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Super Bowl Presents Major Opportunity for Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut’s Super Bowl plans include everything from a fleet of branded delivery vehicles to a renamed restaurant.

Adam White




Photo via Pizza Hut

It’s Pizza Hut Hut, not Pizza Hut.

That’s of course if you are visiting the Pizza Hut location in Atlanta that was renamed Pizza Hut Hut ahead of Super Bowl LIII.

In the company’s first year as the official pizza sponsor of the NFL, Pizza Hut leveraged everything from athletes like Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to technology like AR to turn its pizza boxes into cornhole boards.

While it may seem like the brand did a lot of different things from an activation standpoint, the moves were made to take advantage of the first year of its deal with the NFL — a coming-out party of sorts.

With the NFL partnership, we really had one goal of focusing on the fan and making them the center of everything we do,” said Marianne Radley, chief brand officer at Pizza Hut. “In our first year as the official pizza sponsor of the NFL, we wanted to be able to shout our relationship from the rooftops. It will all culminate Super Bowl Sunday with everything we are doing on the ground in Atlanta and across the country for our customers.”

Now, with the company’s first Super Bowl ahead of them, the theme of “overdelivering” is on everyone’s mind.

By all accounts, Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest day of the year for Pizza Hut. This year, it’s even bigger.

How big is big? Pizza Hut has been having Super Bowl Sunday prep rallies in its stores to get its team members ready for Sunday.

A Deal 14 Hours in the Making

Fourteen hours in February were all that was needed to change how this year’s NFL season would go for the largest pizza chain in America.

Shortly after Papa John’s and the NFL decided to make a “mutual decision to shift from their official league sponsorship to a focus on partnerships with 22 local NFL teams,” the league announced that it was teaming up with Pizza Hut.

Signing the deal in February of 2018, Pizza Hut had six weeks to ramp up for the 2018 NFL Draft, a task that was as challenging as it was exciting according to Radley.

“I’ve worked on a lot of experiential marketing programs and partnerships in my career, but this one, in particular, was one that I’m so proud of our team for sprinting so quickly and collaborating so well with the NFL to be able to pull it off.”

From there, the brand dipped its toes into deals with teams, locking in four teams, three of which made the playoffs, and one, the Rams, who will take the field this coming Sunday with a chance to win it all.

Outside of league and team deals, Pizza Hut turned to players like Todd Gurley, Tyler Lockett, and JuJu Smith-Schuster to bring the brand message to life from a player perspective.

“We felt that the players we signed represented the excitement and passion of football as well as a love of life and joy that creates magical moments,” added Radley. “Pizza Hut as a brand is about fostering community and that’s what these players helped us do. It was a really nice fit.”

Big Plans for the Big Game

With over 100 million people tuned into the game and hundreds of thousands on the ground in Atlanta, Pizza Hut wanted to make sure it didn’t miss a beat.

In Atlanta alone, the company rebranded one of its stores, is rolling out a fleet of branded delivery vehicles, and will double-down on its use of AR with an activation at the Super Bowl Experience that will have people dancing.

“Throughout the year, we showcased Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster in our commercials. We decided we were going to bring their personalities to life via AR,” mentioned Radley. “Thanks to the technology, fans will have the opportunity to dance alongside both of the players. The dancing will be recorded and the fans will get a takeaway to share on social media.”

While Radley even admits that they took a big bite of the apple when it came to incorporating so many different marketing elements, the goal was to be as inclusive as possible.

“We looked at it (the Super Bowl activation) and said nothing is impossible,” added Radley. “With an opportunity to connect our brand with fans during a moment that matters, we really wanted to take an inclusive approach to make sure we were resonating with as many consumers as possible. We wanted messages that would radiate with humor, connect the fans, and were relevant. In order for us to do that, we knew we couldn’t do it with just one tactic.”

One of the more unique tactics that they will roll out come Super Bowl Sunday is a discount on Super Bowl merchandise.

Thanks to their partnership with the NFL, Pizza Hut will be offering the only discount on official Super Bowl merchandise purchased on and will only be available for Pizza Hut rewards members who purchase a pizza on Super Bowl Sunday.

READ MORE: Natty Light’s Super Bowl Moment

The 20-percent off discount will be redeemable on gear, including Super Bowl gear, starting on the Monday after Super Bowl and running through the end of February.

A collaborative effort between the league and the brand, Radley pointed to the NFL’s willingness to make this happen as one of the important factors in having it all come together.

“We do a lot of our sales through our Hut Rewards program and we wanted to reward our most loyal customers. We want to be innovative, we want to be unique, and we wanted to give customers an experience that they haven’t been able to have before. Luckily, the NFL bought into what we wanted to deliver for our fans.”

With all eyes on the Super Bowl, Radley and the team at Pizza Hut see an opportunity that is not just about garnering a few more ad impressions, but serving as a way for them to test new concepts, new initiatives, and ultimately new products.

“This is a springboard for innovation for us. With something like our $5 lineup, we are taking the messaging beyond just pizza. The idea behind the offering is to bring in new products at a very low price barrier that consumers can come in and try. We’re using our relationship with the NFL as a mechanism for talking about our innovation within the QSR category.”

New Year, New Opportunities

As the final chapter for the 2019 NFL season gets set to play out on the field, Radley and her team are already preparing for next year.

With a year of lead time to work with instead of six weeks, plans for 2019 include improvement in areas such as diversifying their audience and providing more personal experience to consumers.

Like any multi-year deal, it’s a work in progress.

“We’re really pleased with the partnership in year one. The way we look at things like sales is more of a holistic approach. For example, we know that the volume of orders placed this season not only bolstered sales, but also brand sentiment. As we go forward, we’re looking at ways in which we can improve purchase consideration, connection to the brand, and diversifying our audience a bit more.”

To do this, Radley will lean on her performance marketing team to deliver a more personalized approach.

“We will continue to look at ways to bring the partnership to a localized fan base so that we can do more targeted and personalized communication. The goal will be to find ways to amplify our partnership by providing more of a personalized experience to our current customers and the new ones that we bring in.”

If everything goes according to plan, Hotlanta will be HUTlanta come Super Bowl Sunday.

Adam is the Founder and CEO of Front Office Sports. A University of Miami Alum, Adam has worked for opendorse, the Fiesta Bowl, and the University of Miami Athletic Department. He can be reached at


Powerade Commits to Building Soccer Fields In New Campaign

As part of the brand’s new “Power Has No Gender” campaign, Powerade is building three mini-pitches with the U.S. Soccer Foundation.




Photo Courtesy: U.S. Soccer Foundation

With a light on soccer with the Women’s World Cup, Powerade has made a commitment to help continue the growth of soccer in the U.S. by helping create better access to the sport.

The sports drink company has launched its “Power Has No Gender” campaign as the official sports drink of the U.S. Women’s National Team and partnered with the U.S. Soccer Foundation to build three small soccer fields in honor of current players: Alex Morgan in Los Angeles; Crystal Dunn in New York; and Kelley O’Hara in Atlanta.

The “Power Has No Gender” campaign is the first portion of a greater “Power Has No Limit” campaign to discuss the challenges athletes face in sports because of race, age, gender, ability, access or identity, said Jasmine Lipford, Powerade Senior Brand Manager. Lipford cited a Women’s Sports Foundation statistic that girls have 1.3 million fewer opportunities to play school sports than boys, a gap the company wants to help bridge with the pledge of support to the U.S. Soccer Foundation.

“The FIFA Women’s World Cup is a powerful time in women’s sports. It is the one time every four years that women have a dominant presence on the sports page, captivating the entire globe and sports fans everywhere,” Lipford said. “Because this is such a powerful time in women’s sports, and as the official sports drink of the U.S. Women’s National Team, the FIFA Women’s World Cup presented the opportune time to channel the excitement and vigor that surrounds the tournament to help Powerade shed light on the challenges that young female athletes face.”

The new campaign from Powerade is meant to harness the popularity of the Women’s World Cup and help propel women athletes to an equitable level of their male counterparts, Lipford said.

U.S. Soccer Foundation Executive Director Ed Foster-Simeon believes partnering with Powerade on the three mini-pitches is a show of commitment on the brand’s part to actually make a difference in communities.

READ MORE: Concacaf Unveils First-Ever Women’s Soccer Plan

“It’s an opportunity to do something together that has a meaningful impact,” Foster-Simeon said. “Boys and girls face many barriers to safe places to play. Access is one of the major challenges we face to growing the game.”

The fields being built will be a small contribution to the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s goal of building 1,000 mini-pitches by 2026 in its “Safe Places to Play” program, but each small step is powerful in helping bring soccer to more communities in the U.S., Foster-Simeon said. The foundation has already built nearly 300 fields and Foster-Simeon said plans are in place to reach 500 in the near future.

Foster-Simeon said the foundation shifted its focus about a decade ago to reach underserved communities where access to programming and fields are limited. Taking note of similar mini-pitches across Europe and Central and South America, the fields can be built in underutilized spaces not large enough for full-sized fields, often in urban environments.

“It transforms a dead space in a community and turns it into a vibrant, live and accessible space for the entire neighborhood,” Foster-Simeon said. “It creates a hub of activity.”

The U.S. Soccer Foundation does take some steps to help program the fields, but time is quickly filled by community-based programs. The foundation claims fields are programmed an average of five hours daily with 350 children using them regularly.

While the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s goal is to create better access for all children, Powerade’s current focus is on women athletes as it launches the greater “Power Has No Limit” campaign.

READ MORE: Budweiser Signs On as Presenting Partner of Women’s International Champions Cup 

“Sports are crucial for girls, girls who play sports are more confident about their abilities and competencies, and are 14% more likely to believe they are smart enough for their dream career,” Lipford said, referencing a study by Ruling Our eXperiences Inc. “Giving young female athletes access to the tools they need to practice their game – including access to fields – will help these girls not only achieve their soccer dreams but will also pave the way for the next generation of World Cup hopefuls.”

Powerade is currently only committed to the three fields with the U.S. Soccer Foundation, but there could be more in the future with its goal to push these campaigns for access forward.

“Our goal is to show them these three pitches and the impact they can have,” Foster-Simeon said. “Hopefully they’ll be excited.”

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NHL Keeps Running On Dunkin’ With New Deal

Dunkin’ became an NHL league-level sponsor in 2017, which was the company’s first-ever national sports league partnership.

Ian Thomas



NHL Dunkin' Deal
Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Dunkin’ has signed a multi-year extension of its deal with the NHL, continuing its position as the official coffee, donut and breakfast sandwich of the league in the U.S.

The deal, expected to be announced tonight prior to game five of the Stanley Cup Final in Boston, marks the twelfth major partner that the NHL has signed or renewed its deal with in recent months.

Dunkin’ became an NHL league-level sponsor in 2017, which was the company’s first-ever national sports league partnership. Over the course of the last two seasons, the partnership has seen Dunkin’ become one of the NHL’s most active corporate sponsors in terms of its presence at major NHL events, partnerships with local teams, marketing campaigns and other fan-facing efforts.

READ MORE: Following NBA’s Lead, NHL Taps Massive Chinese Market for Fans

NHL Group Vice President of Partnership Marketing Evin Dobson said that since becoming a sponsor, Dunkin’ has ranked at the top or in the top three of the league’s internal metrics regarding fan awareness or engagement of its partners.

Dunkin’ has been front and center this Stanley Cup Final as well, as its national advertising campaign starring Eastern Conference Champion Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak has been heavily featured during NBC’s television coverage of the playoffs. The campaign was created by BBDO Worldwide, which was named Dunkin’s new agency of record in April 2018.

“When you have an advertising campaign that even the broadcast talent is talking about on-air, you know you’re creating great fan engagement with what you’re doing,” Dobson said.

Tom Manchester, Dunkin’ U.S. senior vice president of integrated marketing, said much of the deal with the league will be similar to how its current deal is structured – it will continue to hold exclusive rights in those U.S. categories, it will activate around the partnership at NHL league events and it will have a presence across broadcast, digital and social media channels throughout the season, which includes a multi-million dollar partnership with NBC Sports for custom in-game features during games. Dunkin’ will also activate alongside the NHL’s esports tournament, the NHL Gaming World Championship, which will hold its final in Las Vegas later this month.

However, the new deal will see Dunkin’ adding two new local team partnerships in the deal, with the Carolina Hurricanes and the Vegas Golden Knights. Dunkin’ now has 15 NHL team-level deals.

READ MORE: NHL Turns to Corner Ice Placements to Grow On-Ice Ad Revenue

Dunkin’ will also launch a new activation around the league deal ahead of next season, Manchester said, declining to comment further as those plans have only just started.

“Over these last two years, the idea that coffee and espresso is a big part of the hockey world and hockey family’s lives has only been reinforced for us,” Manchester said.

Dunkin’s NHL deal also serves as “the centerpiece” of that outreach to hockey families, Manchester said.

In addition to its league-level NHL deal in 2017, Dunkin’ has also made additional investments into hockey, signing a deal with USA Hockey in 2016 as well as the NWHL in 2015, becoming the women’s league first corporate sponsor.

While both of those deals have since lapsed, Manchester said that on the NWHL front, the company is in talks with the league about renewing it. He noted that Dunkin’ views “women’s hockey as just as important as men’s.”

However, Dunkin’ is not planning on more broadly renewing its partnership with the U.S. governing body. Manchester said that while Dunkin’ had activated heavily around the U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team and players like Meghan Duggan during the 2018 Winter Olympics, it had nothing in place with USA Hockey at the moment – although he said Dunkin’ could potentially do something around the team or its players heading into the next Olympic cycle in 2022.

Both Dobson and Manchester declined to comment on the financial terms of the deal, other to say the multi-year deal’s investment level is in line with the previous deal. Fenway Sports Management, who is Dunkin’s sports marketing agency of record, negotiated the deal on behalf of the company.

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Concacaf Unveils First-Ever Women’s Soccer Plan

In August, Concacaf appointed its first-ever head of women’s football – former Canadian women’s national team player Karina LeBlanc.

Ian Thomas



women's soccer
Photo Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of the start of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Concacaf has rolled out its first-ever strategic plan to grow and develop the game of women’s soccer.

In August, the confederation appointed its first-ever head of women’s football – former Canadian women’s national team player Karina LeBlanc.

LeBlanc, who presented the plan in Paris this week to all confederation’s 41 members that includes all of the soccer federations across North and Central America and the Caribbean, said that even with two of the top five ranked women’s soccer teams globally coming from this region in the U.S. and Canadian national teams, there is still an opportunity to do even better.

“The mission we’ve set out on is to improve the lives of women and girls throughout our region through the sport,” LeBlanc said. “We need to change perceptions, grow participation and build a sustainable foundation so that we can do just that.”

Concacaf has designed its strategy to grow the sport of women’s soccer around three main pillars – communicating the importance of women’s soccer and advocating for key issues affecting women, development of the sport and creating pathways to develop and empower players both on and off the field, and through commercial means that will build a self-sustainable growth model for the sport.

LeBlanc said Concacaf’s vision for growing the game somewhat mirrors FIFA’s, who launched its own first-ever global strategy for women’s soccer in October. FIFA is holding a two-day women’s soccer summit in Paris, featuring executives and federation officials from across the globe aiming to “make the most of this new era of women’s football,” which FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in his opening remarks at the summit on Wednesday morning.

Other goals for 2019 set by Concacaf include leveraging the hopeful success of the region’s national teams at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, creating a women’s coaching mentorship program and develop a commercial strategy around the confederation’s women’s soccer brand, which is called Concacaf W.

“We believe we can hit some of these targets very quickly, but it was important to create something like this plan so that everyone is on the same page,” LeBlanc said. “We all agree it is critical that we create growth and opportunity for women in the sport.”

LeBlanc said some of the long term goals include creating new women’s soccer competitions across the region, assisting in the creation of women’s soccer-specific digital and social channels for all the federations to help inspire fans, and encouraging the launch of more women’s clubs across the region.

READ MORE: Budweiser Signs On as Presenting Partner of Women’s International Champions Cup

“From our standpoint, we are looking at ways to influence clubs to take a leap of faith and if they already have a men’s team, to also have a women’s team,” LeBlanc said. “Our goal is to change the mindset that women’s football is just a cause.

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