Why do brands want to be the ‘official sponsor’ of the NFL?

Eager to tap into a highly loyal and demographically consistent audience, Pizza Hut quickly replaces Papa John’s as official pizza sponsor of the NFL.


March 1, 2018

Ex-”Official Pizza of the NFL,” Papa John’s, ended its troubled relationship with the league in an alleged “mutual decision.” The NFL didn’t take long to get over the breakup.

One day after ditching Papa, commish Roger Goodell announced the league had found a new pizza-partner that could “make the at-home NFL experience more exciting”: Pizza Hut.

Major fumble

Papa John’s became the first sponsor in NFL history that failed to finish out an “official” sponsorship.

While the terms of the Papa John’s deal remained private, the $1.4B price tag on Bud Light’s 6-year deal suggests Papa John’s likely left a slice of ‘za worth hundreds of millions sitting in the box (their shares also fell more than 8% after the announcement).

NFL sponsorship revenue totaled $1.32B this past season (a 5.9% YoY increase), despite declining TV ratings. So, why do advertisers like Pizza Hut jump at the chance to serve ads to a dwindling audience on a declining medium?

The NFL knows its fans — and they like beer and pizza

The 30+ companies that pay to be “official” NFL sponsors include Castrol (motor oil), Bridgestone (tires), Anheuser-Busch InBev (beer), USAA (military insurance), Ford (trucks) — and now Pizza Hut.

And the roll call of official NFL sponsors is identical to your Uncle Gary’s shopping list for a reason: Research shows that a majority of NFL fans are middle-aged men — they’re 20% more likely than the average consumer to buy brands they see advertised.

So as long Uncle Gary keeps painting his face for the Browns, “official” sponsors will continue to pay their way into his man-cave.

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