The NFL has decided that Pizza Hut is going to be its new official pizza sponsor, while Papa John’s is getting kicked to the curb. The Pizza Hut deal was announced yesterday afternoon, just a few hours after Papa John’s CEO Steve Richie explained that his chain was losing the NFL sponsorship on an earnings call. “We are thrilled to have Pizza Hut, an industry leader and one of America’s favorite brands, as an official league sponsor,” says NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The news comes four months after Papa John’s founder and former CEO John Schnatter openly blamed declining pizza sales on NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. These remarks sparked a social media backlash and inspired a pro-Papa John’s meme from white supremacist site the Daily Stormer, which the pizza company immediately condemned. Schnatter stepped down from his role in the company a month and a half after this fiasco. Richie, a 20-year veteran of the chain, took over as CEO on January 1.
Now Papa John’s plans to have smaller ad deals with 22 local teams, but it will no longer be prominently featured at big events like the Super Bowl. The company will immediately stop putting the NFL shield on its pizza boxes and including the branding in its national commercials. In a joint statement, the league and the restaurant group explain: “The NFL and Papa John’s have made a mutual decision to shift from their official league sponsorship to a focus on partnerships with 22 local NFL teams, presence in broadcast and digital media, and key personalities in the sport.”
The Washington Post notes that Pizza Hut signed a deal for more money than Papa John’s, which is fitting considering that the cheap-o pizzeria has a much bigger national footprint than the chain that packages its pies with banana peppers and garlic sauce. Papa John’s had been the official NFL pizza sponsor since 2010. Now, the Hut will have that designation for at least four years, starting with the draft this April.
• Papa John’s, NFL make ‘mutual decision’ to end sponsorship deal [ESPN]
• Pizza Hut scores NFL pizza sponsorship deal after Papa John’s bows out [Washington Post]
• Pizza Hut will replace Papa John’s as the official pizza of the NFL [CNN]
• Papa John’s Blames NFL Protests for Falling Sales [E]