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Pizza Hut Replaces Papa John’s as NFL Sponsor for 2018

Pizza Hut Replaces Papa John’s as NFL Sponsor for 2018

Pizza Hut will take over the NFL pizza-sponsorship deal abandoned by Papa John’s International Inc., betting that it can revive its allure by teaming up with the increasingly controversial league.

Pizza Hut’s multiyear deal gives it collective use of all 32 teams logos, and the NFL will work closely with the chain on local team partnerships, according to a joint statement Wednesday.

Papa John’s — unhappy over declining ratings and the handling of players’ national anthem protests — said Tuesday it was ending its deal across the whole league that had been in place since 2010, and would focus on marketing with 22 specific teams. The opening provides an opportunity for Pizza Hut’s parent, Yum! Brands Inc., which has sought to burnish the pizza chain’s image after years of sluggish sales.

“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,” said Artie Starrs, Pizza Hut’s U.S. president. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league is “thrilled to have Pizza Hut.”

The NFL’s relationship with Papa John’s had been strained since the chain’s founder John Schnatter slammed the league in November, saying that declining ratings had hurt sales. He also said Goodell mishandled a controversy over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. Last year, the league generated about $14 billion in revenue.

Investors signaled the deal may help the struggling chain: Yum shares rose as much as 2.8 percent to $82.46 in the wake of the announcement. The agreement also reflects the NFL’s enduring power as a marketing tool. The league will get more money from Pizza Hut under the terms of the four-year deal than it got from Papa John’s, SportsBusiness Daily reported.

The NFL remains the most-watched sports league in the U.S., and one of the few places were marketers can be sure to reach tens of millions of Americans. The league and its 32 teams made $1.32 billion in sponsorship revenue last season, according to ESP research, up from $1.07 billion five years ago.