Most people here will, I expect, not care a whole lot about this, but I think it is disproportionately relevant to the current state of the NFL than a sponsorship has any right to be. After several years of Papa John’s being the ‘official pizza of the NFL’, the brand ended its relationship with the league.
It didn’t take long for them to find a new Pizza Daddy, however, as Pizza Hut stepped up to the plate and was willing to pay even more than Papa John’s did for the right to bear that distinction. This is significant because the owner of the Papa John’s, John Schnatter, made it significant.
Though he has since stepped down as CEO of the company, Schnatter made himself a public spectacle when he accused the NFL of allowing player protests to hurt the league’s brand, which he claimed resulted in Papa John’s sales suffering.
“NFL leadership has hurt Papa John’s shareholders”, he said back in early November. ”This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago”, a comment referring to the protests, which began with Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid in 2016.
“We’re certainly disappointed that NFL and its leadership did not resolve the ongoing situation to the satisfaction of all parties this year, year-and-a-half ago”, he went on to say. “Good or bad, leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership”. The latter comment was clearly directed at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
While Papa John’s and the NFL mutually agreed to end its partnership, the company said that it still intends to pursue business relationships with the majority of the NFL’s franchises.
Enter The Hut.
While “financial terms of the deal were not revealed”, reported Darren Rovell, he said that the deal with Pizza Hut extends beyond that which was signed with the former official pizza sponsor of the league. Terry Lofton also reported that the deal is “for more dollars than Papa John’s was paying”.
Frankly, this seems to work out great for both Pizza Hut and the NFL. Pizza Hut is a much bigger brand than Papa John’s with a wider reach, which benefits the league, while the pizza chain will be able to incorporate the NFL brand into their promotions.
Make no mistake, the NFL brand remains commercially strong. While many have cautioned rating declines from the past two seasons, others view the decline as the inevitability of shifting demographics in how media is consumed. Proportionally, the NFL’s ratings have declined at a slower rate than other network programs and stations, while they still fielded more than 30 of the 50 most-watched programs this past season.
On the heels of another more substantial television contract than the one previous for Thursday Night Football broadcasting rights, and the pending expectation for the same with the next streaming deal (not to mention other indicators of continued strength), the new Pizza Hut deal is yet another example of the market contending that the NFL remains a leading commercial power.