Papa John's will no longer be the official pizza of the NFL

  • Papa John's said Tuesday that it was cutting ties with the NFL and that its marketing will now focus on specific teams and players.
  • The pizza chain has been the official pizza of the NFL since 2010.
  • Last quarter, the company blamed the NFL's leadership for slumping sales of its pizza.
A customer enters a Papa John's restaurant in Louisville, Ky.
Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A customer enters a Papa John's restaurant in Louisville, Ky.

Papa John's has severed ties with the NFL.

The pizza chain's new CEO Steve Ritchie, who took over for founder John Schnatter in December, told investors Tuesday that Papa John's would be shifting its marketing from the league as a whole to focus on specific teams and players.

"While the NFL remains an important channel for us we have determined that there are better ways to reach and activate this audience," Ritchie said on an earnings conference call Tuesday. "Thus we will shift our marketing for the broader NFL sponsorship to focus on our partnership with 22 specific NFL teams, a significant presence on league broadcast and digital platforms and on our relationships with many of the league's most popular players and personalities."

The pizza chain and the NFL mutually agreed to terminate the partnership, according to Brandon Rhoten, global chief marketing officer for Papa John's. Papa John's has been the official pizza of the NFL since 2010.

Back in November, then-CEO Schnatter blamed the National Football League's leadership for hurting the company's performance because it had not resolved the ongoing controversy over players kneeling in protest during the National Anthem.

At the time, Schnatter said the combination of declining NFL viewership and negative consumer sentiment associated with the league caused third-quarter sales to slump.

Trends continued in the fourth quarter. Same-store sales fell 3.9 percent, the company reported.

Shares of the company shed as much as 8 percent in aftermarket trading.