Eating pizza with fork and knife can easily cause a scandal, but if they’re gonna talk, let’s give them something to REALLY talk about. Buzz60’s Maria Mercedes Galuppo has more.
The new NFL official pizza sponsor is getting into the Super Bowl spirit by changing its name to reflect a popular quarterback term.
Welcome to Pizza Hut Hut.
That’s what the chain is temporarily calling itself on its website, plus a Pizza Hut location in Atlanta, home to this year’s Super Bowl, will be rebranded temporarily — new signage and all.
The fun doesn’t end there. The millions of football fans not attending Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3 in what in Pizza Hut has dubbed Hutlanta, a play on the city’s Hotlanta nickname, will get to watch two new Super Bowl TV ads featuring a modern-day Abraham Lincoln. This has nothing to do with Da Bears, his home team; the 16th president on the $5 bill is hyping Pizza $5 Lineup value menu, which debuted in October.
In one, the impersonator with a Midwestern-twanged stentorian voice is attending a football viewing party. In the other, he’s playing video games with his son, who informs him, “You’re dead.”
People looking to chow down on Pizza Hut on game day can order a large two-topping pizza for $7.99. And for those who feel a football game without beer is like a touchdown without a dance, 300 Pizza Huts across the U.S. now deliver beer. The chain, which began a pilot program in 2017, now offers beer from select stores in Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina and Ohio.
“The Super Bowl is the biggest day of the year for the NFL and for our business,” said Pizza Hut’s chief brand officer Marianne Radley. “If you’re not (a sponsor), you have to dance around saying, ‘Super Bowl.’ Now, we can shout it from the rooftops.”
Restaurant consultant John Gordon of the Pacific Management Consulting Group said all pizza operators from major players to the local mom-and-pops do well on Super Bowl Sunday. The attention Pizza Hut will draw nationally, though, could translate into higher sales down the road.
“There’s a long history of while Super Bowl ads are memorable, they don’t necessarily drive retail business right away, but it could be a step in the right direction,” he said.
Pizza Hut is owned by Yum Brands, whose portfolio includes KFC and Taco Bell.
Pizza Hut was named the NFL official pizza sponsor in February, a few weeks after Super Bowl LII pitted the Philadelphia Eagles against the New England Patriots.
The Harris Poll conducted a survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults about their favorite foods. Pizza came in first for the second time in a row.
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Louisville-based chain Papa John’s had severed ties with the league that month over how NFL officials were dealing with players kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. Then-CEO John Schnatter said it was causing the company’s sales to decline.
“The NFL has been a long and valued partner over the years,” he said during the Papa John’s quarterly earnings call in November 2017. “But we’re certainly disappointed that the NFL and its leadership did not resolve the ongoing situation to the satisfaction of all parties long ago. This should’ve been nipped in the bud a year and half ago.”
In July, Schnatter resigned from the company he’d founded after news broke that he’d used the N-word.
Papa John’s had been the NFL pizza sponsor since 2010.
“It has been an important business strategy for Papa John’s over the past year to diversify our marketing investments beyond the NFL,” the company said in an e-mail. “We have continued connecting with football fans through partnerships with 15 local NFL teams and presence in broadcast and digital media surrounding the sport. However, we also continue to explore ways to connect consumers with our brand on new platforms.”
Follow USA TODAY reporter Zlati Meyer on Twitter: @ZlatiMeyer
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