Big three gear up for the big game

Love, marriage. Horse, carriage. Football, pizza. Few pairs complement each other so harmoniously.

And as the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to take center stage for the NFL's biggest day, Feb. 6, so too are the three biggest chains getting ready for the pizza industry's biggest day.

Super Bowl Sunday yields nearly twice as many orders for Papa John's, Pizza Hut and Domino's than any other given day. More customers order a pizza for the big game than do for any other holiday or occasion throughout the year, including New Year's Eve, Halloween and the night before Thanksgiving.

That said, the time is not only ripe for promotions and offers, but also for adding staffing and supply counts. Right now, Vegas oddsmakers have installed the Packers as a slight favorite in the game. Here is a clearer picture of what to expect from the pizza industry giants:

Papa John's

No company, pizza or otherwise, has as big a stake in the National Football League as Louisville, Ky.-based Papa John's.

The company has made an interesting proposition for its fans for Super Bowl XLV: If the game goes into overtime, which it has never done, Papa John's will offer a free large pizza to everyone in the United States.

"The Super Bowl is the largest stage in all of sports, and being the Official Pizza Sponsor of Super Bowl XLV, there's no better event or day to serve as a platform for our largest offer ever," said Andrew Varga, Papa John's chief marketing officer. “We’re going to be working overtime Super Bowl Sunday to make sure our customers have a great day with the highest-quality pizza, and we're hoping for an unprecedented overtime so that we can deliver on this offer for America.”

To be eligible for the free large, up-to-three-topping pizza if an overtime were to be forced, consumers need to register for Papa John's online customer loyalty program, Papa Points, any time until 11:59 p.m. Feb. 5.

If the extra quarter is played, free pizzas will be awarded to all enrollees on Feb. 7 in the form of 25 Papa Points (the amount needed to redeem an up-to-three-topping pizza). These specific Papa Points can be redeemed through June 30.

Of note, this is the first Super Bowl that will be played under the new postseason OT rules. Each team now has the opportunity to possess the ball at least once in overtime unless the team that receives the OT kickoff scores on its first possession. Prior to this season, OT was conducted in a sudden-death format.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin is serving as spokesperson for Papa John’s Super Bowl XLV overtime offer. Austin set a Cowboys single-game record of 250 yards receiving in his first-ever NFL start in 2009

Papa John's has leveraged its sponsorship of the NFL and Super Bowl XLV this season with special promotions, a partnership with NBC Sports' "Football Night in America," numerous marketing elements with the NFL Network, a Fantasy Football promotion and more.

The company is also opting out of airing a commercial in the famous Super Bowl ad lineup. The competitive advertising real estate sells out months in advance, even though each 30-second slot costs up to $3 million. 

Papa John's told USA Today, that it would rather give away millions in free pizzas than spend millions on an ad spot. As an NFL sponsor, Papa John's has advertised in games all season.

The sponsorship investment perhaps does outweigh having an actual ad. Last year, as Official Pizza Sponsor of Super Bowl XLIV, Papa John's recorded its largest single sales day in brand history, selling more than 900,000 pizzas on Super Bowl Sunday at its 2,800 U.S. restaurants.

The company is in the first year of a multiyear sponsorship with the NFL and is also the Official Pizza of the Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Tennessee Titans and Washington Redskins.

Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut has outwardly predicted that it will sell 2 million pizzas for the Super Bowl. The chain will certainly get a boost of some sort as it makes its inaugural appearance in the game's commercial lineup.

The ad will be produced by Interpublic Group of Companies' Martin Agency and will air during the first half of the game Feb. 6 on the Fox network.

Pizza Hut has been the presenting sponsor on the NFL Network's "GameDay Morning" show in the past, and has run ads leading up to the game featuring celebrities such as Jessica Simpson and Donald Trump; however, it has never before featured a spot during the actual Super Bowl.

Operationally, the company is gearing up for the anticipated 1.3 million orders at the Dallas-based chain; a spike that represents about a 60 percent increase in business over a typical Sunday.

Pizza Hut's "research team” has put into perspective the effects of Super Bowl fans' pizza dependency. For example:

  • 2.3 million feet of Pizza Hut pizza will be sold on the big day – enough to reach the summit of Mount Everest 80 times.
  • 1,200 tons of dough will be used to make Pizza Hut pizza for Big Game orders – twice the weight of the jumbo video screen inside Cowboys Stadium, site of this year's game.
  • 90,000 gallons of marinara sauce will be spread across Pizza Hut pizzas on game day – enough to fill more than 5,000 beer kegs.
  • 270,000 Big Dipper pizzas are expected to sell on Pizza Hut's busiest day. If all of the Big Dipper strips were laid end to end they would stretch nearly 500 miles – long enough to cover the distance between Green Bay and Pittsburgh.
  • 120,000 Pizza Hut employees who will be working across America on the company's busiest day.

Pizza Hut will offer pizzas at the new price offering for Super Bowl Sunday. This includes $8 for a medium (up to three toppings), $10 for a large (up to three toppings) and +$2 for a specialty pizza.

Because of the volume of business expected on Feb. 6, Pizza Hut suggests customers place their orders online. These orders will be accepted beginning Jan. 30, seven days before kickoff. Orders will also be accepted via the Pizza Hut iPhone app, text message, mobile Web and Facebook.

Domino's

Shortly before last year's Super Bowl, Domino's Pizza revamped its entire recipe, a risky move leading up to the industry’s biggest day; but a move that paid off exponentially.

This year, the company is anticipating the delivery of more than 9 million slices of pizza, according to Chris Brandon, public relations representative for Domino's.

"Our stores staff up for Super Bowl Sunday; it's the biggest day on our calendar each year," he said.

Brandon added that the company is especially tasked with making sure its online ordering system holds up and handles the traffic. On any given day – one that isn't the Super Bowl – Domino's takes just more than 20 percent of its orders through its online component.

Domino's has also been known to place televisions in unit kitchens on Super Bowl Sundays, so employees are able to anticipate when order volume will pick up, particularly at halftime.

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