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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


How Two Top Brands Market Products Via Partnership With NASCAR

NASCAR has developed longstanding relationships with Mobil 1 and Mars, both of which are marketing products through a relationship with the sport.

Kraig Doremus




Photo credit: NASCAR

To be successful, any organization or league needs to have open communication with its partners.

NASCAR has been able to develop longstanding relationships with Mobil 1 and Mars, and both brands are marketing products differently through a relationship with the sport.

ExxonMobil: A Look at Marketing Its Mobil 1 Annual Protection Oil

The Mobil 1 brand has been involved with NASCAR for over 15 years and the relationship has been successful due to a common goal – both ExxonMobil and NASCAR want to share the sport, not just with fans but with consumers as well.

In December, ExxonMobil’s Mobil 1 brand was honored by NASCAR with the Marketing Achievement Award thanks to its successful relationship with the sanctioning body.

“The relationship has been so successful because of our common goal to share the great sport of NASCAR with fans and consumers,” said Kai Decker, motorsports and sponsorship manager, lubricants marketing of ExxonMobil. “We are able to utilize both our digital and social platforms to connect with racing fans. It really has been a mutually beneficial partnership.”

Mobil 1 has been focused on heavily promoting its Annual Protection Motor Oil, and NASCAR has been able to serve as a catalyst for the promotion of the product.

WATCH: Inside Toyota’s Massive Daytona Activation

“NASCAR has been huge in promoting Mobil 1’s Annual Protection motor oil via its ability to test technology at the track, as well as include messaging about the motor oil in many NASCAR sponsored events,” said Decker.

One of the unique aspects about Mobil 1 is that it is not just involved with the sanctioning body, but also has a relationship with a top-level Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team, Stewart-Haas Racing, which is co-owned by three-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart.

“Our relationships with NASCAR and Stewart-Haas Racing complement each other brilliantly,” said Decker. “Both partnerships helped launch Mobil 1 Annual Protection motor oil and continue to help Mobil 1 share the value of our motor oil with passionate fans across their digital and social channels.”

ExxonMobil leveraged its relationship with Stewart-Haas by using Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 SHR Ford, in a pair of television commercials.

“(Kevin) Harvick was fantastic in the two TV spots,” said Decker. “He is great at representing Mobil 1 and the competitive edge that it gives Stewart-Haas Racing on the track.”

Last season, the Mobil 1 brand became one of the partners in NASCAR’s Ultimate Performers Program with the Mobil 1 Performance Award. It was a clear fit for the brand since Mobil 1 is committed to both racing and automotive excellence. The campaign was a hit on digital and social media too.

“Social and digital marketing continues to be important and invaluable in reaching consumers, so we appreciate NASCAR’s continued focus on their prominent social channels and website,” Decker said. “NASCAR is an attractive platform enabling us to demonstrate performance on the track and turn it into a great Mobil 1 experience for fans and consumers.”

Mars: A Partnership Focused on Innovation

In addition to ExxonMobil, Mars has had a longstanding involvement in NASCAR – one that goes back to the early 1990s when Snickers, a Mars brand, was featured on the Stavola Brothers Racing machine driven by Rick Wilson. Since one of its products was featured on Wilson’s car more than 20 years ago, Mars’ involvement in the sport has soared to new heights.

Not only did Mars begin to sponsor drivers like Ernie Irvan, Elliott Sadler and currently the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driven by Kyle Busch, the executives focused on a business-to-business approach for building relationships.

“Our partnership with NASCAR was a natural progression of the increasing visibility (and success) at the track, and our desire to create more ways to connect with fans, and foster relationships with the other blue-chip brands that share partnerships with NASCAR,” said William Clements, global vice president of sponsorship and family properties for Mars Inc. “Our partnership with the sanctioning body has made M&M’S synonymous with the colorful fun that fans love about NASCAR. From the drivers, to the cars, to the fans, NASCAR is an amazing platform for M&M’S.”

The executive team at Mars is proud of the different successes they’ve had with various Mars brands via its partnership with NASCAR, including getting the message out about the need for dog adoption for Pedigree, the support of Skittles Sweet Heat and even introducing the popular UK brand Malteasers into the U.S. market.

Clements knows that Mars would not have the success it has achieved in NASCAR without a proper marketing approach.

“Our NASCAR marketing involves a 360 approach that allows us to leverage every relationship, partner and efficiency possible to generate awareness for our brands,” said Clements.

READ MORE: How NASCAR Stays Up to Speed in the Ever-Changing Digital Space

Mars used a unique marketing approach for the return of M&M’S Crispy in 2015, bringing back the popular racing film “Days of Thunder,” but with a twist. The Mars team reimagined several scenes of the movie using driver Kyle Busch, wife Samantha, crew chief Adam Stevens and even team owner coach Joe Gibbs, as actors.

“It was incredibly successful in exposing a new generation of fans to the iconic movie and M&M’S Crispy, and it leveraged all of the resources we have at our disposal as an official partner. The series was filmed and edited by NASCAR Productions and had great exposure on and NASCAR digital properties.”

The team at Mars knows that NASCAR has significant value from a marketing standpoint not only because of the various platforms available for exposure, but also because of innovation.

“Much like Mars, NASCAR is grounded in innovation,” said Clements. “While that can easily be seen on track and the sport’s desire to make the competition as strong as possible, it is also evident in the sanctioning body’s desire to innovate for its partners. We have a fantastic working relationship with our colleagues at NASCAR who understand what we need from a business standpoint, and are open to discussing and innovating new ways to reach fans and our key customers.”

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Bojangles’ Channels Its Inner LeBron James for NBA All-Star Weekend

The restaurant chain has turned to James’ iconic powder toss as the imagery behind its Biscuit Baller campaign.

Jeff Eisenband




Photo credit: Bojangles’

The NBA All-Stars have descended upon Charlotte this week, but for those other than Hornets star Kemba Walker, this is just a temporary stay. For Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits, this is home.

And the brand, headquartered in Charlotte since its inception in 1977, wants to make sure it highlights its own All-Stars — its master biscuit makers — during the week.

Bojangles’ has centered its NBA All-Star marketing campaign around this image of not an actor or a model, but of Master Biscuit Maker Nate Cox. Cox is tossing flour in the air while rocking his “It’s Bo Time” apron. For NBA fans, this photograph should appear similar to the manner NBA players throw up chalk before games.

Specifically, it should remind fans of LeBron James’ chalk technique.

“The heroes of our brand are our master biscuit makers,” says Colby Anderson, digital media manager for Bojangles’ Restaurants, Inc. “They make biscuits fresh all day, every 20 minutes.

“[Nate] posed for us. Throwing flour in the air is not one of the 48 steps of making biscuits, but he was happy to play along with us and we were happy to feature him.”

The most notable part of the campaign can be found on a billboard in Uptown Charlotte at 22 West 11th Street in Uptown Charlotte. There, Cox’s pose is actually enhanced by simulated flour, which shoots from the top of the billboard, extended from his toss. That’s when Cox really looks like LeBron James, while greeting fans for NBA All-Star Weekend.

Cox first became a Bojangles’ certified master biscuit maker three years ago while working as an area director in the Charlotte location. He changed roles to field marketing coordinator, Charlotte, in May 2018, but he is still a master biscuit maker.

And now, he’s basically the face of Charlotte Tourism for the week.

“It would be a shame if we had fans from all over the country and outside of our footprint visiting our hometown and leaving without tasting a Bojangles’ biscuit,” Anderson says. “I think for some players who will be playing in the game, it’s the same thing.”

Of Bojangles’ 757 locations, 313 are in North Carolina. Bojangles’ is currently in 11 states and Washington D.C., but the brand has no locations west of Alabama and none north of Pennsylvania.

Bojangles’ is a partner of the NBA All-Star Host Committee in Charlotte and has been a sponsor of the Charlotte Hornets “for decades,” according to Anderson. Bojangles’ is currently the official tea of the Hornets. The brand is also the title sponsor of Bojangles’ Coliseum, which hosted the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game on Friday night.

For NBA All-Star Week, Bojangles’ has opened up the #BiscuitBaller campaign on social media. Between February 13 and 17, fans can upload a photo to and use a series of flour-tossing frames. By hashtagging #BiscuitBaller and #Sweepstakes on Twitter or Instagram, fans have the chance to win prizes, including a Bojangles’ gift card, an Xbox One S, the game NBA 2K19, and a live demonstration with a Bojangles’ Master Biscuit Maker.

READ MORE: Nike and Jordan Partner With Snapchat for Custom AR Lens

Nate Cox and his fellow master biscuit makers will not be on the court at Spectrum Center this week, but they will feel some of the fame in Charlotte.

“I know there are some people happy to see them on Saturday morning, but I don’t think they get the same recognition,” Anderson laughs, comparing master biscuit makers to NBA All-Stars.

If you’re in Charlotte, you might want to show that appreciation by going to Bojangles’. But if you’re under the sign, you might want to turn your windshield wipers on. Watch out for (simulated) flour.

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Nike and Jordan Partner With Snapchat for Custom AR Lens at NBA All-Star Weekend

Fans at NBA All-Star Weekend in Charlotte can touch up their own Snapchat lens at Nike and Jordan Brand’s “Own the Game” pop-up.

Jeff Eisenband




Photo credit: Nike

There are only 27 NBA All-Stars in Charlotte this weekend, but if you’re in town, your Snapchat friends don’t have to know that.

You can make them believe you’re No. 28.

As part of Nike and Jordan Brand’s “Own the Game” pop-up during NBA All-Star Weekend, Nike is partnering with Snapchat to allow fans to produce custom augmented reality art (“ARt”) lens. At the space at Charlotte’s Mint Museum Uptown, Snapchat is using Lens Studio, a free desktop app from Snap, stylized for All-Star Weekend with Nike and Jordan Brand accessories.

“This is the first time we’ve done this with even our organic community or even a brand,” says Shawn Dedeluk, creative strategy lead, Snap, Inc. “This is the first time we’ve allowed consumers to make augmented reality in this way. The software is available for anyone to download on their own, but we’ve never done an activation in person like this before, especially on this scale.”

READ MORE: Timbers’ Kayla Knapp on Building a Social Voice From the Ground Up

Lens Studio appears to be complicated at first glance, but the creative process is simple. Each AR custom creation in Charlotte starts by selecting one of four templates: Sunglasses, segmentation, hat, headband. Fans can then use All-Star designs, Nike and Jordan logos, phrases and quotes from Nike and Jordan All-Stars (Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walter, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Paul George, Russell Westbrook and Victor Oladipo) to personalize the lens. Background, borders and colors can also be adjusted.

Upon finishing, fans are given their own Snapcode to unlock the lens and share with friends. So, if you want to show your friends and family what they are missing out on, outside of Charlotte, let them use your custom lens.

The Snapcode can also be shared in the Snapchat Lens Studio community forum.

“For us, the world is mobile, and our consumer, that’s where they live,” says Sean Tresvant, vice president of global marketing, Jordan Brand. “When we’re trying to engage with our consumer, let’s meet them where they’re at when they’re on mobile. So we’re trying to give them a great experience, a great mobile experience where they can use augmented reality.

“We use [Snap’s] experts in the space. They know what works on their platform. Then you take what we’re experts at, our athletes and our brand assets. And when you look at some of the assets, whether it’s Russell Westbrook and his saying on why he owns the game, “Why not?” or Kemba Walker on how he owns the game, or someone like Giannis, it’s all fun and authentic to who they are as athletes versus us telling them what to do.”

Along with the custom lenses, Snapchat’s official Lens creators Alie Jackson, Ben Knutson and Shaun Lakey have created their own ARt pieces featuring a variety of Nike and Jordan Brand NBA All-Stars that can be found by accessing stickers and images around the activation (think, Pokemon Go AR). Nike and Snapchat have also created specific filters for the week.

Snapchat has been using AR on its interface for a number of years now with its lenses, but putting the power into its users’ hands is new.

“We’ve really popularized AR on our platform,” Dedeluk says. “It was the first time most people at mass had seen augmented reality and it’s a core part of our experience. So it’s not anything that’s been added on. It was something that was a part of the experience for a really long time. I think it’s 70 percent of our users on any given day see or play with augmented reality on Snapchat. So it’s core to the experience. It’s something that people love on our platform, they come back for it. This is the first time we’ve been able to like get people hands-on, making their own AR, walking away with a lens that they made here, on-site.”

On the Nike and Jordan side, Tresvant calls Snapchat a “natural” social partner, and the two brands continue to take steps together.

“I think we’re really pushing it out this year where it’s truly social, it’s truly unique and customizable,” Tresvant says. “And we’re pushing it out to communities. Last year, it was just a filter. Now, it’s all about customization and the fan or the community can do what they want and push it out.”

READ MORE: Channeling Napoleon Dynamite a Success for Blazers All-Star Campaign

Along with the Snapchat activation, Nike and Jordan Brand also have a half-court, vintage sneakers on display and various customization stations at the “Own the Game” pop-up. Nike Adapt BB, the first-ever power-lacing basketball sneaker, is available in the pop-up, as well as a series of other Nike and Jordan products at a retail hub.

Meanwhile, around the corner, a Nike SNKRS pop-up has been activated, similar to what the brand did at the Super Bowl in Atlanta. SNKRS members can use SNKRS Pass to reserve kicks for pickup, or SNKRS Reserve to request an appointment, or SNKRS Cam to unlock pairs of kicks on the fifth floor of “Own the Game.” SNKRS can also be expected to provide the unexpected, cycling through different pairs of sneakers, new and old, throughout the weekend.

“Own the Game” requires a free NikePlus membership to register and enter.

Be on the lookout for NBA All-Stars popping their own custom Snapchat filters as they come through the space this weekend.

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