Reporter's Notebook

Papa John's gets its kicks

Papa John’s Pizza is out to own every sport called “football” in the world. We all know how valuable the Louisville, Ky.-based chain’s sponsorship of the National Football League in the United States has been, and now Papa John’s has a smart promotion to capitalize on our country’s growing enthusiasm for the U.S. National Soccer Team in this year’s World Cup.

Having survived the “Group of Death” in the first part of the World Cup, today the United States faces Belgium in the round of 16, with a chance to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2002. Papa John’s is offering a “Score Twice Half Price” promotion that will award customers 50 percent off any large pizza if the U.S. men’s team scores at least two goals in today’s game.

“The entire country has caught soccer fever,” Bob Kraut, the chain’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement. “It has been exciting to see the nation cheer for America’s best soccer players to bring home a victory and 50 percent off America’s best-quality pizza. We’re hopeful they will be able to deliver both today against Belgium.”

There are a couple things to love about the promotion. First, it’s timely, as this is the most enthusiastic Americans have been about the World Cup in quite some time, and nobody is going to fault Papa John’s or any other restaurant brand for being opportunistic with soccer fever. As I noted yesterday in a story on NRN.com, the surprisingly good run the United States has had in this World Cup has been a huge boon to restaurants, from a sports bar like Hooters to Irish-pub chain Fadó, which has catered to hardcore soccer fans for years. Casual fans are flooding those restaurants to watch these games, and the good times have been fueled by love of country as much as love of soccer, if not more.

Second, it’s a lot like Papa John’s previous Super Bowl promotions, but with a greater chance of coming through for customers than some previous ones. Papa John’s first free-pizza offer for its first Super Bowl sponsorship only would have been activated had that championship game gone into overtime, which has never happened. However, the U.S. National Soccer Team has scored two goals in two games already this World Cup, against Ghana and Portugal.

Anyway, the more World Cup promotions, the better. This tournament for “the world’s game” only comes around every four years, and this kind of excitement for the United States’ chances to advance is even more rare. Even if I go back to being the slightly less-than-casual soccer fan that I am after this World Cup, I can’t get enough of it today.

This morning, while serving my two toddlers their usual breakfast out of the toaster, I made a point of calling their waffles “Freedom Waffles,” lest they think I was a Belgian sympathizer. That kind of ham-handed marketing attempt rightly drew an eye roll from my wife, but the timely, spot-on promotion from Papa John’s likely would work no matter the score of today’s game.

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Reporter's Notebook is NRN's newsroom blog, where our editors give their points of view on news happening in the restaurant business.

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