National Football League names Pizza Hut as new official pizza sponsor

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Papa John's had been one of the NFL's most prominent sponsors and advertisers in recent years; An annual survey by SportsBusiness Journal and Turnkey Intelligence last year rated it the league's most recognized sponsor for a second consecutive year. He received much backlash and had to apologize.

Papa John's reported that North American comparable-store sales were down 3.9% in Q4 versus the same period a year ago, blaming disappointing promotions and negative consumer perception.

"NFL stadiums are packed every week, but tens of millions of fans are also watching the game at home", Artie Starrs, president of Pizza Hut U.S., said in the release. However, Ritchie said that Schnatter's commentary on the National Football League itself was "misconstrued" as evidence that Papa John's had a political position on the anthem protests.

Despite the fact Papa John's no longer holds the high profile sponsorship, which it held from 2010, Deutsche Bank analyst Brett Levy said the company is taking numerous necessary steps to improve its positioning and business.

"We will work with the players and league to find a positive way forward", Papa John's said on Twitter.

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Less than a day after the NFL ended its sponsorship agreement with Papa John's, rival Pizza Hut swooped in and signed its own deal with the league on Wednesday.

According to reports, Pizza Hut's deal with the National Football League will official start on April 1st and will run through the 2021 season, although the financial terms were not immediately available. Gasparino was first to report the chain was "unlikely to remain" the NFL's official pizza sponsor. He was replaced a month later by Steve Ritchie, who stepped into the role after serving as chief operating officer.

Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick became the face of the movement at the start of the 2016 season when he started kneeling to protest racial inequality and police misconduct in the United States.

At the time, Schnatter, who was then the company CEO, said he was disappointed the "NFL and its leadership did not resolve this". Sales, and stock prices fell, according to Associated Press. Pizza Hut's contract will be pushed through at least the 2021 campaign and possibly further depending on how the partnership transpires over the next few years.

Papa John's shares were down about 6 percent in premarket trading.

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