Less than 14 hours after Papa John's announced it had prematurely ended its sponsorship as the official pizza of the NFL, the league announced its replacement: Pizza Hut.
Financial terms of the deal were not revealed, but sources say it extends beyond the original Papa John's deal, which was contracted to run through the 2020 season. The new deal with Pizza Hut now runs through the 2021 season.
Pizza Hut is the largest pizza chain in America, with more than 7,500 stores, more than double that of Papa John's.
Pizza Hut's chief marketing officer, Zipporah Allen, said the company will engage consumers on the deal through new products and packaging, the company's loyalty program and a continued push into beer delivery. The brand started a pilot program to deliver alcohol into homes in Phoenix late last year.
The partnership could eventually include a less traditional content play. More than half of Pizza Hut orders now take place without the customer calling on the phone -- 70 percent of online orders are placed via mobile, an industry high.
"The NFL and pizza appeal to the same demographic, which is everyone," said Renie Anderson, the NFL's senior vice president of partnership and sponsorship management. "Fans watch our game and they do it around a pizza box. That's why it's one of the most important categories in sports sponsorship."
Pizza Hut's first opportunity to take advantage of the sponsorship will be the NFL draft, which will take place in late April at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Pizza Hut's headquarters are in nearby Plano.
"Having one of America's classic brands like Pizza Hut happily come aboard in an important sponsorship category is another reminder of the continued power of the NFL," Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan, chairman of the league's business ventures committee, said in a statement provided to ESPN.
Papa John's has an official deal with the Dallas Cowboys, and team owner Jerry Jones is an investor of a franchisee that owns 94 Papa John's, but the former NFL sponsor can no longer have a presence at league events.
"The NFL and Papa John's have made a mutual decision to shift from their official league sponsorship to a focus on partnerships with 22 local NFL teams, presence in broadcast and digital media, and key personalities in the sport," the league and company said Tuesday in a joint statement.