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Pizza Hut is new official NFL pizza sponsor
March 5, 2018

Less than 24 hours after Papa John’s benched itself as the National Football League’s official pizza sponsor, the NFL has called a new pie player to the field: Pizza Hut.

pizza hut

The NFL and Yum! Brands subsidiary announced Wednesday morning that, beginning with the 2018 NFL draft in April, Pizza Hut will be the official pizza sponsor of the league.

The newly-inked multi-year deal gives Pizza Hut exclusive marketing rights, use of the league’s 32 team logos and any other designation that will connect the pizza chain with the NFL’s players, events and properties.

The new partnership comes at a convenient time for Pizza Hut: last week, Domino’s announced that it surpassed Pizza Hut as the largest pizza company in the world (based on global retail sales; Pizza Hut recorded about $12 billion last year while Domino’s posted full-year revenue of $12.2 billion). On a same-store sales basis, too, Pizza Hut is lagging: it posted flat same-store sales growth in fiscal 2017, while during the same period Domino’s recorded 7.7% same-store sales growth in the U.S. and 3.4% internationally.

“We know many of our fans enjoy pizza while watching NFL games and we are thrilled to have Pizza Hut, an industry leader and one of America’s favorite brands, as an official league sponsor,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement Wednesday morning, going on to cite Pizza Hut’s focus on “family, friends and fun.”

Added Artie Starrs, president of Pizza Hut U.S.: “We have an unmatched ability to bring those fans closer to the sport thanks to the power of our 7,500 restaurants and 150,000 football-crazed team members. The capacity for what’s possible is endless and that’s going to make this league partnership great fun for Pizza Hut, the NFL and everyone who loves pizza and football.”

Papa John’s had been the official pizza sponsor of the NFL since 2010, but the partnership soured in November when now-former Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter blamed weak third quarter sales on NFL players protesting police brutality and racial inequality (and subsequent counter-protests by viewers who chose to boycott the NFL). “The NFL has hurt us by not resolving the current debacle,” he said at the time.

His comments quickly snowballed, sending Papa John’s stock (and his own net worth) diving all while sparking outrage on one half of the internet and adulation from neo-Nazi sites like the Daily Stormer, which named Papa John’s the “official pizza of the alt-right.” Papa John’s immediately went into damage control, tweeting an apology for “divisive” comments, support for players and profane condemnation for neo-Nazis.

Unfortunately for the pizza purveyor, the episode proved hard to shake. Schnatter stepped down as CEO in December, and the company announced Tuesday afternoon that after reaching “mutual agreement” with the league, it would suspend its official NFL sponsorship and instead focus on local partnerships with 22 NFL teams.

Investors of both companies appear to like these developments: shares of Papa John’s are up 3.5% in mid-morning trading Wednesday, while Pizza Hut parent company Yum! Brands is trading with a 2.5% gain.

Source: Maggie McGrath, Forbes



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