Pizza Hut is pushing forward in the second season of its NFL deal, even taking the partnership virtual.
Along with a long line of real-life activations, the pizza company became the first company to secure virtual naming rights of a stadium, as Pizza Hut Stadium will be the home to the 2020 EA Sports Madden NFL Championship Series events.
Pizza Hut wants to ensure football fans know the sport and pizza go hand-in-hand, whether in real life or video games, Pizza Hut Chief Brand Officer Marianne Radley said.
“We wanted to go bigger and bolder in the second year of our NFL partnership,” Radley said. “Working with another league partner in EA was a natural fit for us. With all the convergence you’re seeing across traditional sports, esports, pop culture, and with other brands and influencers, it felt like the right time and place.”
Pizza Hut replaced Papa John’s as the NFL’s pizza partner in February 2018, less than 24 hours after Papa John’s announced a premature end to its deal. The Pizza Hut deal is slated to run through 2021.
The virtual stadium comes at a time EA is gearing up to build on a big year. Pizza Hut is joined by Snickers as Madden Championship Series sponsors.
“Last season was a monumental year for the Madden Championship Series as millions competed and we achieved record viewership,” said Matt Marcou, Madden NFL Competitive Gaming Commissioner. “In continued partnership with the NFL and its 32 clubs, we intend to accelerate player and spectator growth by aligning closely with the NFL calendar. Football fandom and Madden NFL engagement feed off each other and we’re confident this connection will further inspire our players and spectators.”
The NFL also realizes the same potential that Pizza Hut and EA Sports see in bridging esports fans and football fans – fostering a connection to build fandom on both sides of the equation.
“We view esports as a key accelerant to growing the NFL,” said Rachel Hoagland, NFL vice president and head of gaming and esports. “It enables new ways for young fans to engage in the sport. Competitive Madden unlocks great potential as the authenticity it provides enhances engagement and the connection between our 32 NFL clubs and football fans around the world.”
While the Madden news was the groundbreaking sponsorship move for Pizza Hut this season, the company is also expanding its overall NFL partnership, launching the Hut Hut Win campaign.
The collect-and-win campaign runs throughout the NFL season and allows fans to win experiences, like a ping-pong pizza party with Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald and making pizzas at the Pizza Hut headquarters with Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. There’s also a chance to win one of three grand prize trips to Miami for Super Bowl LIV.
The Hut Hut Win campaign is also paired with an NFL Season Carryout Deal: a three-topping pizza for $7.99.
“The first year of the partnership helped us increase awareness and reach more fans across the country,” Radley said. “In year two, we’re making our partnership with the NFL work harder for the everyday fan, to put them as close to the action as possible.”
To that end, Pizza Hut also expanded its player partnerships with Donald, the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year. The roster also includes Smith-Schuster, as well as Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett and Rams running back Todd Gurley. Team partnerships for Pizza Hut include the Rams, Seahawks, Steelers and Los Angeles Chargers.
As with typical partnerships, there will also be packaging integrations, local activations, social impact initiatives and potentially more player partnerships.
“Our NFL player partners, as well as our team partnerships, are among the most loved and recognized players and teams in the league,” Radley said. “They help us connect with their passionate fans and drive brand relevance and consideration.”
Pizza Hut is doing what it can to ensure whether fans are connecting with the virtual or physical NFL, the company will be there.