There will be no more Craig Robinson and JuJu Smith-Schuster Super Bowl pizza commercials. Because the NFL feels the need to let the world know that they have an official sponsor for everything whether it be pizza, beer, or tablets that Tom Brady smashes into pieces.
With minicamps starting and the start of the regular season almost exactly three months away, the NFL announced today that Pizza Hut is out as the league’s official pizza, and Little Caesar’s is in. That’s two big football wins for Detroit — the city where the company is headquartered — with the NFL draft being held in the Motor City in 2024. Unfortunately, for the Lions, that’s only one less win than they had as a team last year, but their coffee pounding coach is loveable, and they had a strong draft, so maybe they can get to six wins this season.
This whole official pizza sponsor was supposed have been settled a long time ago. We were going to watch Peyton Manning and Papa John himself — John Schnatter — regale us for the rest of their lives with awkward mascot meetings, or showing that they can relate to the average American by sharing a pizza with the turf manager at the Denver Broncos stadium.
That arrangement between Papa John’s, the erstwhile pizza of the NFL, and the NFL came to an end in early 2018. Schnatter blamed slagging pizza sales, and lower NFL TV ratings, on the players protesting police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem in 2017. And this was after Colin Kapernick, the man who started kneeling a year earlier, was no longer in the league. The company tried pulling up its pants by walking it all back and Schnatter resigned as CEO. However, the league’s decision proved to be a well-timed one, as Schnatter would resign as chairman of the board after he was recorded saying the N-Word on a conference call. In March 2021, he told far-right news network OAN that he had been working for 20 months to get the racial slur out of his vocabulary.
The NFL then went into business with Pizza Hut for the next four years, but that’s not an exciting relationship anymore. Pizza Hut used to be on the cutting edge of pizza, having introduced the stuffed crust and triple decker pizza — which they made a mistake taking off the menu. There were restaurants with red roofs all over America that had buffets, book-it stickers, and Cruisin’ USA arcade games inside. These days, it’s simply one of the few pizza chains that doesn’t have a carry-out deal under $10. As great of a pitch-person as Robinson is, at least Papa Johns has some $8.99 offers and gives you garlic butter.
Domino’s is actually the best selling pizza chain in America, and presents a good offer with its standard $7.99 carry-out deal, and there may or may not be enough garlic-oil on the crust depending on the pizza. But then there’s Little Caesar’s at No. 3 with the best and most honest deal on the market. The former $5 — now $6 due to inflation — says right on the damn box hot & ready. It doesn’t say better ingredients, better pizza, or nobody out pizzas the hut. The Little Caesar’s box slogan is literally what’s inside the box. It’s a pizza that’s hot — for the moment — and ready to eat immediately.
Little Caesar’s knows its audience. Sure they offer their own stuffed crust, Detroit-style deep dish, and the occasional calzone shaped like the Batman logo, but those are like the advanced metrics in the NFL. It’s nice to have the options, but that’s not why the average person is at the counter or tunes into NBC on Sunday nights. That person wants a pizza in hand, immediately, at a low cost, and wants to watch large human beings run into each other and full speed.
It’s like the league’s beer sponsorship. If a person is a regular Bud Light drinker, they don’t care about the beer’s aftertaste or want it in a glass with a slice of fruit. What that person wants is a cold beer as fast as humanly possible, and another one after that.
These sponsorships go hand-in-hand with the NFL’s apparent new business model. As long as quality isn’t the customers’ first concern, they’ll get what they want. They’ll get an extra regular-season game, extra playoff team, and four nights per week of NFL Football, regardless of how many players are in street clothes by Week 10 because their bye week is still a month away. The league does its best to keep Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady healthy, and the customer watches the games with the understanding that the card/roster is always subject to change.
Give the people what they want. More football, cheap beer, cheap pizza. Especially when your first choice as a sponsor is a billionaire in the public eye who can’t be racist in silence.