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Volume 23 No. 24
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Status as NFL sponsor delivers big numbers for Pizza Hut

What a difference a year makes in the pizza business.

In our annual study that was fielded in January 2018, 63 percent of NFL fans knew that Papa John’s was the league’s official pizza, making it the most-recognized corporate partnership in sports. A few weeks later, the league and brand ended their nine-year relationship, and Pizza Hut immediately filled the void.

According to our 13th annual NFL Sponsor Breakthrough survey conducted recently for SBJ by Turnkey Intelligence, a quarter of the league’s fans correctly identified that change. And while Papa John’s still led the category with 40 percent of the fan response, the 23 percentage-point plunge was the biggest any brand — sponsor or not — has ever experienced in our survey. On the other hand, Pizza Hut saw a 17 percentage-point surge.

Recognition compared to 2018

+12% points: Pepsi — This is now one of the most-recognized soda partnerships in sports.

+7% points: Marriott — A partner since 2011, this was the brand’s fifth straight increase.

-9% points: Verizon — It was still the second-best survey ever for the league’s biggest advertiser.

-6% points: Hyundai — Declined despite doubling its NFL ad spend, loss in overall U.S. market share.

Pizza Hut activated heavily throughout the season with the Los Angeles Rams, and during the playoffs ran a commercial that featured Rams teammates Jared Goff and Todd Gurley. The brand also temporarily billed itself as “Pizza Hut Hut” during Super Bowl week.

Another notable finding from the data: 13 percent of respondents knew that Caesars was the league’s official casino, a designation that began Jan. 3. From that day through the end of the Super Bowl broadcast, the casino ran just one TV commercial — “Stay, Dine & Play Like a Caesar.” The spot aired 55 times, all during NFL-related programming, according to

Ad effectiveness

Turnkey draws from its database of more than 400 ads to analyze the impact of creative spots running on NFL and other major league programming.

Grade: 7 (good)
Although the spot featured a number of familiar NFL celebrities, such as Dak Prescott, Antonio Brown and Terry Bradshaw, and incorporated the familiar NFL theme tune, Pepsi’s ad did not enamor NFL fans. The ad did perform well in terms of the strength of Pepsi’s branding, resulting in an overall decent breakthrough score.


Grade: 8 (good)
Bose’s lighthearted ad featuring Aaron Rogers was well received by NFL fans. The Mullen-created spot, which touted noise-canceling headphones, performed well across all key metrics, and Bose’s branding scores over-indexed considerably against other commercials that ran during football programming.