotion for the Subway Fresh Fit 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.
Q. When you were growing up, you probably weren’t thinking that you wanted to grow up to be a SUBWAY spokesman.
A. (Laughs) No, not so much.
Q. What did you want to be when you were a kid?
A. I always say “be careful what you wish for,” because I used to dream as a kid that I would have a job someday where I got to travel around the country all the time, stay in nice hotels, fly on airplanes – and that’s a big chunk of what I do these days.
I was a business management major in college and I still didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I always liked the travel industry, so I thought I might work in the travel industry in some way. I was 20 years old when I lost all the weight with SUBWAY sandwiches and I got my life back on track. I never thought in a million years it would ever turn into all this. But (as a kid), I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I just wanted to have a cool job and that part I am very thankful for, because I have what I think is one of the greatest jobs ever and it’s been that way for 15 years now.
Q. The SUBWAY thing came up while you were still in college, before you graduated, right?
A. Correct. I was a 20-year-old college kid and I weighed over 425 pounds. I lived next door to a SUBWAY restaurant and that’s where I got the idea to try to lose the weight eating it twice a day, which I did. It took a year to lose all the weight by doing that, plus walking every day.
The folks at SUBWAY got wind of my story through some newspaper articles – this was at the very beginning of the internet era, so there was no Facebook, there was social media, there was none of that. It just got picked up the old-fashioned way from some newspaper articles. The folks at SUBWAY found out what I did and ultimately approached me to do a test commercial while I was still a student in school. They flew my out to California back in early 1999 to film that commercial and we’ve never looked back.
Q. Did you finish your degree even though you had started on this new path?
A. I did. I was able to finish. Luckily, the timing was perfect and you can’t control that part. I was very lucky that it happened toward the end of my last year of school, so I was able to get my degree in business management, marketing and administration. I still never thought this was going to turn into a full-time job afterwards. I sort of did it a little bit on the side and realized there was some interest in me going and doing some of the media circuit and traveling to some of the local SUBWAY markets and it just turned into a full-time thing.
Q. A lot of people probably wonder about the perks of what you do. You’ve met a lot of famous athletes and celebrities and been to a lot of different places. Is there one thing that really stands out in your mind?
A. Growing up in Indianapolis, I’m absolutely a huge sports fan, so I think it’s the fact that I’ve gotten to be part of so many big sporting events around the country. SUBWAY has now sent me to the last seven Super Bowls and getting to take my father with me when the Indianapolis Colts played the Chicago Bears a number of years back and being there for work was amazing.
I remember thinking at the start of the night, “I can’t believe I’m getting to do this with my dad.” That’s probably one of the coolest things I’ve gotten to do. I’ve gotten to go the White House a couple of times and meet President Obama and President Bush, and they knew who I was, so that was really surreal. Those kinds of things that you would just never think in a million years (would happen) are probably the coolest things I get to do.
Q. Now, on the flip side, you mentioned travel and staying in hotels. What would be a little bit of the downside of your job? Do you get heckled by people?
A. I think one of the things when you’re in the public spotlight like this is that you lose your privacy. You don’t have the ability to maintain that sometimes. You learn ways to try and get as much of it as you can. Part of my thing now is that I’m trying to maintain the weight loss, but when you travel as much as I do, you really can never develop an actual routine because every day is so different – you have flight delays, you have this and that, you’re starting at the crack of dawn and going all day. I have to be pretty disciplined when I’m on the road not to go overboard. When you’re in some of these nice suites like we are here tonight at the Coyotes game and getting to be part of this stuff – you can’t overdo it too much. You enjoy it for what it is, but realize you’ve got to wake up the next day and get back on track.
Q. One of the things that I’m impressed with is how long you’ve been with SUBWAY. Companies hire spokespeople all the time and the next day it’s someone new. What do you think has allowed you to have such longevity?
A. I think part of it is that I’m still who I am. I’m not an actor – I’m Jared, the SUBWAY guy. It’s my story. It’s who I am and they’ve always let me be me. I think that resonates with people and they say, “If that Jared guy can do it, I can do it, too.” The fact that I have been able to keep the weight off now for 15 years continues to hopefully motivate other people to say, “Wow, I can do that, also.”
Q. Tell me about what you’ll be doing at the NASCAR race this weekend.
A. We’re out here for the SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500. We’re going to be out there with Brian Baumgartner, who plays Kevin on the show “The Office.” He’s going to be the honorary Grand Marshal and I’m going to be one of the honorary race officials. We’re just having a lot of fun getting to be up on stage with the drivers during the driver introductions and I actually get to award the trophy at the end of the race to the winner as well. It’s some neat stuff and, like I said, being a huge sports fan, to be so actively involved in this capacity is just so neat for me and I’m loving every bit of it.
Q. How can people learn more about you and SUBWAY?
A. SUBWAY.com is a great way. I also have my own foundation for childhood obesity called the Jared Foundation. We have a really cool program called CATCH, which is now in over 7,000 schools and aftercare centers around the country. It stands for Coordinated Approach To Child Health and it is specifically geared for elementary and middle school students to avoid the pitfalls that I went through myself. It’s been around for about 20 years and we’ve been on board with them for about two or three years now. I really think it’s a program that could have worked for me when I was kid, that would have taken me down a much better path, and that’s sort of my litmus test.
You can find out more information at JaredFoundation.org. We’ve got all the information about childhood obesity, our initiatives and what we’re doing around the country, and ways to donate as well, because every little dollar helps and it makes a huge difference. My goal is to be a leader in childhood obesity advocacy. I think we all know it’s a problem in our country. We just don’t have a lot of positive solutions right now and this is one that has been around for 20 years and has the scientific research to show it works – it reduces BMI and reduces absenteeism rates in school. We’re trying to do a lot of good with it.