Papa Johns Pepperoni - © Papa Johns

Papa John’s Unwanted Endorsement

They say any kind of promotion is a good thing, or can be spun to the positive. And Word of Mouth is the best advertising. But there is at least one situation in which those ‘olden, golden’ rules aren’t true. That’s when you’re getting a positive recommendation from a decidedly negative place…

Papa Johns NFL Deal - © 2017 Papa JohnsPapa John’s has a sweet deal as the official pizza sponsor of the NFL.

That’s the predicament Papa John’s Pizza finds itself in this week, and there doesn’t seem to be any east way out. In fact, the endorsement was unsolicited, and came at the Pizza Chain out of left field. Simple denial won’t be enough to negate it.

It’s the kind of thing any eatery or resto chain would love to receive – from the right person or group. But when it’s the Aryan Nation that proclaims you its ‘official restaurant’, you have a problem on your hands.

What happened?

Seems Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter recently complained publicly that the NFL’s inability to handle the League’s National Anthem protest problem had hurt the chain’s business. Pap John’s has a sweet deal as an official sponsor of the  NFL..

“The NFL has hurt us,” Schattner told Bloomberg Financial News. “We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this … Leadership starts at the top and this is an example of poor leadership.”

The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist publication, immediately lauded Papa John’s as being ‘disgusted with [the] anti-white NFL’.


Then what happened?

Papa John’s PR Chief Peter Collins told the Louisville Courier the company was blind-sided by ‘endorsement’: “We condemn racism in all forms and any and all hate groups that support it. We do not want these individuals or groups to buy our pizza.”

Okay… But how do you tell a white supremacist from any other customer when he or she walks up to the counter? That’s a small thing, though, in the greater context of the issue.

Greg Creed, CEO of Pizza Hut’s parent company, Yum Brands, told listeners on a shareholders’ call earlier this week that The Hut has seen no decline in sales as a result of the NFL Anthem dispute. They do have a lot of customers who come in to watch the games in their bars, but they don’t have the supposed advantage of in-stadium sales. But why miss an opportunity to kick a competitor when it’s down?

The aftermath…

Papa John’s is still trying to scrub off the stain that the incident left on its reputation. Sales this year have dropped by about 1.5 percent as opposed to a projection that they would rise by at least 5 percent as a result of the NFL deal. Papa John’s stock has dropped almost 9 percent in value.

Was this brush with the white supremacists the start of a death spiral for the chain? We’ll be watching…

~ Maggie J.