Papa John’s International Inc. has hired a new marketing agency in the wake of sports teams, long staples of the pizza chain’s branding, distancing themselves following controversial comments by founder John Schnatter.
The Louisville Ky.-based pizza delivery chain has named Endeavor Global Marketing as its agency of record.
According to the agency’s web site, Endeavor, created by a merger between William Morris Endeavor, International Management Group and Ultimate Fighting Championship, is a specialist in entertainment, sports and fashion marketing. Its co-CEO is Hollywood talent agent Ari Emanuel.
In a statement to Ad Age, Papa John’s CEO Steve Ritchie said Endeavor “blew us away with their perspective, experience and creativity. … The brand is at a pivotal moment. We need to earn back the trust of the consumer and we need to demonstrate our commitment to being inclusive. We believe Endeavor Global Marketing is the right team to help us do that.”
Endeavor replaces Laundry Service, which was hired last October and terminated its relationship in May following what it reportedly saw as inappropriate comments from Schnatter.
After those comments, including a racial slur, were made public last month, Schnatter stepped down as chair. That resignation followed his resignation at the end of last year as CEO after negative fallout from a Nov. 1 earnings call. In that call, Schnatter blamed flagging sales at the chain in part to the National Football League’s failure to quash silent protests by some of its players during the singing of the National Anthem before games.
Papa John’s marketing has long been tied to national and local sports. It had been an official sponsor of the NFL since 2010. That relationship ended in late February, and Papa John’s was replaced by Pizza Hut as an NFL sponsor.
Following the outcry over Schnatter’s comments, both Major League Baseball and many local baseball teams distanced themselves from Papa John’s. MLB indefinitely suspended its Papa Slam deal, which gave pizza discounts to customers the day after a player hit a grand slam, and many local teams canceled similar promotions.
Additionally, the University of Louisville moved to remove Papa John’s name from its stadium, as did the basketball gym in Schnatter’s hometown of Jefforsonville, Ind.
A Papa John spokesperson confirmed that it had hired Endeavor, but neither the pizza chain nor the marketing agency responded to queries about the marketing direction it was likely to take.
Papa John’s is scheduled to announce its quarterly earnings after the market closes on August 7.
Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]
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