- Yum Brands's Pizza Hut is bringing back its "Pie Tops" sneakers, designed by the Shoe Surgeon, for the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament, according to news made available to Marketing Dive. This year's version of the sneaker comes in two colors reflecting pizza ingredients, red and wheat, with added sizes for women and teenagers.
- Introduced last year, Pie Tops allow users to order a pizza by pushing a button on the tongue of the shoe. Pie Tops II are receiving an upgrade that now lets the wearer pause live TV by pushing a button inside the tongue of the other shoe through Bluetooth technology that's connected to the wearer's smartphone and Pie Tops mobile app.
- Pizza Hut is selling 50 pairs of Pie Tops II to the public via the fashion and lifestyle e-commerce site Hypebeast during the week of March 19. Fans can follow @PizzaHut and @Hypebeast to find out how they can access additional pairs of Pie Tops II.
With the limited availability of Pie Tops II, along with the new colors and additional Bluetooth integrations, Pizza Hut will likely attract a lot of attention on social media during the closely-watched March Madness tournament. Sneakerheads and other fans of basketball shoes pay close attention to limited-edition and exclusive product drops, and Pizza Hut is working with some sneaker culture bonafides like Shoe Surgeon and Hypebeast to lend some authenticity to the stunt. The built-in pizza ordering system for the first Pie Tops created a lot of buzz for the brand last year, and this year's sneakers take the connected footwear concept a step beyond mobile ordering to control TVs as well.
Giving Pie Tops II the ability to pause live TV lets Pizza Hut ensure "that tournament fans can feed their pizza craving without missing a moment of the action," Zipporah Allen, the brand's CMO, said in a statement. Pizza Hut is attempting to develop deeper relationships with sports fans, including by becoming the official pizza sponsor of the NFL last week after rival Papa John's severed ties with the league amid slumping sales.
Pizza Hut is also working harder to provide better customer experiences through mobile and digital channels as consumers demand greater convenience in their restaurants of choice. The brand, which last month lost its spot as America's top pizza chain to Domino's, recently launched voice commands that let consumers track their orders via text messages, on top of hiring 14,000 delivery drivers nationwide and investing $130 million into upgraded equipment, restaurant technology and marketing strategies. In August, it rolled out the Hut Rewards loyalty program that puts a focus on its mobile app.