Papa John’s is in its fourth year as the official pizza sponsor of the NFL, and the company has no shortage of plans for Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks.

“For the players, it’s the big game day, but it is the Super Bowl for team members in our restaurants as well,” says Steve Ritchie, COO of Papa John’s. “They prepare for this all year long. This is our Super Bowl.”

The brand anticipates more than 1 million pizza orders during Sunday’s game, with nearly a thousand a minute coming from its online ordering system. Ritchie says this calls for an enormous amount of preparation on the franchise level, with more than 50,000 delivery drivers and 2 million pounds of cheese required to meet demand during game hours. The company has also been preparing with yearlong marketing programs leading up to the main event.

“We have a lot of activation elements to keep fans engaged throughout the year,” Ritchie says. “It’s a tremendous amount of planning and execution that has to take place in ramping up for the big game. We always say the day after the Super Bowl each year [that] we have 364 days to prepare for the upcoming Super Bowl.”

Papa John’s has discounts set up throughout the 17 weeks of the NFL season to give fans a 50 percent discount the day after their team wins. Along with engaging fans of each team, the company credits its sponsorship success to direct partnerships with the most notable players in the league.

“Being so directly associated with the teams is really critical,” Ritchie says. “The other element that really takes it up to the next level are the spokespeople that actually represent the brand—players like Peyton Manning and the commercials we’ve had over the past several weeks that have been featuring Joe Montana.”

The company also engaged customers with the #upyourdance social media campaign, where fans were encouraged to film their most creative celebration dances as part of this year’s marketing theme, “Up Your Game.”

While Papa John’s pre-game efforts are considerable, Ritchie says, he is especially excited about its presence on the ground during the game, where it will be offering “a sneak taste” of the new Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza to thousands of fans. Papa John’s is also upping its game by offering samples of its chocolate chip brownies.

The ultimate goal, Ritchie says, is not just to sell more pizzas, but for consumers to understand the value of a better pizza.

“What you’ll see really tied together in the comprehensive marketing strategy is really explaining to the public what ‘better ingredients, better pizza’ means,” Ritchie says, noting the company’s slogan. “For instance, we use fresh dough, not frozen, and our sauce is fresh, not a paste. Sports is just the arena to really get that message out, and it’s certainly worked great in tandem.”

By Emily Byrd

News, Papa Johns