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NFL Replaces Papa John’s Sponsorship With Pizza Hut

The National Football League is changing its pizza order.

After relying on Papa John’s to be its pizza sponsor for the past eight years, the NFL said Wednesday that it had called up Pizza Hut to deliver a similar advertising agreement. The pact is said to last more than four years, according to a person familiar with the matter – longer than the terms for Papa John’s final agreement with the league.

“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,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, in a prepared statement. “With a focus on family, friends and fun, Pizza Hut has the creativity we are looking for in a partner and we look forward to working together with them to make the at-home NFL experience more exciting than ever for our fans.”

Under terms of the deal, Pizza Hut gains an array of exclusive marketing rights, benefits and designations that will connect it with the NFL and its teams, players, events, partners, and properties. Pizza Hut is one of several chains owned by Yum Brands Inc. The partnership includes collective use of all 32 team marks. It also involves the NFL working closely with Pizza Hut to facilitate local, exclusive team partnerships. Pizza Hut will have the opportunity to leverage game tickets and unique fan experiences to all NFL games in marketing and promotional campaigns throughout each year.

The NFL’s previous pizza partner had started to get a little, well, crusty. Executives from Papa John’s openly criticized the NFL’s handling of the ongoing controversy surrounding players who take a knee during the playing of the national anthem before games in protest. John Schnatter, the company’s founder, in October blamed the protests for sales decreases at his company.  “This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago,” Schnatter told investors on a conference call.”The controversy is polarizing the customer, polarizing the country.” He later apologized for his comments. The two parties cut ties as part of a mutual agreement, and Papa John’s has said it intends to focus on relationships with individual teams.

Pizza Hut has long advertised around NFL games, using pre-game coverage before the Super Bowl to prod viewers to order pizza and other bread-and-cheese favorites before kickoff.  Its first action under the new partnership will be to market around the 2018 NFL Draft, which will be held near its global headquarters in North Dallas.

“NFL stadiums are packed every week but tens of millions of fans are also watching the game at home.” said Artie Starrs, President, Pizza Hut U.S., in a statement. “We have an unmatched ability to bring those fans closer to the sport thanks to the power of our 7,200 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.”

Pizza Hut has been exploring new delivery technologies. It has introduced a “Delivery Tracker” that allows users to track their pizza from order to delivery, and receive updates via text message. The company is exploring beer and wine delivery in the U.S.,and in January announced a plan to explore pizza delivery via self-driving vehicles. Pizza Hut has more than 7,200 restaurants in the U.S.

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