Papa John’s, which has been the official pizza of the NFL since 2010, has decided to jettison its sponsorship of the league, although it will maintain its partnerships with 22 of the teams. On Tuesday, Papa John's reported that North American sales plunged 3.9% from last year; the company’s stock has lost a third of its value since June, according to CNN.
Last year, CEO John Schnatter, who wound up leaving the company at the end of the year, slammed the NFL’s handling of the national anthem controversy, telling investors, "This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago. The controversy is polarizing the customer, polarizing the country." The company later tweeted an apology, writing, "The statements made on our earnings call were describing the factors that impact our business and we sincerely apologize to anyone that thought they were divisive. That definitely was not our intention."
But on a recent conference call, current CEO Steve Ritchie admitted, "While the NFL remains an important channel for us, we have determined that there are better ways to reach and activate this audience. Thus we will shift our marketing for the broader NFL sponsorship to focus on our partnership with 22 specific NFL teams, a significant presence on league broadcast and digital platforms and on our relationships with many of the league's most popular players and personalities."
Ritchie continued, "We have really got a lot of key learnings on how we can invest our dollars more appropriately. So we thank the NFL for all the efforts and the partnership that we've had over the last seven years, and we'll continue to be very prominent on NFL game days as we move forward. …”