Pizza Hut quickly steps in as NFL sponsor after Papa John's cuts ties
- Yum Brands' Pizza Hut is the new official pizza sponsor of the NFL after Papa John's severed its relationship with the league earlier this week, CNBC reported. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
- Pizza Hut's sponsorship begins with the 2018 NFL Draft in April, and the brand hopes to expand into new markets and strengthen its digital efforts. Through the partnership, Pizza Hut will have the opportunity to use all 32 teams in its marketing and work with the NFL on local campaigns, such as fan experiences and game tickets. Since the beginning of 2018, the pizza chain has been discounting its pizzas, holding contests and offering new rewards to increase its market share.
- Papa John's founder and former CEO John Schnatter blamed the NFL for the company's poor sales during a call with investors in November. He said the league had not addressed the controversial actions of players kneeling during the National Anthem and resulting TV ratings decline. Papa John's, which served as the NFL's official pizza sponsor for eight years, will reportedly focus on deals with specific teams and players, according to CNBC.
Pizza Hut has seen success with sports fans in the past and is hoping to build on that relationship with its new NFL partnership. The brand will likely lean on the new partnership as it looks to regain its title as biggest pizza chain, a distinction recently lost to Domino's.
Leveraging its relationship with sports fans, Pizza Hut has also pushed its digital offerings through a series of promotions tied to live TV sports events. Pizza Hut partnered with Yahoo during the 2017 Super Bowl and NCAA March Madness men’s basketball tournament on a digital pick ’em game. The promotion accounted for some of the biggest transaction days for Pizza Hut. The brand’s “Pizza Hut Rivalry Challenge” during the 2018 FCS National Championship came with a digital deal for fans. On the merchandise side, Pizza Hut released Pie Tops footwear with built-in Bluetooth last March where customers could push a button on the shoe to order pizzas via the brand’s app.
Pizza Hut has been positioning itself for the increased exposure that the NFL partnership will bring. Over the past year, the company invested $130 million in upgraded equipment, restaurant technology and advertising strategies, and hired 14,000 delivery drivers, which had improved the company’s performance, according to CNBC. In August, Pizza Hut launched the Hut Rewards loyalty program. The digital-focused promotions led to a significant increase in users for Pizza Hut’s app, where 70% of its online sales were made last year.