When the NFL leadership made the foolish decision to stand idly by and allow players to escalate their disrespectful ‘anthem protests’ unchecked, football fans began a little protest of their own — and major sponsors have taken notice.
Sickened by the prancing and posturing on both the field and sidelines, ‘Boycott the NFL’ has become an enraged battle cry. Patriotic Americans leave season ticket seats empty week after week. Football viewing bundles have been cancelled; ticket sales have plummeted and stadium vendors scramble to cover expenses while serving sparse crowds.
Thousands of supporters have mobilized to boycott both games and sponsors this Veteran’s Day weekend; entire websites are scrolling sponsor contact information in preparation for the mass event. Clearly, football fans are communicating their frustration and disgust with their wallets. In all of this, it has become clear to Papa John’s that a wave of empty seats, both in stadium and at home — equals less demand for pizza and a drop in sales.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Papa John’s is reevaluating its close partnership with the NFL. Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter accuses the NFL of ‘poor leadership’ in regards to their handling of the anthem protests. Schnatter went on to observe that the protests should have been ‘nipped in the bud” soon after they began a year and a half ago.
“We are totally disappointed that the NFL and its leadership did not resolve the ongoing situation to the satisfaction of all parties long ago.” Schnatter said on a November 1 phone call with investors. “Good or bad, leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership.”
The ‘ongoing situation’ began in August of 2016 when Colin Kaepernick (then San Francisco 49er quarterback) decided to disrespectfully drop to one knee during the national anthem to take an inappropriate political stance about perceived ‘injustice’. Other players soon followed suit.
This September, President Trump suggested that team owners should fire players who failed to stand — as NFL guidelines state — for the Star Spangled Banner. The president made it plain that the kneeling players were disrespecting both our flag and country. Many Americans agreed with the President’s sentiment and began to boycott games in earnest, burning their NFL merchandise as well.
Papa John’s began its partnership with the NFL in 2010, and actually has a “preferred pizza” partnership with over 22 teams. Last year, the company signed a multi-year deal with the NFL and the Super Bowl. Papa John’s is one of the league’s most recognizable sponsors and has used NFL logos extensively in marketing and advertising campaigns, as well as run commercials during games.
The company’s Chief Marketing Officer Brandon Rhoten stated that, considering their recent drop in pizza sales during NFL games, “We have to evaluate our reliance on television focused partnerships, like the NFL.”
Papa John’s Chief Operating Officer, Steve Ritchie agrees.
“If the decline in viewership continues, we will need to shift to things that work more effectively for us,” he said. “We anxiously await a solution to the anthem issue…that’s what will put the league in a positive position with the players, the fan base and those partners associated with them.”
Further, in comments to the Wall Street Journal, Ritchie denied that Papa John’s had pressured the league to ban the protests. Ritchie stated that the situation has revealed specific issues with the chain’s decision to invest so aggressively in television advertising; they had allocated a large percentage of their fall and winter marketing budget to the NFL, presumably well before the boycott of NFL games began. Ritchie went on to mention ‘significant negative consumer sentiment’ towards Papa John’s association with the league.
Once self branded as “the official pizza of the NFL”, Papa John’s has removed NFL logos and all references to the league from the company website. Some forecasters perceive that the storm of controversy and deeply held positions expressed by consumers through social media can lead to an expensive break between sponsors and the NFL.
The coming well-organized boycott of Veteran’s Day Weekend NFL games and their sponsors may prove to be an undeniable and expensive concern to the league revenue, as association with the NFL and it’s out of control players will continue to prove to be bad for business.
~ Conservative Zone