Pizza Hut Could Use NFL Sponsorship To Gain Edge In Pizza Wars With Papa John's, Domino's

Pizza Hut on Tuesday has released its lineup of new deals after it has become the official pizza sponsor of the NFL. A sign is pictured at a Pizza Hut restaurant on Aug. 15, 2005 in Niles, Illinois. Photo: (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

By Andrew N. White, International Business Times

Pizza Hut on Tuesday released details of its new marketing strategy as the official pizza sponsor of the National Football League in its effort to spark a turnaround in same-store sales.

The pizza chain’s new NFL sponsorship includes a season-long "Game Plan" program offering weekly prizes, NFL kick off notifications, exclusive game day deals and new commercials starring Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. The deal also includes a new pizza box equipped with an augmented reality feature.

"Pizza has the power to bring sports fans together, and for years, Pizza Hut has served as a gameday centerpiece in living rooms across the country. Now, as the Official Pizza Sponsor of the NFL, we're going to celebrate football fans all season long," said Marianne Radley, Chief Brand Officer of Pizza Hut.

Pizza Hut, part of the fast-food company Yum! Brands (YUM), reported a 1 percent dip in same sales in August. It could see its new NFL sponsorship narrow the gap between itself and competitors on the pizza delivery market.

Pizza Hut has faced tougher competition from Papa John’s (PZZA) and Domino's (DPZ). In April 2017, Yum announced plans to invest $130 million to bolster Pizza Hut's brand.

"We still believe the Pizza Hut U.S. turnaround will be a slow build but we’re encouraged by the foundation that’s being put in place," Chief Executive Officer Greg Creed told analysts in an August conference call.

The NFL and Papa John's ended their partnership in February, which came after then-CEO John Schnatter's public criticism of players protesting the national anthem. He blamed low pizza sales on the way the league handled players who took a knee during the performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Schnatter stepped down as CEO in July after he admitted to using the N-word during a May training exercise via a conference call. Schnatter has since filed two lawsuits against Papa John's.

Shares of Papa John’s shares dropped 0.52 percent to $45.88 in pre-market trading on Tuesday.

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