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    Pizza Hut Encourages 'Homegating' in First NFL Campaign

  • The chain's first national campaign as NFL sponsor is all about the immersive experience.

    Web Exclusive September 4, 2018 By Danny Klein
    Pizza Hut's
    All restaurants feature special-edition NFL boxes with collective use of all 32 NFL teams.

    When Papa John’s and the NFL cut official ties in February, Pizza Hut was quick to jump in. Fittingly, its first activation began with the 2018 NFL Draft, which took place near the YUM! Brands’ chain’s North Dallas headquarters. With Week 1 of the NFL calendar arriving full force September 9 (the Falcons and Eagles play Thursday), Pizza Hut unveiled its expansive plans for its first year as the official sponsor of the sports giant.

    Marianne Radly, Pizza Hut’s chief brand officer, says the company’s positioning is all about fans, and cultivating what she calls a “homegating experience.”

    READ MORE: Checking in on Pizza Hut’s $130 million comeback plan.

    “Pizza Hut has evolved into a delivery and digital-centric business,” she says. “So as people have changed the way they interact with our pizza, the vast majority of NFL fans are enjoying the game at home. As we were looking at considering this sponsorship and getting into it, you look at the hundreds of thousands of people in the stadium watching the game, but there’s millions of more at home. We thought this was the perfect opportunity.”

    There are three topline channels Pizza Hut will engage guests through the sponsorship.

    To start, the brand is launching a “Game Plan” digital platform via its Huts Rewards loyalty program. How it works is customers sign in and pick their favorite team, and Pizza Hut will then send “kickoff reminders,” as well as exclusive offers and chances to win prizes throughout the season to guests, including an all-expenses paid trip for two to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta. The kickoff reminders send users an alert three hours before their team’s game, noting the upcoming contest and also asking if they want to place a pizza order.

    Pizza Hut

    Radly says the goal centers on building loyalty, and fostering a repeatable model with customers, “and almost build the habit with them,” she says. The platform lets customers opt in or out of additional marketing. “It’s really about making it easier, and it’s rewarding them for their purchase,” she says.

    Pizza Hut teamed with NFL sponsors Bose and New Era for the first giveaway, which features a Bose SoundLInk Revolve speaker, New Era Official Sideline Home 9FIFTY hat, $100 Pizza Hut gift card, and $50 NFL Shop gift card. New prizes will be announced each Thursday. Every order placed through a customer’s corresponding Hut Rewards account counts as an additional entry to win prizes.

    Besides the reminders and contests, the Game Plan platform will enable Pizza Hut to pulse Sunday deals on items and sides to incentivize orders. In addition, Pizza Hut is offering a large, two-topping deal for $7.99 all season long.

    When guests order, they’ll also see new pizza boxes that leverage the collective use of all 32 NFL team logos. It unlocks “Beanbag Blitz,” which is an augmented reality version of cornhole. Once downloaded to an Android or iOS device, players have the option to unlock the augmented reality component by lining their camera up with the top of the special-edition box. Then, the game is played as it normally would be, with a team of two taking turns tossing beanbags onto the virtual cornhole board with the flick of a finger.

    Pizza Hut

    Pizza Hut is pulling out all the stops to create an immersive experience, even bringing augmented reality into the picture.

    Radly says this AR box is unique to the category, and came to light during an in-house ideation session.

    “We thought, wouldn’t it be fun to take tailgating and bring it to the home,” she says. “… I think anyone who has gone tailgating—they’ve played [cornhole] or seen someone playing it somewhere. As you look, again, we are heavily engaging in the digital space. That’s where our customers are living, and we thought this would be a fun thing to bring to them.”

    “We tapped into technology to deliver a truly immersive gameday experience to fans— specifically combining what they’re most passionate about: their team, the spirit of competition, and of course, pizza,” adds Zipporah Allen, chief marketing officer, in a statement. “Incorporating this AR component into our lineup of new experiences is broadening our digital portfolio and engaging fans in a completely new way.”

    Lastly, Pizza Hut teamed with Pittsburgh Steelers wideouts Antonio Brown and Juju Smith Schuster to produce ad messaging set to start airing this week.

    “We are thrilled to kick off our first season with Pizza Hut as the official pizza of the National Football League,” said Renie Anderson, senior vice president, NFL Partnerships, Sponsorship & Consumer Products, in a statement. “As we saw with their awesome ‘Doorbell Dance’ for the Draft, Pizza Hut has really creative and engaging ways of activating around our brand and fans—and pizza lovers—everywhere should be excited for what they have planned for this NFL season.”

    Check them out below:

    Radly says the NFL sponsorship is one that can evolve and grow throughout the year, and beyond. There have been team level activations already, such as deals with Pittsburgh, Seattle, the Los Angeles Rams, and the Los Angeles Chargers. These partnerships will come to life for fans throughout the season through local activations, player partnerships, social impact initiatives, and more, the company said. There have also been opportunities for cross merchandising, like the tie in with Bose on a Game Plan giveaway, since the company is an NFL partner already.

    “We’re excited about the season. I think when you look at the three things we’re focused on, with our Game Plan, and our advertising, and really just our packaging, it’s all tying into this great experience for customers at home,” Radly says. “The ease of ordering. Ordering our pizza and ordering our wings, and sitting there catching the game—there’s going to be nothing better.”