‘I Want My Blimpie’ Gets Play In Summer Sub Promo

Blimpie Subs & Salads, the 40-year-old sandwich chain with humble beginnings in Hoboken, N.J., doesn’t want to be thought of as just a hole-in-the-wall sub shop. Instead, the 1,700-store chain is featuring better fare, high-profile consumer promotions and a new ad campaign that positions the company as a contemporary deli.

With a nearly $20 million media spend and Blimpie’s biggest summer promotion, the campaign kicks off May 28. It aims to remind consumers who have headed to other chains, such as Subway and Quiznos Subs, of this old favorite, as well as lure new patrons.

Overall, Blimpie wants to position itself as a place with “a remarkable passion for food and fun that fills the senses,” said Blimpie chief marketing officer Mark Mears, who joined the company last fall.

To do this, the chain is returning to its “I want my Blimpie” rallying cry. Developed by its former agency, Publicis’ The Kaplan Thaler Group in New York, the tagline will receive more prominent placement to reflect the company’s “essence of individuality and customization,” said Mears.

Blimpie—whose 2003 sales of $237 million were down nearly 11 percent from 2002, according to Technomic in Chicago—views its “Super Summer” efforts, which revolve around promotional, product and price news, as a new beginning.

A six-spot radio blitz featuring ads that tout a variety of new products, among other offerings, will run nationally during the summer. The work includes lines such as: “The best subs, the best salads, the best music all summer long.”

The company has been rapidly renovating its menu, adding a Carb-Counter and new sandwich varieties. It is now rolling out three panini-grilled subs and “Super Salads.” Blimpie will also introduce the first full-size LidRock CD, created by the Convex Group in Atlanta. For every 32-ounce drink purchased, customers can buy a CD featuring music by Alanis Morissette, 3 Doors Down or LeAnn Rimes for $1.

The chain is the exclusive national presenting sponsor of Clear Channel’s “Summer of Live” tour, in which 1,100 concerts will be held at 35 venues during a five-month period. Through print ads and in-store signage, Blimpie will support a sweepstakes that will send customers to concerts on the tour.

TV, from Clear Channel agency Tour Design in Franklin, Ind., will run in a dozen markets, promoting the subs, salads and CDs in a frenetic, MTV-style spot. With no lead agency, the chain is using shops on a project basis. Razor Competitive Edge in Addison, Texas; Downtown Partners in Dallas; and PrintPro in Atlanta are handling media, online and print, respectively.

“We’re trying to bank on a unique, cravable taste that makes Blimpie worth driving past two Subways and a Quiznos,” Mears said.

It won’t be easy, considering Subway spent $310 million on media last year, compared with Blimpie’s $2 million, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Subway is also planning on installing toaster ovens in its shops this summer to fend off Quiznos, which spent about $45 million on media last year, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Subway has become the world’s biggest fast-food franchise in terms of locations, posting $5.7 billion in U.S. sales in 2003, according to Technomic. Quiznos’ sales were up 33 percent last year to $818 million, according to Technomic.

“The problem right now for anyone in [the sub] category is differentiation,” said Technomic president Ron Paul. “The category leader, Subway, has a very strong presence, thousands of more locations and has been very innovative on the menu front.”