Papa Johns is ending its 8 year sponsorship deal with the NFL after blaming it’s shift in sales on the NFL’s handling on player protests last year. “While the NFL remains an important channel for us, we have determined that there are better ways to reach and activate this audience,” CEO Steve Ritchie said a conference call to discuss the company’s quarterly earnings.
Ritchie said on the company’s earnings conference call that the league and the company mutually decided it was in their best interests for Papa John’s, which became the official pizza of the league in 2010, to give up the designation. The brand is the first NFL sponsor to leave in the midst of its deal. The company said on the call that there was no additional cost for undoing the deal.
Although the company will no longer have presence at the league’s big events, including the draft and the Super Bowl, they will continue to invest in the NFL through its local market with 22 individual teams. The deal will be offered to a new pizza sponsor.
The league is expected to have a replacement before the 2018 season begins. The local partnerships aren’t new to Papa John’s and they have long had special deals and offers related to each team and former players. Still, the loss of the NFL deal marks a big change for the company that seemed to be in a solid position before the 2017 NFL season.
Papa John’s reported Tuesday that North American sales were down 3.9% from a year ago. The stock has lost a third of its value since June. “We have really got a lot of key learnings on how we can invest our dollars more appropriately,” Ritchie added. “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” in a different way. Papa John’s stock was down almost 6% after hours.