Pizza Hut to Replace Papa John's as NFL's Official Pizza Sponsor

Papa John’s founder and CEO John Schnatter attends the Indy 500. Michael Hickey  Getty Images

Papa John’s founder and CEO John Schnatter attends the Indy 500. Michael Hickey Getty Images

The Pizza Hut deal is longer and more lucrative than the Papa John's deal.

The relationship between the pizza chain and the league became turbulent a year ago, when Papa John's founder, John Schnatter, claimed players who staged protest during the national anthem had a detrimental impact on business. He received much backlash and had to apologize.

ESPN noted that Papa John's sales were down 3.9 percent from 2016 in the months of October through December past year.

"There is a perception that we are overpriced", Papa John's chief marketing officer Brandon Rhoten said on a conference call with stock analysts on Tuesday.

After the better part of a decade, the league and Papa John's have mutually agreed to end their sponsorship agreement; the company, however, will continue local partnerships with 22 NFL teams, according to a joint statement.

Papa John's is no longer the official pizza of the NFL. Papa John's pledged to reverse the decline by improving its media and creative partnerships, updating its loyalty program, and hiring a new public relations partner.

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According to Papa John's, the pizza chain - which has served as the official sponsor since 2010 - and the National Football League mutually agreed to cut ties.

BC-US-Pizza Hut-NFL, 1st Ld, 118Pizza Hut replaces Papa John's as NFL's pizza sponsorAP Photo NYBZ371, NYBZ372Eds: APNewsNow.

"While I'm not pleased with the company's most recent performance, I am confident that our brand and our people provide the foundation we need to reignite customer enthusiasm for Papa John's", Ritchie said Tuesday. "Thus, we will shift our marketing from a broader NFL sponsorship to partnerships with 22 specific NFL teams, a significant presence on broadcast and league platforms and with our relationships with numerous league's most popular players and personalities".

Pizza Hut's first exposure through its new sponsorship will be during the 2018 National Football League draft, to be held in late April at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas-not far from Pizza Hut's headquarters in Plano. Papa John's is also now working with Olson Engage on public relations, following a PR agency review process, after working with Edelman.

Executives blamed the sales slump on "negative consumer sentiment". It does not say the value of the deal. But since June, Papa John's stock has dropped from almost $85 a share to just over $58.

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