How Subway’s mission to fight global hunger also boosted restaurant sales

Subway's global campaign to help fight world hunger donated more than 13 million meals to charities

Subway donated 13.3 million meals to charities around the world as a result of its global campaign to fight global hunger on World Sandwich Day.

The Subway Live Feed campaign, which was created by J Walter Thompson Sydney, ran in 60 countries globally and saw sales at the 40,000 contributing restaurants increase by up to 20%.

Subway partnered with local hunger-relief charities for the global real-time, data-led campaign which saw a meal donated to charity for every Sub purchased on World Sandwich Day on 3 November.

The Drum spoke with Subway Australia’s senior marketing manager Kate Brody and J Walter Thompson Sydney’s executive creative director Simon Langley about the global campaign, which was led by the Sydney agency after winning a global pitch.

According to Langley, the idea aimed to leverage the brand’s global reach to do good for local communities.

“Subway believes no-one should ever go hungry, so our idea was a global live feed on World Sandwich Day - a data-driven idea, with a give back at its heart: enabling customers to feel good about joining together around the world to feed the hungry.

“The key was the scale of the idea and the ability to report the number of meals being given to hunger-relief charities in real time, thus spreading news of the initiative via social buzz as countries progressively woke up and joined the campaign through World Sandwich Day, encouraging more and more people to participate in the Subway Live Feed,” says Langley.

Brody says the campaign also aimed to demonstrate the global brand’s commitment to support local communities.

“This is the second year that we put the spotlight on hunger during the sandwich holiday. Last year, we celebrated National Sandwich Day in the U.S. and Canada, partnering with Feeding America and Food Banks Canada. This year we went global, partnering with more than 20 charities in over 60 countries, because hunger is a worldwide issue.

“Live Feed was more than a free sandwich on World Sandwich Day; it was an opportunity to help feed people in need through local charities around the globe.

“Every day there are people who do not get the food they need to thrive, and families around the world struggle just to put food on the table. Through our partnerships with hunger-relief organisations around the world and our vast footprint, we knew we could make a big impact,” says Brody.

The campaign tracked the donated meals in real time through the Subway Live Feed digital ticker, which drew data from Subway’s point-of-sale devices to create both a global and country-specific live tally of the meals Subway was donating.

The tally was also displayed on individual country microsites, digital banners and outdoor billboards around the world, including 42nd street in New York City. Social media and PR were also used to drive awareness, along with staff engagement, influencer marketing and local area promotion.

Langley says, “Subway is the biggest and most well-known sandwich brand in the world, so World Sandwich Day was the perfect stage for them to bring their brand purpose to life. The idea had to be global, create social buzz and be scalable and flexible across different markets.”

“Subway’s brand purpose is to give everyone access to quality food. Because the reality is that good food is not always within everyone’s reach (even in developed nations). Hunger relief is such an important issue globally, including Australia, where 15% of the population has experienced food insecurity in the past 12 months.

“Our strategy, therefore, was to leverage conscious consumption and offer customers a chance to ‘get good and do good’ – by giving them both a personal and a societal reward for buying from Subway on World Sandwich Day,” says Langley.

The campaign was Subway’s first globally activated campaign and the brand plans to make it an annual event to help demonstrate the brand’s values and purpose.

“Today’s consumers want to know the brands they support stand for something,” says Brody.

Langley agrees, “Consumers today demand that brands have a greater purpose and this involves giving back in some way. There’s a very apt quote from [sustainable food advocate] Anna Lappe that expresses this perfectly: ‘every time you spend money you are casting a vote for the kind of world you want’ and brands need to be cognisant of that in everything they do.”

Search The Drum Jobs

Explore the best jobs in Marketing and Media industries
View all open jobs

Danielle Long

Danielle Long is APAC Correspondent for The Drum with a remit to cover news from China, Australia and New Zealand. Danielle has 15 years experience as a marketing journalist and has worked on publications in the UK and Australia. She has interviewed some of the world’s leading marketing, advertising and creative brains and has written about almost every standout brand and marketing campaign from the last 15 years.

All by Danielle