By Barry Janoff
September 30, 2013: Over the summer, QSR giant Subway added another star to its roster of Famous Fans when it signed international soccer icon Pelé to a multi-year deal.
Now, Subway is putting Pelé into the marketing spotlight, unveiling a TV spot that will anchor a multi-media campaign in the U.S. and beyond. The effort will build to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Pelé's native Brazil and then again in a ramp-up to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Pelé (born Edson Arantes do Nascimento) joins the likes of Michael Phelps, Nastia Liukin, Robert Griffin III, Mike Trout, Carl Edwards, Ryan Howard, Apolo Ohno and Eric LeGrand as company spokespersons.
His favorite Subway sandwich? Tuna on Italian bread.
The commercial, which broke during NBC's Sunday Night Football, opens with a smiling Pelé seated in a white chair and framed by a white background. As Brazilian samba music plays in the background, soccer balls begin to fall from the sky.
"Meet the newest member of the Subway team," a voiceover says as the rate of falling soccer balls increases in intensity. "The man who scored 1,282 — make that 1,283 goals."
The final ball bounces toward Pelé. He then breaks one of the essential rules of soccer for a non-goalie by catching it with his hands (we'll forgive him this time). He then promptly heads it in the direction of an imaginary soccer net.
"The greatest fútbol player ever," continues the voiceover, ignoring the soccer legend's handball infraction. "Pelé."
Pelé continues to smile as he drinks from a Subway cup. (See the full spot here.)
The commercial will go into regular rotation. Initial support includes Internet and social media destinations such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
"Throughout my entire career, I always made sure to take care of my body with proper nutrition, training and rest," said Pele during his Subway introductory media conference in New York this past July. "With Subway Restaurants' approach to fresh, better-for-you options, I look forward to working alongside other Famous Fans to encourage families around the world to eat well and lead active lives."
Pelé was a member of the Brazilian National Team from 1957-71 — with whom he won three World Cups — and a member of Santos from 1956-74. His career goal total also includes three seasons in the original NASL with the New York Cosmos (1975-77) as well as friendly matches for other clubs.
In 1999, he was named the "Athlete of the Century" by the International Olympic Committee.
Since retiring from active play in 1977, Pelé has been a global ambassador for the sport as well as for humanitarian and environmental causes.
"Fútbol is the global sport and Pelé is the pre-eminent player of all time," said Tony Pace, Subway's global CMO. "It's great to have him as part of the Subway brand around the world."
Subway has more than 40,000 locations in 103 nations, including more than 1,200 in Brazil, according to the company.
Pelé Breaking Tuna On Italian Bread With Subway As Newest Global Famous Fan