For 15 years, Jared Fogle has been an ideal spokesman for Subway, which benefited as much from his earnest demeanor as from his redemptive weight-loss story.
This morning, though, Subway is facing an unexpected turnabout in public opinion of its longtime pitchman after his home was raided by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. Many observers assume the search is connected to the recent child pornography charges against the head of Fogle's charitable foundation, though authorities have not confirmed the two are related.
UPDATE: A Subway spokesman has issued the following statement: "We are shocked about the news and believe it is related to a prior investigation of a former Jared Foundation employee. We are very concerned and will be monitoring the situation closely. We don't have any more details at this point."
The story has already vaulted Subway to being the top trending topic on Twitter, and "Jared Fogle" is currently the No. 3 trending topic on Facebook.
Specifics of the investigation or Fogle's involvement in the case have not been revealed by authorities, but photographers captured images of Fogle being led in and out of an evidence truck parked outside his home, and the pictures quickly circulated across the Web.
In the first hour after the news broke, more than 100 articles about the investigation were posted to news sites, with each headline referencing Subway. On Twitter, dark jokes and disbelief flooded in as the news quickly became the day's top story.
Me: Wait, why is "Subway" the top Twitter trend? ::Googles:: ... oh ... ohhh no.— Sarah Baicker (@sbaickerTCN) July 7, 2015
Hey Subway, I have a great new spokesperson for you. pic.twitter.com/DgpRuMiOAM— Robbie Rozelle (@divarobbie) July 7, 2015
Some Twitter users also noted that the news was served up directly alongside Subway's sponsored posts:
Subway this is not the time...... pic.twitter.com/7CYw0sSfa0— Grace (@yagirlG) July 7, 2015
The investigation follows the arrest two months ago of Russell Taylor, executive director of the Jared Foundation, on child pornography charges. Taylor attempted suicide while in a Marion, Indiana, jail on May 6 and is said to be recovering.
Investigators who searched Taylor's home said they found more than 400 videos of child pornography involving at least four victims. He now faces eight federal counts of producing or possessing child pornography.
Adweek has reached out to Subway for comment on this developing story.