EFL Interview

Papa John’s Marketing Head On EFL Partnership And Evolving Sponsorship Dynamics

December 7, 2020

The English Football League recently agreed a three-year deal with pizza takeaway firm Papa John’s to sponsor the EFL Trophy. iSPORTCONNECT spoke with Giles Codd, Head of Marketing, Papa John’s about the strategy behind the partnership, brand’s ambitions among other things.

Tell us about your latest partnership with EFL.

This has been an incredibly tough year for many people and businesses, and without fans in stadiums, football clubs have taken a real hit too. Football is incredibly important to the nation and even more so to the communities in which it is played. It’s important that this strong community link is preserved. 

We  see the partnership with the EFL as a great opportunity to support the clubs and their fans, not just at the league level but at the heart of the communities they belong to. Local community football teams and sports clubs have also been hit incredibly hard and we see this partnership as a foothold to help make a real difference to these community clubs. 

What is the current marketing and branding strategy of your brand?

The food delivery market is extremely crowded and competitive, but we all have a great platform to be able to do more. Our ‘Better Ingredients. Better Pizza.’ statement runs deeper than serving freshly made, hot tasty pizzas, “Better” lives in everything we do. 

We want to connect with our customers, understand what’s important to them and ensure we are supporting those less fortunate wherever we can. Our main focus for the last couple of years has been very much about connecting with the 18-30 yr. old audience by creating fun, compelling campaigns and products that are relevant and drive consideration and ultimately purchase. Partnerships have played a big role in helping us achieve this. 

Tell us about your latest campaigns .

Our current marketing campaign is one that we are all very proud of and very excited to see go live. Last January, when chatting with a colleague, I was discussing the huge budgets spent on Christmas advert production and wondered why no one had ever just said “what if we didn’t spend all that money on production and just gave the money we saved to charity?”. This sparked the idea behind our “Giving more this Christmas” campaign. We got our teams across all functions to design and create the assets internally, saving thousands of pounds on designers and agencies. We then used all of these elements to create the campaign and give the savings to our charity partners – Trussell Trust and Crisis. 

Trussell Trust has been a charity partner of Papa John’s all year and we partnered with Crisis last Christmas – both charities remain vital to help fight hunger and homelessness in the UK, two issues that have been further accelerated during the pandemic. We have already raised in excess of £600,000 for charity this year with the help of our customers, franchisees and the business, but it feels right to do even more at this time of year to help those that need it most. In the first 3 weeks of the campaign we have raised over £150,000 and hope to raise much more in the run up to Christmas. 

We’ve also just finished a big national campaign partnering with video game publisher, Activision, and its latest game release Call of Duty Cold War. This was our first game partnership and it was incredibly well received. Around 1 in 4 households in the UK play COD so the partnership allowed us to reach many people with a very relevant product, and as with any sport, there is a big affinity between gaming and pizza.  

Why is sports an attractive category for a food brand like yours?

We are already a very proud partner of GB Paralympics so we know how much, under normal conditions, sport and pizza go hand in hand. They both bring people together, and we know that we are all Better together. Sport is a great leveller and transcends all demographics, to bring people together with a shared love. 

As soon as our discussions around the partnership started, we became aware of how happy the athletes would be about the collaboration due to the fact they always talk about pizza as their go-to food of choice on treat days when training. 

I believe life is about balance. Sport can be extremely important for some, whether it’s going for a run, playing for your local football club or founding your career on it. 

How do you think the sponsorship dynamics have changed amidst COVID-19?

Many sports sponsorships are attractive due to the ability to get your brand in front of thousands of fans and being able to connect with them directly. Obviously with no one in the stadiums until after the 2nd December, and even then in limited numbers, this removes a very basic part of the sponsorship. It therefore makes the relationship with the rights’ owner ever more important than it already is. 

There has to be a trust between the two parties that you will both find new and innovative ways to support the partnership and connect with the sport and its fans. It’s about finding ways to help where you can, and the partnership with the Rugby Super League was a perfect example of this. 

The Super League needed to feed their players and officials, and we had the ability to do this in a safe and timely fashion to ensure the league could continue and get the season completed. Rugby League had a need and we had a solution and it has worked perfectly, which has also formed a great relationship between the two brands and has again underscored the connection between sport and pizza.

Many big global brands have had no choice but to pull out of sponsorship deals, so we feel privileged that we are in the fortunate position to be able to step in and support through sponsorship where we can.

EFL Interview