Papa John’s kicks off NFL marketing ahead of season

* Deal expected to help company raise U.S. market share

* 3-year sponsorship deal with NFL worth $5 mln/yr-source

* Americans eat 75 football fields of pizza a day

By Ben Klayman

DETROIT, Sept 2 (BestGrowthStock) – U.S. pizza chain Papa John’s
International Inc (PZZA.O: ) will try to score with hungry fans
with the Monday launch of a multimillion-dollar marketing
campaign around its new sponsorship deal with the National
Football League.

Papa John’s, the No. 3 U.S. pizza chain behind Yum Brands
Inc’s (YUM.N: ) Pizza Hut and Domino’s Pizza Inc (DPZ.N: ), will
begin selling extra-large pizzas in a customized box that touts
its partnership with the NFL and NBC Sports’ Sunday night
football programming.

During the NFL season, which ends in February with the
Super Bowl, it also will sponsor NFL talk and fantasy football
programs on Walt Disney Co’s (DIS.N: ) ESPN sports network and
the U.S. sports league’s cable TV channel, NFL Network.

“We feel very prepared to take full advantage through our
NFL partnership and our other network partnerships to gain
market share on key pizza consumption days,” Papa John’s Chief
Marketing officer Andrew Varga said, referring to the Sundays,
Mondays and Thursdays on which NFL games are played.

The U.S. pizza delivery market has been very competitive
during the weak economy, with chains resorting to price cuts or
other promotions to lure consumers.

Papa John’s is counting on its three-year NFL sponsorship
deal signed in June to help boost its share of the $30 billion
U.S. industry pie, Varga said.

The company, which also sponsors 12 NFL teams, the football
stadium at the University of Louisville and the men’s college
basketball tournament, is targeting the NFL’s 181 million fans
with its marketing, including sponsoring fantasy football games
to reach the more hard-core consumers.

Varga did not disclose the financial commitment for the
company’s biggest sponsorship deal ever, but a source familiar
with the agreement said it totaled about $5 million annually.

“When you make any investment of this size both in the NFL
and the NBC property, we anticipate really seeing some nice
growth,” Varga said.

He declined to say how much exactly the company is spending
on the marketing, but a company typically spends about 1.4
times the money marketing a large sponsorship as it does
signing a deal according to IEG, a unit of advertising company
WPP Plc (WPP.L: ).

Papa John’s spending on U.S. advertising through May was up
about 11 percent from last year, when it spent $103 million,
according to Kantar Media.

The share of U.S. sales for Papa John’s last year was 7.2
percent, trailing Pizza Hut (17.5 percent) and Domino’s (10.6
percent), according to foodservice consulting firm Technomic.

Papa John’s sponsored the Super Bowl as a “test drive” and
that led to the broader sponsorship, Varga said.

It believes what happened in February on Super Bowl Sunday
— when the company saw its best sales day ever at more than
900,000 pizzas, up more than 30 percent from the prior year —
will be repeated on a smaller scale for the entire NFL season.

Americans eat 350 slices of pizza per second, or enough to
cover more than 75 football fields a day, the company said.

“Few things go better together than pizza and football,”
NBC Sports senior vice president Mike McCarley said.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit)

Papa John’s kicks off NFL marketing ahead of season