Pizza Hut (YUM) is the NFL’s newest corporate sponsor, taking over in the pizza category the day after Papa John’s (PZZA) said it was ending its league sponsorship three years early.
Sources said that the new Pizza Hut deal was both for more years remaining (four), and for more dollars than what Papa John’s was paying. It also gives the NFL a sponsor with a far bigger marketing footprint.
Pizza Hut, at over 7,500 locations, is easily the biggest pizza chain in the U.S., with more than twice as many locations as Papa John’s.
Pizza Hut will kick off its new rights on April 1, with marketing around the NFL Draft set for April 26-28. Pizza Hut handled negotiations with the NFL internally, as the brand does not currently have a sports agency of record
Both the NFL and Papa John’s were casting the separation as mutual and amicable. Still, the mid-term switch is highly unusual and follows a period of tempestuous relations between the two parties.
During a now-infamous earnings call in November, Papa John’s attributed missed sales targets to NFL player anthem protests. The company later apologized, and Founder John Schnatter, who made the anti-NFL statements, resigned from his role as CEO, effective at the end of last year.