Subway puts entertainment on menu

Fast-food chain produces 'Golf' special

Subway is adding entertainment to its menu.

The fast-food chain, which has long pursued tie-ins with movies to sell more sandwiches, has paired up with “The Office” thesp Brian Baumgartner to produce “Golf Therapy: Life, Lessons and the Pursuit of Par.”

It will launch as a one-hour special today on NBC before the final round of the “U.S. Senior Open” golf tournament, and will spinoff as a web series.

Branded entertainment shop Content & Co., which launched the action sports series “Clean Break” for Schick Hydro on Crackle.com in June, connected Baumgartner with Subway. Thesp already had a relationship with NBC.

In the special, Baumgartner, an avid golfer in real life, tells his therapist (played by Rachael Harris) of his nightmares about his annual appearance in Lake Tahoe celebrity golf tournament, the American Century Championship.

To prepare him, Baumgartner visits athletes for tips to improve his game — including Los Angeles Lakers’ Pau Gasol; New York Yankees’ pitcher CC Sabathia; current and former New York Giants defensive linemen Justin Tuck and Michael Strahan; U.S. Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin; Muhammed Ali’s daughter Laila Ali, a former pro boxer; and Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Subway is backing the project as a way to promote its Famous Fans program, made up of athletes who profess their love for the chain.

It will also be among a library of shows that Subway will air on screens it’s installing in its 23,000 stores across the U.S. Only several hundred are in place now.

“Everybody talks the ‘content’ word,” Tony Pace, Subway’s chief marketing officer, told Daily Variety. “Having content that we can push out on different channels would be a big benefit for us and the people we work with. But you have to find a balance of entertainment and marketing messages. You need to have a little entertainment or you’ll get tuned out.”

Once up and running, Subway’s TV network, its Facebook page and distribution deals with online entertainment sites, could be an attractive new outlet for programming. Some 30 million customers go to Subway each week, more people than watch “The Office.”

“‘Golf Therapy’ is a project I’ve wanted to produce for couple of years, but it didn’t really fit the standard model, so it was hard to get started,” said Baumgartner, who has previously produced a web series about turtle racing for CollegeHumor.com through his 3-Bees production shingle. “The ability to team up with Subway in a new way gave me the creative freedom I was looking for and the ability to get this done on a much larger scale, while extending my relationships within the NBC family.”

The goal is now to continue producing “Golf Therapy” specials and produce the series online and across other platforms. Subway also used the “Golf Therapy” production to simultaneously shoot additional footage with its Famous Fans for a series of commercials that won’t feature Baumgartner, to maximize production dollars.

Matchups of talent with brands will continue to help develop, finance and distribute TV and Web content, said Stuart McLean, CEO of Content & Co., who is exec-producing the project with Baumgartner, Scott Wood and Peter Isacksen.

“Everybody has an equal seat at the table, resulting in a show with uncompromising creative vision and unparalleled marketing and promotional support,” McLean said.

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