Pizza Hut plans to throw the “world’s greatest pizza party” Sunday in New York’s Times Square, marking the start of the National Football League’s 2013 season and leveraging its partnership with Fox Sports’ “Fox NFL Sunday.”

Dallas-based Pizza Hut will park its Mobile Kitchen, a 53-foot 18-wheeler equipped with pizza ovens, in Times Square and will hand out 5,500 slices of pizza throughout the day, executing another tribute to the chain’s 55th anniversary.

“Our customers have told us that Pizza Hut is often at the center of their game time experience, so we want to start the season off right,” chief marketing officer Kurt Kane said in a statement. “No pizza company will be in more households during this football season than Pizza Hut, and in celebration of that shared love for football with our fans, we’re throwing a great pizza party in New York City, just like our fans will in their homes across the country.”

Pizza Hut also will give away free pizza to its Twitter followers who communicate with the brand on the site and include the hash tag “#WorldsGreatestPizzaParty.”

Pizza Hut has sponsored Fox’s NFL pregame show for several years and also has a marketing partnership with the NFL Network. The brand decided to begin this football season with a major public event because Fox is doing its first pregame show from Times Square, near where this season’s Super Bowl will be played at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

“We try to enhance whatever experience we can with our fans, and when we looked at what was unique to this year, our partner Fox was going to begin the season in New York in week one and end the season in the same location for the Super Bowl,” Doug Terfehr, Pizza Hut’s director of public relations, explained in an interview. “We’re excited about tying into our anniversary and giving away 5,500 slices of pizza, because we know there will be a lot of people in Times Square.”

He added that a major public event helps keep Pizza Hut top of mind among football fans, even when it is not the official pizza sponsor of the NFL. That title belongs to competitor Papa John’s Pizza, which has run several giveaway promotions for the Super Bowl and the kickoff to the NFL’s season for several years. Papa John’s current promotion, touted in commercials with Denver Broncos quarterback and Papa John’s franchisee Peyton Manning, awards a free pizza to members of the chain’s Papa Rewards loyalty program.

Despite Papa John’s marketing advantage to football fans, Pizza Hut still has a large market share of game day business, Terfehr said.

“On any given Sunday, Pizza Hut is in more households than any other pizza brand,” he said, “and a lot of that has to do with our size, but we also have a long heritage and history with football. A lot of the decisions about what to eat on game day are made during the pregame, so we like our position and our relationships with different networks.”

Pizza Hut, a division of Louisville, Ky.-based Yum! Brands Inc., operates or franchises more than 10,000 restaurants in more than 90 countries.

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN