Cutting Ties: Subway’s Problematic Response to Jared Fogle’s Arrest and Conviction

After a raid on his home, Jared Fogle was “charged with traveling to other states in order to pay to have sex with underage minors” (Chapell, 2015). Fogle agreed to a plea deal, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison (Chapell, 2015).  The raid occurred two months after Russel Taylor, executive director of the Fogle Foundation, a charity Fogle founded in 2008, was arrested on child pornography charges (Morrison, 2015). Subway quickly responded via twitter to the raid and Fogle’s subsequent arrest, but tweeted only sporadically in the several weeks leading to Fogle’s sentencing (Mudd, 2015). The company “did not begin to remove Jared’s name, image, and other attributions from their stores and digital media until the charges were filed” (Sisco, 2015, para. 7).  In September, Subway released information that it had found a “serious complaint” about Fogle from 2011, although it was not sexual (Associated Press, 2015, para. 1).

The situation that Fogle has created for Subway poses a lot of questions, many of which were left unaddressed by Subway’s responses.As Sisco (2015) notes, Fogle’s “notoriety, income and career have come from [Subway],” leaving Subway partially accountable for his actions in the public’s eyes (para. 8). While decisive, Subway’s curt tweets and general lack of communication did not convey any sense of remorse for what had happened, or concern for Fogle’s victims. This lack of “honesty and accountability” has stifled Subway’s attempts to repair its reputation (Sisco, 2015, para. 8). This is especially problematic since Jared was considered a role model for young people facing the challenge of overcoming obesity, and are now being alienated by the company that they associate Fogle with. I think that Subway’s denial of any responsibility for Fogle during the investigation and trial limited their ability to be responsive to their consumer’s concerns and to improve their image by supporting both Fogle’s and Taylor’s victims. A more accommodating stance would have been more effective.

Subway’s choices to avoid publicly discussing the events, even going as far as saying that it had “no further comment” on the matter after severing its ties with Fogle, may have in fact increased public suspicion of the group (Mudd, 2015, p. 2). By refusing to have a dialogue about Fogle, Subway has missed an opportunity to address the public’s concerns and rebuild trust. Without this trust, people started to question if members of the company knew about Fogle’s criminal activity. After all, Fogle was the face of the Subway, leaving many to wonder how no one could have known. Not being publicly responsive allowed Rochelle Herman-Walrond and Cindy Mills to spread negative messages and cast more suspicion on Subway’s management for attempting to hide Fogle’s behavior (Associated Press, 2015). Having this news come up almost a month after Fogle’s sentencing created a new situation for Subway to deal with while it was still attempting to repair it’s reputation, and shows a potential flaw in the way Subway evaluates potential threats.

Overall, Subway’s emotionless response to Jared Fogle’s arrest and conviction has left the company with an uphill battle as it attempts to create a new identity for itself. By being more open with the public and accepting some responsibility for Fogle’s actions, Subway may have been able to more effective move forward and be better suited to handling accusations of covering up Fogle’s behavior.

 

References

Associated Press. (2015, September 12). Subway: Review finds ‘serious’ complaint about Jared Fogle. 

Chappell, B. (2015, November 19). Jared Fogle Sentenced To 15 Years In Prison For Sex With Minors, Child Pornography. The Two-Way: Breaking News from NPR.

Morrison, M. (2015, July 7). Subway Faces PR Crisis in Light of Jared Fogle Investigation. AdAge.

Mudd, J. (2015, August 15). How Subway’s PR team failed (and succeeded) in managing the Jared Fogle crisis. How to: marketing.

Sisco, H. (2015, August 25). Three Lessons Learned from Subway’s Crisis. Institute for Public Relations.

 

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