Each afternoon, like clockwork, lines form in front of the Subway in the LaFortune Student Center as students wait to order their favorite subs. What most of those students do not realize is that the guy behind Subway’s global brand advertising, the guy behind $5 Footlongs, those television commercials with Jared Fogle and Subway ads with celebrities like Michael Phelps, is Notre Dame alum Tony Pace.
Pace, a 1979 alumnus, is the Chief Marketing Executive of the Subway Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust. Since Pace joined Subway in 2006 and helped create a new digital marketing team, develop new marketing opportunities on shows like “The Biggest Loser” and “Chuck” and bring the $5 Footlong deal to widespread success.
Pace, a passionate Notre Dame fan who has a helmet signed by Joe Montana in his office, said he was disappointed that the Notre Dame Subway location does not offer $5 Footlongs. He does not believe students should have to go off campus to take advantage of the deal.
“As a longstanding and generous alum, I’m not very happy about [that.] I see ads in the Observer for Subways off-campus [for] the $5 Footlongs. That makes me upset,” he said.
Pace said his education at Notre Dame as a double major in the Program of Liberal Studies and economics, as well as his experience as Editor-in-Chief of The Observer, helped prepare him for a job in the business world.
“The Observer was the toughest job I ever had,” Pace said. “I was Editor-in-Chief of the Observer from March 1978 to March 1979. Before that, I was features Editor, and before that I covered interhall sports.”
After graduating from Notre Dame, Pace went on to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, where he earned his Masters of Business Administration and was the editor of Business School Weekly.
Pace said his background in journalism and the liberal arts helped him build the communication skills necessary for a career in business.
“I’m in marketing now, and the great thing about marketing is that a big piece of it is how you communicate — whether you write headlines, or lay out a paper, all that was fabulous training,” he said.
Pace said under his leadership, Subway emphasized advertising on the Internet, specifically on Facebook and Twitter sites of celebrities.
“Obviously, everyone’s communicating digitally now,” he said. “We are trying to use innovative techniques in [our advertising.] Whether its Michael Phelps, Michael Strahan, Nastia Liukin — all of those folks also have a presence in the digital [space] and social media.”
Pace said Subway does not solely use the faces of celebrities to promote the brand.
“Unlike many other brands, we don’t use celebrities, we use fans of Subway who happen to be famous,” Pace explained. “These guys and gals really do eat at Subway, so it’s natural for them to talk about the brand.”
Pace said that sometimes, celebrities will tweet the sandwich they’re ordering, just because they love Subway, and because they know “the [people at Subway] like it.”
“Michael Strahan will go into a Subway and send out a tweet say ‘I’m having a Subway blank and blank sandwich,'” Pace said. “We just view it as another way to connect to our consumers. [Social media] advertising allows consumers to get as close to Subway as they want.”
While digital media is an ever-expanding advertising platform, Pace said he has not lost focus on more traditional methods of advertising.
“Television is still an extremely effective media form,” he said. “Without traditional advertising, the $5 Footlong Song would never have caught on that quickly. With television … you’re reaching 30 million people with a message.”
Most recently, Pace has been working on an advertising campaign with the New York City Marathon, creating a sponsorship deal as “Official Training Partner” since Subway’s Jared Fogle will be participating in marathon.
“So the thing that we just kicked off last weekend is making news of the fact that Jared’s running the New York City Marathon,” Pace said. “Jared lost all that weight by walking and eating Subway. Here we are 10 years later he’s running a marathon, so that’s a big deal. We have a TV commercial [on Jared] that actually just started running on Sunday.”
Pace emphasized that all of Subway’s “Famous Fans” are celebrities who already liked to eat at Subway.
“If I ask someone what their favorite sandwich is, and they say ‘uh…tuna?’ I know that person isn’t a real fan,” Pace explained.
He said people often have a go-to Subway sandwich. He talked about Michael Phelps ordering turkey when he’s in training, but a meatball sub when he’s not.
Pace said he personally likes to get creative with his Subway order.
“My favorite Subway sandwich is actually not on the menu,” he said. “My favorite is what I refer to as ‘chicken and cheese.’ I want a single portion of cheese, half of it Swiss and half of it provolone. Put onions on before you toast it, so they’re cooked into the cheese. Then I want lettuce, tomato, cucumber, sometimes pickles or banana peppers, depending how I’m feeling, and a bit of mayo … usually on flatbread, although I also do Italian once in awhile.”