Tony Pace, CMO of Subway: “We are looking for a Subway Fan in the Soccer Field”

Tony Pace (photo)  is the SVP global CMO of Subway. An advertising industry veteran –and sports marketing expert– Pace has been behind some of the many marketing successes of the Subway brand since joining the firm in 2006. A former Young & Rubicam executive, Pace has been instrumental in making Subway the #2 QSR brand today (measured by sales) and the #1 brand in terms of locations worldwide, with restaurants in 99 countries. Pace is also charged with marketing to U.S. Hispanics and making sure the brand resonates with the “tricky” second and third generations. Pace, the engineer behind the famous $5 foot long marketing program, gave an exclusive interview  to Portada's Senior Correspondent Laura Martinez about the company’s Hispanic efforts and how he plans to expand the brand to Latin America. An edited transcript follows:

Portada: When did Subway begin targeting U.S. Hispanics and why?

Tony Pace: “ “To tell you the truth, I don’t know the history all that well, but when I joined the company 6 years ago, Subway was already engaged in an interesting conversation about how to go about targeting this demographic at a national level. A lot of our folks had the perspective that only certain markets should be focusing on this market, places like Texas, California, New York or maybe Chicago should be marketing to Hispanics, but not at a national level. This
has changed of course! I can tell you that in early 2006 we made a pretty good commitment to the Hispanic market, a commitment that has only grown in the past years.”

P: How much of your marketing budget do you allocate to Hispanic marketing?
T.P.: “As a privately-held company, we do not disclose percentages, nor specific figures. But I can tell you we invest “substantially” against the U.S. Hispanic market.”

P: When it comes to targeting Hispanics, who are your main competitors in the QSR category?
T.P.: “I’d say they are the same competitors we have in the general market; some of them though might have a different take on how to market to Hispanics. Back in the day when I was at Young & Rubicam, I would work with the folks at The Bravo Group and talk to potential clients about it. Back then the conversation was more about reaching first-generation Hispanics-sometimes called the unacculturated. But now we believe you need to put the emphasis on the 2nd and 3rd generations in addition to the first generation; you have to know what’s compelling and how to best target them.”

P: Why is that important?
T.P.: “I referred the other day to the children of [Puerto Rican ball player and singer] Bernie Williams. Bernie talks about his children’s Hispanic heritage, but these kids also consume the American culture. It is very important that the same brand communicates in the same way to these different audiences. You cannot be a different brand when you are communicating with the same people.”

P: What insights can you share about how Hispanics consume QSR's -Subway?
T.P.: “The good news about Subway is that this is a product that is right there in front of you when you are making your [eating] choices. You decide on the type of sandwich you want; toasted, untoasted; veggies, meat, etc... there is an abundance of fresh foods at Subway and Hispanics really appreciate this.
This is very different from other QSR.”

P: What is Subway's media mix when it targets the Hispanic population?
T.P.: “I’d say is not substantially different from our general media mix. We do a lot of TV, radio, digital... That has shown us the pattern of success.”

P: Which agencies do you work with?
T.P.: “GlobalHue is charged of our creative, while media planning and buying is done through Mediacom.”

P: You are an expert in sports - marketing. How do you apply sports marketing to Subway's strategy? How in particular to Hispanic marketing?
T.P: “We do a very good job from a media standpoint in getting sports personalities endorse our product. But it has to be genuine. The athletes we work with have to be fans of Subway. We’ve worked with famous NFL, NBA players and we continue to work with Michael Phelps, who is a true fan of Subway. In the past, we’ve worked with [soccer player] Tab Ramos, though we’re actually looking for a Subway fan in the soccer field.... There is more we can do in that
area for sure....”

P: What about ‘El Chicharito’? He even has a veggie-themed nickname?
T.P: “Chicharito would be great... But he would have to be a fan of the Subway brand. That’s very important to us.”

P: What are your plans for Latin America?
T.P: “We want to be as prominent there as we are in the U.S. We are a franchise company so there is a lot of independence in terms of [marketing] in the local markets. We are always on the lookout for great franchisees in the region.”


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Laura Martinez (@miblogestublog)

Laura has lived and worked as a journalist in Mexico, Chile, Argentina and the U.S. She was the founder and editor in chief of Marketing y Medios magazine, an English- language trade publication devoted to explaining the Hispanic market to a non-Spanish speaking audience of executives and marketers. Prior to that, she was responsible for creating and launching the Spanish-language edition of the Wall Street Journal. She was also the creator and founding editor of Entrepreneur magazine´s Spanish-language Web site www.SoyEntrepreneur.com. She is fluent in Spanish, English and French and works as a freelance writer and editor in New York City.

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