Papa John’s considers ending NFL sponsorship

Getty Images

A certain great American could soon be abandoning his support for the league that includes America’s team.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Papa John’s is evaluating its sponsorship of the NFL in light of ongoing ratings declines, which the company claims have hurt pizza sales.

“We have to evaluate our reliance on partnerships that are TV-focused, like the NFL,” Papa John’s Chief Marketing Officer Brandon Rhoten told the Wall Street Journal. Papa John’s believes the league’s drop in ratings relates to the lingering anthem controversy.

“If the viewership decline continues, we will need to shift into things that work more effectively for us,” Papa John’s President and Chief Operating Officer Steve Ritchie said. “We are anxiously awaiting a solution [to the anthem issue] to be created. That’s what will put the league in a positive place for the players, the fan base and the partners associated with them.”

Ritchie, per the Wall Street Journal, “emphatically denied” that Papa John’s has applied pressure to the league to end players protests during the national anthem. That’s a ridiculous assertion, since comments from people like Ritchie and CEO John Schnatter, who on Wednesday blamed the NFL for “poor leadership” and said the anthem issue should have been “nipped in the bud” months ago, necessarily place pressure on the league to solve the problem.

The company also claims that it hasn’t discussed the issue with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. That’s simply not believable. Jones has an ownership interest in 120 Papa John’s stores; why wouldn’t Jones and Schnatter discuss the issue?

Indeed, the denial of collusion between the Cowboys and Papa John’s invites speculation that the goal isn’t to cover up discussions about solving the anthem problem but to hide broader shared strategies about solving the Commissioner problem. It’s now clear that Jones wants to make a change, and the comments from Schnatter can be interpreted that he feels the same way — and that these partners in the pizza business are now expanding their association to another kind of business.

195 responses to “Papa John’s considers ending NFL sponsorship

  1. If he thinks pizza sales are down because fans aren’t watching the games and thus his commercials then wait until no one watches his commercials.

  2. Hey John did you ever think that maybe it’s not the NFL it’s the pizza. I live in WNY and Rochester – Buffalo offers some of the best local pizza in the country.

  3. Until the NFL figures out what to do I will boycott all games and sponsors. Get it together NFL get rid of your problems like Goodell, and all the protesters that disrespect the USA that I served for.

  4. I will never buy a pappa John’s Pizza ever again. This guy needs to shut up and go away. No one cares about what you think and there’s no bigger sign of a poor leader than someone who blames others for their own failures. Meanwhile DiGiorno sales continue to climb! We have pizza every Friday so America still loves pizza, just not pappa John pizza.

  5. I’m calling B.S.

    Ratings may be down some, but it’s still the most watched thing on TV BY FAR.

    You aren’t getting that many people to see those ads you run anywhere else in The country.

  6. Papa John’s should sue Colin Kaepernick and kneeling players for colluding, causing loss of revenue on pizza sales.

  7. Look at market share. If the whole delivery pizza market is going down, then it probably has nothing to do with NFL.
    If pizza delivery market is stable or increasing, And Papa Johns is losing market share, then people turning against NFL is possible. Or other things, like the fact that Papa John’s pizza sucks and hasn’t changed their pizza since I was a teenager in the 90s.

  8. The only way the league will change. League, Owners and Players don’t care about fans, they care about the all mighty dollar. Sponsors start leaving and the league will start listening.

  9. another thing that might help their pizza sales is making non-terrible pizza but y’know it’s just a suggestion

  10. Papa John’s & CEO Steve Ritchie can shove their pizza. It’s not that good.

    Domino’s would probably be happy to jump into the NFL with a much better pizza.

    Go,go Dominos

  11. News out today is they are far from the only ones the NFL better watch itself and get ahold of this or in ten years you’ll see it on ESPN2 after world strongest man reruns

  12. Pretty sure that even with fewer viewers, Papa Johns is still ahead of the game selling their crappy pizza. We aren’t ordering it because it’s good – we order it because we are lazy and want to watch the game.

  13. It’s not surprising that the papa johns guy thinks the issue should have been “nipped” in the bud as papa johns largely relies on unskilled easily replaced labor; much easier to push that worker around. With some effort, those workers could extract more salary for them selves as papa John’s must have low labor cost as it seems its pizza is always $7.99.

  14. IMO, the problem for them is the rising delivery fee(Which doesnt go to the driver), and competition. Dominos charges 8 dollars for a large 3 topping, or $12 for 2 medium pizza’s, Little Ceasars is $5.

    If they cut their Ties with the NFL, Papa Johns will plummet to an abyss.

  15. Papa John’s NFL relationship is the only thing making that pizza chain relevant. If they didn’t have all those Peyton Manning ads and NFL ads I wouldn’t even think about that place…not once.

  16. Good. I will support any current NFL sponsor who walks away, even if their product is marginal, as Papa John’s fare is, at best.

  17. I for one no longer watch NFL games because of the disrespect for our country and military that the NFL has allowed. I cancelled my Direct TV and don’t support any of the NFL sponsors. I have chosen to stick with college football and I’ve actually adjusted quite well. I do yard work or catch a movie and run errands on Sundays. Thank you to the NFL for allowing me to see that the grass is greener on the other side.

  18. Everyone has agreed that a citizen of this country has the freedom to… do the wrong thing. However when he does so while wearing an NFL team uniform it will most certainly have negative repercussions… for him and many others he has failed to consider.

  19. The strange thing is that I live in downtown Seattle. Actually there is only ONE store in all of Seattle and it’s on the UW campus area. With so many annoying commercials during NFL games I’m constantly enticed. If they drop sponsorship, I will be happy that I’m no longer teased. LOL. And I do like Papa John’s (it has been many years though).

  20. All Goodell does is what the owners as a whole want…now that the owners failed to handle this situation some want to blame Goodell so they don’t look bad for losing money.

    He gets paid enough to be the fall guy.

  21. I’m sure a company like Domino’s or Little Caesars would be more than happy to take over that sponsorship.

    I had never heard of Baby Johns pizza until they were part of the NFL. Probably because I was busy eating better local pizza

  22. Fine by me. This guy is a jerk, his pizza is lousy, and his commercials are annoying at best. He’d be making football better by getting out, and he’d have nobody but himself to blame when his lousy business continues to fail.

  23. Ive never had Papa Johns. There aren’t any restaurants where I live. They’re wasting their marketing dollars by broadcasting their commercials nationally when they don’t have a national presence.

  24. Bye-bye Papa Johns! We wouldn’t know of you if you didn’t advertise during NFL games! Which
    Is bigger and more powerful- Pizza or Football- let me think about that for a minute…

  25. I like stories like these… because… it (finally) proves that the nfl is in decline.

    It warms my heart knowing I was right.

  26. Maybe the reason Papa John’s sales are declining is because their pizza is terrible and people are starting to realize that you can get something a lot better at any locally owned place.

  27. NFL considering getting a good pizza company as a sponser.

    Seriously, most cities and towns have lots of local places that are way better then the chains.

  28. I don’t approve of the knealers but honestly Papa Johns pizza tastes like feet and azz. Sales issues could be associated with the quality of the pie

  29. If I won’t be forced to watch Papa John commercials I might start watching NFL games again.

  30. Now that would be a blessing, to not see that narcissist face twelve times per game can only enhance our viewing experience.

  31. lol ridiculous! Papa John the pizza man anxiously awaits for something to be done about the 1st amendment or he is out!

  32. You can assume collusion or also assume that Jerry Jones has spoken to Papa John’s if you want. However this is about business! Businesses that commit to spending money on advertising have a right to a return on their investments. Moreover not to have their stock prices drop. It is a NFL leadership issue when there is so much political correctness that they ignore or do not give priority to their business relationships. Why was there not a comprehensive strategy before the season began? In other words providing information on other ways to demonstrate that does not effect the patriotic feelings of fans and also the advertisers. How is it possible that a commissioner who makes $30 something million, with unlimited resources can’t be more proactive?

  33. Papa John should consider how this position he is taking as illustrated in this article might affect his pizza sales…

    Some real unamerican Americans running the show(s) these days…

  34. This is upsetting on a lot of levels. Where am I going to find horrible pizza if it isnt advertised constantly? Wait, nevermind. Forgot about the dominos commercials every 2 minutes. We are good guys!

  35. That could be the first Domino to fall. If PJ leaves, it may give others who want to leave also the cover they need to do the same.

  36. The NFL drop in viewership mirrors a general drop in TV viewing as a whole with one exception … general TV viewership has dropped MORE than NFL ratings. Except for a few extra loud “patriots”, who stamp their feet about everything it seems, I’m of the opinion that this issue only matters to a few ‘special people’.

    I think Papa John’s should hire Colin Kaepernick as a spokesperson to “lead” us all – show us the proper way to do it boys… or, S.T.H.U.

  37. The NFL problems are not going to just fade and go away. The ball is in the Commissioner and 32 owners court to take a stand and either STOP or ACCEPT the variety of protests that are occurring during the anthem and flag ceremonies. Whether it’s Papa John or Joe Sixpack, there are countless fans and sponsors waiting on a decision. If they do nothing, viewership and interest in the NFL will continue to decline.

  38. Sounds like a case of the tail trying to wag the dog. I think the fallout would be more detrimental to PJs, not the NFL. It will be interesting to see what Peyton does.

  39. Go ahead, if that means seeing fewer peyton manning commercials, I will be much happier although i never eat pappa johns.

  40. Finally – what Kap sat for at the beginning. One step closer to having an actual dialogue about fixing all the social issues going on…

    People want it to be about JUST football b/c they don’t want to confront or feel uncomfortable about their racist views the other six days of the week.

  41. I’m no Cowboys or Jerry Jones fan, but sounds like you are calling Steve Ritchie a liar. There’s only one thing that can be concluded here, the protests are having a negative impact on the NFL.

  42. Papa is playing this for all it’s worth and his temper tantrum isn’t scaring anybody. He has more to lose than gain, but at the core of this he has bad pizza, although I understand one group did make his their official pizza yesterday.

  43. No great loss. Does anyone think that John Schnatter’s pizza is the NFL’s sole source of sponsorship? Screw Schnatter and his lousy pizza. Take a hike, you greedy, selfish pizza-peddling pig.

  44. Reasons to not buy Papa Johns Pizza:

    1. It is a poor product compared to competitors.
    2. He steals wages from his employees.
    3. He treats his employees horrible.
    4. Rather than pay his employees an honest wage he goes out and gets plastic surgery the makes him look like he tore off the face of a younger person and placed it over his, ala Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs.
    5. Did I mention he’s a greedy self-righteous profiteer.

  45. Has he considered that the reason for decline in NFL viewing might be due to people taking a dim view of any product (NFL) associated with bad pizza?

  46. Say whatever you want, if papa John’s walk it would be a significant blow to the NFL. It would also possibly start the momentum of othe sponsers jumping ship.

  47. A thin base, with many unhealthy, unspeakable ingredients, of little real substance and completely lacking in taste, all half-baked and managing only half of what should go on top – yes you’ll struggle to finish.
    -Papa Jerrahs’ all new, all bad, Dallas Cowboys Pizza!

  48. Look, we all know the Commissioner is sub standard .

    We all know those pizzas are sub standard.

    So is Papa saying “if we boycott his pizzas Goodell will get fired”?

    That works for me

  49. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

    Not having to look at those disgusting pizza ads will help up keep out appetite for when we order our Lou Malnati’s deep dish…a pizza that has more flavor than the cardboard insert posing as pizza at PJ’s.

  50. Elliot should get a reduced suspension if he gets another assaulter of women off TV. Football without Manning’s doofus act will raise ratings too. win-win.

  51. Good riddance. Go already. I never understood why the owner had to have his mug in all those commercials anyway. His face isn’t exactly appetizing. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see this guy back in the headlines for some kind of law suit against him for misconduct. He seems like that type.

  52. Ending partnerships that are tv rated. TV ratings overall are declining not just the nfl. They need a new revenue source knowing it ain’t tv anymore

  53. This is the guy who made such a stink when Obama wanted him to offer his employees health insurance? He talked about having to raise his pizza prices by a whole nickel to cover it. Meanwhile he had a private, 18 hole golf course built in his backyard. Hate this dude and would never support him.

  54. Papa may want to do something about his prices. Out of all the national chains Papa John’s pricing is the highest. I don’t have the disdain for their pizza that a lot of people her do, but what isn’t arguable is the price. Domino’s and Pizza Hut have far better pricing. If want to spend a lot of money on pizza, I’ll buy from local pizza place. The higher price is actually worth it in that case.

  55. Who else advertises during NFL games?
    Are beer distributors, automakers or insurance companies complaining?
    Nope!
    No one will miss this drive-by “patriot”.
    He needs the NFL a lot more than the NFL needs him.

  56. It’s just normal human behavior to “Kill The Goose that Lays the Golden Egg. The NFL is no different.

  57. Sales probably fell off a cliff in San Diego, St Louis and Oakland, but he would have to blame the owners for that, so better to pin it on the players.

    When you are pursuing a growth-at-all-costs strategy, making a better product is far down the list of priorities. Just ask Domino’s.

  58. Of course your profits are down. You just had to pay out a 36M class action settlement for your illegal labor practices. Not to mention all the things you do that are legal but unethical as heck. People notice and some go elsewhere.

    Go on and go. There will be a dozen other companies setting up a meeting to possibly replace you within 24 hours.

  59. Regardless of one’s views of the quality of the pizza, good on Schnatter. It is a simple example of capitalism. Revenues decline for whatever reason, to remain profitable changes need to made in your business expenses.

    After all, it his decision to make. The league gets it, but how much they care will remain to be seen.

  60. Their profits have been declining for the past year … they have the worst pizza in the USA, and probably the WORLD. Look in the mirror Johnny, don’t blame the NFL.

  61. Pizza good? Pizza bad? it doesn’t matter. The NFL will lose millions on this sponsor if they leave..The reality is the money sent to the NFL not pizza sauce..

  62. Folks that oppose the kneeling are not the only folks that go to Papa Johns. The real story is about the broader issue of marketing facing the NFL.

  63. I wonder what the owners think of this? I can’t imagine Bob Kraft and the others are happy with Jerry’s temper tantrum. He is making the Cowboys organization look foolish. Maybe they will give strong hints to his son that he better take over before he is forced to sell. If an NBA owner can be forced to sell his club for his words, surely Jones can be over his words and actions.

  64. If I owned a multi-million dollar company, I’d in no way, shape or form, give the NFL a DIME of ad revenue. There are many other sources of good marketing platforms instead of giving money to an organization that kowtows to spoiled millionaires who whine incessantly about a false narrative instead of just doing their jobs and making millions playing a kid’s game.
    Besides, it’s never a good thing to invest in a sinking ship!

  65. If they invested some of that advertising money into making halfway decent pizza, maybe their sales wouldn’t be so bad. It’s pretty hard to make pizza so bad I don’t want to eat it, but somehow Papa John’s pulled it off.

  66. I got sick eating a PapaCrappa pizza while watching the Giants play. And I blamed the Giants by mistake.

  67. “…instead of giving money to an organization that kowtows to spoiled millionaires who whine incessantly about a false narrative instead of just doing their jobs…”

    The irony in this statement, it burns. Lift your eyes a tad and look around…we need a new billion dollar stadium, for free, to keep up with the Joneses (and to charge you fools $250 for selling you your own watch back), or else we’re taking our ball, and going to a new town! Yesterday. Hello Vegas!

    Still sure it’s a player-only issue? Sounds like that old timey trickle down, tricklin’ down slow, again.

    Next up: US Congress (“you ain’t seen nothing yet!” “When you got nothing, you got nothing to offer, but the price is still 1.6 trillion over 10 years” “Pay me, play me, just don’t delay me” “If I had a hammer, I’d only use the claw. So, for Christmas, I want an un-hammer with 2 claws!”)

    More?

  68. Perfect that pizza is nasty… Now its time to deport Trump and all of his supporters to Mexico. Then build the wall and make it lethal for anyone who gets near it.

  69. In typical scumbag profiteer fashion, Schnatter is looking to blame somebody for a problem that existed long before the NFL player protests started.
    His market share has been declining for years.

  70. People think NFL fans are stupid, and if they read these comment sections, they would have their opinion reinforced.

    How stupid are you People? You get to enjoy football on TV for free because of advertisement. Without advertisers, football would not be on television. Make sense? Or are some of you still too dense to u understand how it all happens? No advertisers, no revenues, no football. Get it?

  71. Allow me to apply my expertise.

    papa jon’s is suffering from two very distinct symptoms of a heavily marketed brand.

    Over exposure, and market over-saturation.

    So as a brand, it has saturated it’s target market with advertisement to the point where it has become literally a household name. Resulting in over-exposure.

    That was their intent; the catch 22 for papa jons is it means almost everyone has eaten there food at least once by now and the overwhelming result is almost everyone dislikes it.

    That’s where a powerful marketing campaign can kick a company in the S. Too many people have heard of Pj, tried it, and no longer want to eat it.

    If only their food was more better….

    Reminds me of a long defunct fast food chain named Godfather’s pizza.

  72. say it isn’t so! this will cause me to loose sleep. Im totally devastated by this.
    My life will never be the same, this must be a terrible dream.

  73. E’erbody hatin’ on his pizza but somebody is eating it their stock is still over $60 per share.

  74. Papa John’s pizza is just plain horrible! The NFL is the reason why Papa John’s is selling at all. Papa John’s owners should sell their franchise(s) and start buying up Domino’s and Pizza Hut!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.