Papa John's to be NFL pizza sponsor this season

By Bruce Schreiner
Associated Press Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Papa John’s International Inc. leapfrogged two larger rivals to land a deal as the official pizza sponsor of the National Football League and the Super Bowl.

The three-year, multimillion-dollar contract kicks off in the upcoming season and runs through the 2012 season. It’s the largest sponsorship deal in Papa John’s history, but the company would not specify a dollar amount.

Papa John’s, the third-largest pizza company behind Pizza Hut and Domino’s, said the sponsorship means it can use NFL logos and trademarks, including the NFL shield logo, in its advertising and marketing.

Papa John’s Chief Marketing Officer Andrew Varga said the affiliation “will greatly enhance our brand-building efforts.” The Louisville-based company plans a multipronged blitz that includes advertising, promotions and digital campaigns, he said.

“To have that powerful affiliation of their branding with our branding should allow us to really see some nice, measurable results,” Varga said.

Kevin Lane Keller, a marketing professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, said the success of a sponsorship depends on “all the other things you do with it.”

“Pizza and football are a great match, so there’s a lot of logic to the sponsorship,” Keller said. “But the real success depends on how creative they are in using it.”

The sponsorship builds on Papa John’s purchase of the official pizza sponsorship of the Super Bowl in early February. Papa John’s said it posted its largest single sales day in brand history on Super Bowl Sunday this year, selling more than 900,000 pizzas at its more than 2,700 U.S. restaurants.

Varga said the chain typically sees an upswing in pizza sales on game days during the NFL season.

Papa John’s is also the official pizza of several NFL teams — the Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams, Tennessee Titans and Washington Redskins.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Papa John’s has reaped benefits from its connection with the team.

“It’s been a dramatic increase in its business and its profitability” in the Dallas area, he said.

Jones and his family are franchise partners with Papa John’s in the Dallas area. He said that same model that achieved a bigger slice of business there can be applied nationally with the NFL sponsorship.

Earlier this year, Anheuser-Busch brand Bud Light became the official beer sponsor of the NFL, edging out rival MillerCoors. Anheuser-Busch’s six-year deal begins in the 2011 season.


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