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JUST IN: NFL Loses Another National Sponsor After Anthem-Kneeling Debacle

It was only a matter of time before the NFL lost yet another major national sponsor because they let players kneel for the National Anthem. PaPa John’s is yet another nail in the NFL’s advertising coffin…

Business Insider reports:

Papa John’s is killing its official NFL sponsorship deal.

“We will shift our marketing from the broader NFL sponsorship” to focus on specific teams and players, Papa John’s CEO Steve Ritchie said in a call with investors on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the company reported that system-wide comparable sales dropped 3.9% in North America in the fourth quarter.

Executives said that “negative consumer sentiment” contributed to the sales slump. Ritchie said Papa John’s took a “hard look” at consumer data and visited with franchisees and operators across the US in response to declining sales.

Papa John’s sparked controversy in November when founder and then-CEO John Schnatter slammed NFL leadership over players’ kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality.

“We are totally disappointed that the NFL and its leadership did not resolve the ongoing situation to the satisfaction of all parties long ago,” Schnatter said at the time. “This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago.”

The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the anthem in 2016 to protest racial injustice and police brutality. The controversy over the protests was renewed in September 2017 after President Donald Trump said players who did so should be fired.

With the end of the NFL deal, Papa John’s is “redirecting investments” towards new technology, as 60% of the chain’s sales are made through digital channels. Ritchie also said that the chain has been “perceived to be too expensive” and will double down on value going forward. The chain also said that it’s expanding its menu.

The chain is planning on marketing quality, with “wholesale changes” to creative and media to better communicate its message, including hiring new PR and advertising firms.

“It is not business as usual at Papa John’s,” Ritchie said.

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