Pizza Hut to put its stamp on the NFL starting with the 2018 draft

Papa John’s split from the NFL couldn’t have come at a better time for Pizza Hut.

The pizza division of Yum Brands, which took over as the official pizza sponsor of the National Football League in February, is gearing up for its first big football promotion as the new sponsor.

To celebrate the 2018 NFL Draft, which takes place Thursday through Saturday, Pizza Hut is offering several discounts and deals to consumers as well as the rookie players hoping to land on a professional team.

To start, the company is asking customers to submit their best “doorbell dances,” moves they use to celebrate the arrival of their pizzas, for a chance to win tickets to an NFL game. Pizza Hut has brought in wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who is known for his innovative touchdown dances, to inspire diners.

“Football and pizza automatically goes together,” said Zipporah Allen, chief marketing officer for Pizza Hut. “Pizza Hut has always been about fun, excitement and entertainment. So, this is a real natural fit for us.”

Pizza Hut is also offering up an “NFL Draft Deal,” two medium pizzas, an order of wings and breadsticks for $19.99.

Allen said the draft is a big occasion for the pizza brand because of how many people gather with friends to watch the selections. Offering special deals like this during these “pizza-watching” times has been a big benefit for Pizza Hut, she said.

To add to the suspense of the draft, Pizza Hut has designated the 78th pick of the draft as the “Pi Pick.” This happens during the 14th pick of the third round, corresponding to 3.14, the abbreviated number for pi. The person drafted in this spot will win an unlimited supply of pizza for a year and will get to host a massive pizza party in the hometown of the team that selects him.

Right now, that pick belongs to Kansas City.

Pizza Hut is taking full advantage of its partnership with the NFL. As part of its deal with the league, the pizza chain can create local deals with the teams, including fan experiences and game tickets. Pizza Hut may also use all 32 of the team logos in its marketing.

This partnership opens a lot of doors for Pizza Hut and its parent company, that has been working hard to revitalize the brand over the last year.

While some suggested executives should divest the brand in 2017, the company invested $130 million toward upgrading equipment, improving restaurant technology and boosting advertising at its Pizza Hut restaurants. It also launched a loyalty program and hired 14,000 delivery drivers throughout the year.

These strides have helped to improve Pizza Hut’s performance. In February, the company posted its sixth consecutive quarter of positive same-store sales growth.

Since the beginning of the year, Pizza Hut has been aggressively discounting its pizzas, rolling out contests and offering new rewards in an effort to gain market share from competitors.

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