What Happened to Jared, The Famous Subway Spokesperson?
When I was a kid, I remember Jared from Subway, who, in commercials, claimed he lost over 200 pounds just by eating Subway sandwiches and constantly presented before and after photos of his progress. He even showed his jeans of when he weighed more than 400 pounds as a comparison to his then much slimmer weight.
While my brother and I knew that you do much more than eat Subway sandwiches to lose 200 pounds, the effects still stuck with us — Subway became our go-to “healthy” fast-food restaurant. In a way, it still is and I feel better going out to eat with my co-workers during our lunch break at Subway rather than McDonald’s or Burger King.
Jared was a legend, and his message, coupled with the very catchy $5 footlong jingle (which was always a lie, because most footlongs I encountered at Subway were upwards of $6), made Subway appealing to us. And it was successful as a commercial strategy as well because according to Chris Isidore and Cristina Alesci at CNN Business, Jared started his first ad with Subway in 2000.
Two years after his first ad, the Subway store ad surpassed 16,000, which was more than the number of McDonald’s stores at the time. By 2015, Subway had 44,000 stores internationally in 110 countries, more than McDonald’s. Rheana Murray at the NY Daily News reports that sales at Subway almost quadrupled from $3 billion in 1998 to $11.5 billion in 2011. Tony Pace, then Subway’s chief marketing officer, said a third to half of Subway’s growth was attributed to Jared.
“His story still resonates,” Pace said. “It sounds a bit hokey, but we consider Jared an essential part of the family.”
It’s important to note that it’s less expensive to open a Subway storefront than a McDonalds or Burger King. Regardless, Jared played a big role — in 2013, he was worth an estimated $15 million.
Of course, many people in America remember Jared’s scandal revealed five years ago: he got convicted in a federal court for possessing child pornography and traveling to pay for sex with minors. He was sentenced to 15 years and 8 months in federal prison.
This is the story of Jared’s rise and fall at Subway, his tarnished legacy, and the effect of his charges on Subway’s now struggling brand.
How Jared Fogle became Subway’s poster boy
According to Christina Littlefield and Ryan Parker at the LA Times, in 1998, Jared was a student at Indiana University who weighed 425 pounds. The story is that he was barely able to walk around campus, and then he decided to turn his life around.
He lived 10 steps away from a Subway’s restaurant, so he started eating two Subway sandwiches a day, skipping breakfast, and exercising more. In 11 months, he dropped 245 pounds.
In the process, he caught the attention of someone who lived in his dorm that wrote a piece about him. In April of 1999, he landed on the front page of the Indiana Daily Student. Later, Men’s Health wrote about Jared as well in a November 1999 article titled “Stupid Diets That Work.”
The article caught the attention of Subway franchisees, who later gave him a deal to make an ad campaign about his experience. In the words of Littlefield and Parker:
“His everyday-Joe quality quickly gained mass appeal. By the next year, the sandwich company was showcasing success stories of others who had lost weight while eating its food.”
In short, Jared became a legend. He quickly started appearing at NASCAR races and carried an Olympic torch through Indiana on its way to Salt Lake City. At the college football Fiesta Bowl in 2003, Jared did the coin toss.
He became parodied on both Saturday Night Live by Jimmy Fallon, as well as South Park:
For Jared, the parodies were very flattering, and he was ecstatic. Later, he appeared in multiple movies, including Super Size Me, a 2004 documentary about the perils of fast food. In many of his commercials as well, he included his “fat jeans,” which have a 60-inch waistband and fit him when he weighed 425 pounds.
In 2005, the company stopped airing him briefly, and sales fell 10%. By promoting itself as the healthy fast-food chain, Subway was able to partner with organizations like the American Heart Association. In 2004, Jared himself started the Jared Foundation, which aimed at raising awareness about childhood obesity.
He got his fair share of extremely memorable experiences. Jared brought his dad to watch the Indianapolis Colts play the Chicago Bears in the 2007 Super Bowl, hung out with Michael Phelps, and met multiple Presidents.
In 2010, Jared had regained 40 pounds, but Subway wanted to stick with him and even turned his journey into a marketing strategy: Subway trained Jared to run the New York City Marathon, and he did so in 5 hours, 13 minutes, and 28 seconds. According to an interview with the LA Times in 2012, he said he would “never do it again.”
In many ways, Jared was the average Joe, an authentic person in ads who had a message that related to a lot of customers, including my brother, who has been insecure for most of his life about his weight. In the 15th year anniversary of his weight-loss campaign, Subway aired a commercial as part of a partnership with Michelle Obama.
The child pornography charges
In 2015, the FBI raided Jared Fogle’s home during a child pornography investigation. Suspicion about Jared and pedophilia started in 2007 when a radio host named Rochelle Herman-Walrond alleged that Jared had made sexually lewd comments about minors to her. She became acquaintances with Jared and noted that during a trip to Florida with him during a promotion, Jared mentioned that he was attracted to middle school girls.
According to Alex Perez in ABC News, she reported the conversation to authorities and would wear a wire over the course of the next four years, as an informant to the FBI. During some conversations, Jared allegedly said he traveled to New York City to have sex with underage girls and would receive and distribute child pornography there.
“He would tell me the ages he was interested, boy or girl,” she told ABC News. “He indicated the fact that he has done it before and told me in gross detail what transpired.”
However, there still wasn’t sufficient evidence to bring charges against Jared. In 2015, Russell Taylor, the former head of the Jared Foundation, was investigated by authorities and found to have traded child pornography of children as young as six with Jared. Russell was sentenced to 27 years in prison. According to Tim Horty, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney:
“What we found in Russell Taylor’s home and on his computer led us to Jared.”
Others would tell authorities about Jared’s comments and text messages having sexually abused children. One franchisee, Cindy Mills, claimed Jared spoke openly about his interest in children with her in 2008, and Subway did nothing about it because Jared was not a Subway employee.
During his trial, Jared Fogle’s wife, Kathleen McLaughlin, sought a divorce. It was finalized on November 16, 2015, to which McLaughlin wanted to protect their children to avoid a “self-inflicted media circus.” On November 19, 2015, Jared Fogle was sentenced to 15 years and 8 months in prison.
Since being in prison, Jared has transferred to multiple prison centers. In March of 2016, Jared was assaulted by a man named Steven Nigg, who, according to his nephew, “can’t be around child molesters.” It happened at the Federal Correctional Institute in Englewood, Colorado, which has a program for sex offenders, and is where Jared serves now.
Nigg wanted to send a message that child molesters shouldn’t be in a minimum-security prison. His nephew claimed that Steven Nigg could have very easily killed Jared if he wanted to, but didn’t.
“What he wanted to do is send a message, and he did,” his nephew said.
Nigg was transferred to another federal prison. On November 13, 2017, Jared Fogle filed an argument that a federal court didn’t have the jurisdiction to convict him. Judge Walton Pratt immediately struck down the claim.
Ever since the 2015 scandal, Subway cut its ties with Jared. Its business has been declining since — in 2016, it closed more stores than it opened, for the first time in its history. In 2018, it closed 1,108 locations in the U.S.
In a 2018 interview with the Daily Mail, Marc Brooks, a former inmate at Englewood who served eight months in the prison, said Jared was doing extremely well. He said that Jared is “living the life in there,” eating fancy food, cooking, free to gamble, and use a computer whenever he wants. In prison, Jared allegedly even received a qualification for culinary arts. Brooks said that Jared is “real healthy and fit” at approximately 180–200 pounds. As for the Englewood facility, Brooks compared it more to daycare than a prison.
While Jared serves his sentence in prison, I notice that I never actually knew Jared’s last name throughout my childhood, and that’s why I reference him by his first name throughout.
I didn’t pay attention much to the news of the child pornography scandal when it happened, but obviously feel let down that Jared, a cultural icon of my childhood, could be a child molester and distributor of child pornography. Not only that, but I pray and hope victims of Jared have received restitution and healing from their trauma.