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Pizza Hut's Comeback, Thanks to its NFL Deal
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Pizza Hut had struggled to compete against Domino's and Papa John's for the past few years. But that's changing now that the company is about to start its second year as the official pizza sponsor for the National Football League.

While Pizza Hut's sales growth is still lower than fellow Yum! Brands (YUM) companies Taco Bell and KFC, the chain has started to gain some momentum. Same-store sales rose 2% for Pizza Hut last quarter and were up 10% overall compared to last year.

Pizza Hut's deal with the NFL took effect after the NFL and Papa John's (PZZA) ended their relationship last year in the wake of former Papa John's CEO John Schnatter's criticism of players who protested the national anthem. That has helped boost Pizza Hut's sales.

"The first year with the NFL helped us increase brand awareness and reach a new audience we hadn't had previously," said Pizza Hut CEO Artie Starrs in an interview with CNN Business.
Starrs, who had been president of the company's US operations, was promoted in August to CEO of the entire chain. That puts him in charge of the company's global operations, which have nearly 20,000 restaurants in about 120 countries worldwide.

Pizza Hut plans to be even more active with the NFL this year. The company is working with endorsers such as top stars Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams and JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers on a new ad campaign.

Pizza Hut also is launching an interactive game called "Hut Hut Win" that will give customers a chance to win NFL merchandise and free food. Contestants can also win tickets to Super Bowl LIV in Miami next February and the NFL Draft weekend in April in Paradise, Nevada near Las Vegas.




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