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Pizza Hut swoops in to replace Papa John’s as NFL partner

American football league the NFL has today (Wednesday) announced that Pizza Hut will become its new official pizza sponsor, replacing Papa John’s in the role.

The multi-year agreement will offer the restaurant chain an array of exclusive marketing rights, benefits and designations.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said: “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.”

The NFL partnership will first unfold for Pizza Hut during the 2018 NFL Draft, which will be held near its global headquarters in North Dallas. The deal with the NFL 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.

“Pizza Hut has a history of bringing more entertaining food and experiences to the pizza occasion and we plan to continue that through our exclusive partnership with the NFL,” Artie Starrs, president of Pizza Hut U.S, said. 

“NFL stadiums are packed every week but tens of millions of fans are also watching the game at home. We have an unmatched ability to bring those fans closer to the sport thanks to the power of our 7,500 restaurants and 150,000 football-crazed team members.”

Today’s announcement came just hours after Pizza Hut’s rival, Papa John’s, opted to end its partnership with the NFL in favour of focusing on its sponsorship of individual teams.

Papa John’s said in a statement that it had “mutually agreed” with the NFL to end its official league sponsorship and will now focus on “partnerships with 22 local NFL teams, presence in broadcast and digital media, and key personalities in the sport.”

The company added: “This gives us the opportunity to continue connecting with football fans while promoting our brand on new platforms.”

Papa John’s signed a multi-year extension to its partnership with the NFL in August 2016. It has served as the official pizza of the league since 2010.

ESPN.com noted that Papa John’s is the first NFL sponsor to end its partnership with the league halfway through a deal. Papa John’s told ESPN that there was no additional cost for ending the deal early.

As part of its agreement with the league, Papa John’s held rights to NFL logos and trademarks for use in advertising and marketing campaigns across events such as the Super Bowl, Pro Bowl and NFL Kickoff.

Papa John’s founder, and then chief executive, John Schnatter, last year criticised players who took part in the widespread national anthem protests that took place before games, stating their actions hurt the company’s business.

Papa John’s withdrew the NFL shield from its commercials during game broadcasts and also removed it from its pizza boxes.