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NFL, Papa John’s split; another Louisville-based company takes league deal

Papa John's founder, former chairman and CEO John Schnatter, Archie Manning and Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson launched Papa John's new family brand campaign, "We're more than a pizza company, we're a pizza family," last year.
Papa John's founder, former chairman and CEO John Schnatter, Archie Manning and Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson launched Papa John's new family brand campaign, "We're more than a pizza company, we're a pizza family," last year. AP

After turmoil late last year, Papa John’s will no longer be the official pizza of the NFL, but the league made a new deal with another national chain owned by Louisville-based Yum Brands.

The NFL and Louisville-based Papa John’s released a joint statement on the breakup Tuesday night. They had been in partnership since 2010.

“The NFL and Papa John’s have made a mutual decision to shift from their official league sponsorship to a focus on partnerships with 22 local NFL teams, presence in broadcast and digital media and key personalities in the sport,” the statement read.

Four months ago, Papa John’s founder and CEO John Schnatter, said NFL players who staged protests during the national anthem before games hurt the pizza company. Papa John’s pulled the NFL shield off its commercials during game broadcasts and took the logo off its pizza boxes, according to ESPN’s Darren Rovell. Sales, and stock prices fell, according to Associated Press.

Schnatter, the face of the brand, later apologized for his remarks but stepped down as Papa John’s CEO in December.

Papa John’s sales were down 3.9 percent across the country from October through December versus the same period from 2016, according to ESPN. After news of the Papa John’s-NFL split was released Tuesday, the company’s stock fell 1.59 percent during Tuesday trading before falling another 7 percent after trading closed, according to Fortune.

The new CEO for Papa John’s, Steve Ritchie, said Tuesday it expects to see improvements in sales in 2018 thanks to “actions that are underway to improve our brand proposition, how we connect with customers and how we operate the unit level.”

Pizza Hut announced Wednesday it will become the new official pizza sponsor of the NFL. The deal with Yum Brands’ Pizza Hut, is for four years and begins April 1.

“We are thrilled to have Pizza Hut, an industry leader and one of America’s favorite brands, as an official league sponsor,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Mike Stunson: 859-231-1324, @mike_stunson

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