Friday, September 1, 2023

F ³: Pickles, No Balls


I would not be here at five in the morning researching movie tie-ins were it not for this image from Subway restaurants.

Image and promotional material property of Subway restaurants

I cannot explain why I am so amused by the thought of a Pickleball Club (Sandwich) at Subway. I also don’t know why I saw this image yesterday for the first time when the fine print tells me that this promotion began in April. 

It all has to do with an event called the Pickleball Slam, which will happen in 2024. Wow. That’s planning ahead.

Pickleball Slam 2, February 4, 2024 ESPN

I probably don’t have to explain Pickleball, the amateur sports craze which is taking the world by storm. As for myself, I don’t understand it. We have tennis and badminton - -  what more do you need? Throw in some ping pong/table tennis and that sort of sporty activity is pretty much covered. Wait, I forgot racquetball. 

Okay, so there’s always room for one more, apparently. If you have good hand-eye coordination (big surprise: I don’t) then Pickleball is a whole new way for you to enjoy yourself with friends.

And Subway wants a piece of that action, obviously. So they’ve created a Pickleball sandwich. (Yes, I still think it’s hilarious.) I’m somewhat disappointed that it doesn’t include both pickles and meatballs. It seems a missed opportunity to me. Perhaps that idea was considered and rejected during market research and focus groups/taste testing. Would I eat a sandwich with pickles and meatballs? No. But it does feel more Pickleball-ish in a purely literal sense. 

If it says “pickleball” then it should have, well…you get the point.

Why movie tie-ins, you ask? Well, Subway’s promotion is similar to the blitz of products we’ve had raining down on us this summer in connection with the Barbie movie, for instance. We’ve become used to themed Happy Meals associated with movie releases like The Little Mermaid and video games launched right along with action movies. 

Here’s blast from the past: I remember the first time I encountered a movie tie-in experience. It was at Howard Johnson’s restaurant while waiting for my meal. All children received a special promotional activity packet complete with comic book story-telling based on 2001: A Space Odyssey. I thought it was very cool but my mother did not. She took a dim view of Howard Johnson’s using their kid’s menu to sell an unrelated product.

Howard Johnson’s kids menu and activity page 

That was in 1968. 

She was right about the questionable ethics of selling to kids in that way. We all know that there was no stopping it, however. (Not to mention product placement in television and movies.) Participating in current trends in popular culture by consuming themed food and drink at themed restaurant nights along with dressing up to go see movies has become an accepted, if not encouraged, part of modern life.

Will the new Pickleball Club tempt you to head on over to Subway to try their “new honey mustard and thicker, crunchier pickles”? Are you interested in next year’s Pickleball Slam? Or perhaps you have something to say about tie-ins, merchandising and promotion, or product placement.

It’s a free-for-all. Let me know.

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