In an earnings call on Wednesday, the CEO of Papa John’s Pizza said that the NFL’s botched efforts at getting players to stand for the national anthem was not just hurting the league’s own ratings and ticket sales – it was causing customers to abandon their pizza as well!
In the call, CEO John Schnatter said, “The NFL has hurt us. More importantly, by not resolving the current debacle to the players’ and owners’ satisfaction, NFL leadership has hurt Papa John’s shareholders.”
Papa John’s has been one of the NFL’s biggest and most visible sponsors since 2010, having used their logos and even some of their most famous stars in their commercials and advertising campaigns. The pizza company is one of the few corporations allowed to use the NFL’s precious and highly-guarded “Super Bowl” marketing insignias. The company has spent untold millions running ads during the league’s games, and it is no exaggeration to say that no other outside company – save perhaps Budweiser – is as closely associated with the NFL as Papa John’s. Certainly no other pizza place.
Papa John’s sales figures have not been released for the last quarter, but the company’s shares did fall 8% on Wednesday, possibly in reaction to Schnatter’s earnings call to investors. And while Pizza Hut and others dispute that their NFL relationships have hurt their bottom line, none of those other companies are as intensely related to the NFL brand as Papa John’s. Also, you can’t really blame them for trying to take advantage of this situation to improve their own sponsorship of the league. There’s always a chance, after all, that all of this anthem nonsense will blow over and we can go back to enjoying football without feeling slimy every time we turn on a game. It’s a chance that’s getting slimmer by the week, but hey, we’re optimists.
“Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership,” Schnatter said of the NFL.
The company went further, canceling their NFL-related advertising due to the ongoing “negative consumer sentiment” of the brand.
At some point, someone in the league’s front office is going to have to stop being so terrified of a bajillion angry liberals – most of whom probably don’t watch football to begin with – and take a stand for the United States of America. Because if they keep allowing these reprehensible protests to take place, the tsunami of negative reaction is going to grow too large to stop.