Subway Signs Michael Phelps

NEW YORK Move over Jared, here comes Michael Phelps. Subway, the largest franchised restaurant in the world, announced a long-term partnership with the Olympic gold medalist.

Since winning eight gold medals at the Summer Games in Beijing, Phelps has been in serious demand. He has partnered with Kellogg Corn Flakes, Rosetta Stone, Speedo and Visa as well as hosted Saturday Night Live.

Subway itself is also on a hot streak. Its $5 footlong promotion has helped insulate the quick-service restaurant chain from the effects of the faltering economy.

Phelps’ deal is of an exclusive nature, so he cannot partner with other restaurant chains including McDonald’s, which he had been linked to during the Olympics.

“It’s always a good idea to use a celebrity,” said Ron Paul, president of Technomic, a food-service consultancy, Chicago. “They own the healthy fresh positioning. [Phelps] fits right in with that. He’s a healthy guy and so far he has a good image.”

Subway CMO Tony Pace said, in a statement, “We knew Michael Phelps was a big fan of our sandwiches and we wanted to build on that with him to illustrate that Subway is a brand that can play a role in helping everyone, from elite athletes to weekend joggers, perform at peak levels and make healthier, smarter choices about food, whatever the activity.”
Subway spent $400 million-plus on media last year, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. For the first nine months of 2008, it doled out almost $340 million.

Independent MMB in Boston serves as Subway’s lead shop.