NFL Players Taking a Knee Cost Sponsor Papa John's Millions?
Papa John's, the NFL’s official pizza sponsor, just had a bad earnings call. Now, the company’s founder claims the unresolved controversy about league players taking a knee in protest during the national anthem personally cost him $70 million in 24 hours. That brings up an issue for marketers: Is being a sponsor a risky proposition or is it rewarding?
Current sponsorship practices have brands front-and-center during NFL games and literally center-screen during the World Series. The YouTube TV “play” button almost looked clickable. Plus, baseball announcers included the sponsor’s name in every reference to the World Series.
So the rewards can be brand awareness and perhaps increased sales. A couple of the risks became clear this week.
Papa John’s Loses Money
Yesterday, Forbes staffer Noah Kirsch reported that “The net worth of John Schnatter, founder and CEO of pizza chain Papa John’s, fell $70 million in less than 24 hours after the company released its third-quarter financial report on Tuesday afternoon.”
He owns a fourth of Papa John’s and Kirsch says Forbes estimates Schnatter’s worth is down to $801 million. The company’s stocks dropped 11 percent.
Schnatter blames part of the downturn on the National Football League, which has faced turbulence amid widespread national anthem protests in the past year. “The NFL has hurt us by not resolving the current debacle,” he said on a conference call on Wednesday.
YouTube TV Irks Some World Series Fans
Chances are, YouTube TV got more brand awareness out of the World Series than it bargained for through sponsorship. A fan watching the final game yesterday told me that the “play” button was still center-screen and appeared clickable, “but it's a slightly less eye-piercing shade of red.”
Sharing a similar sentiment on Oct. 25, Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports wrote an article titled “The 2017 World Series: When the Advertising Rubicon Was Crossed.”
In addition to the “play” button by “the umpire’s shoulder or catcher’s head,” what annoyed Calcaterra was the announcing.
The final bit of creeping advertising I noticed is far more troubling to me and, in many ways, rather pathetic. Here are two passages from Game 1 stories on MLB.com, written by two of the very best baseball writers around: Richard Justice and my former NBC colleague Joe Posnanski, respectively:
Verlander has started eight games for his new team, and the Astros have won them all. He pitched once in relief, and Houston won that one, too. Now, after a 3-1 loss on Tuesday in Game 1 of the World Series presented by YouTube TV, the Astros are turning to Verlander again.
Yes, Kershaw’s destiny always pointed to here, to Koufax’s mound (albeit somewhat lower), for Game 1 of the World Series presented by YouTube TV, a 3-1 Dodgers win. But the journey turned out quite a bit different than Kershaw expected.
What do you think, marketers? Should sponsorships be more separated? Or is it far from “out of hand,” as Calcaterra says of the MLB’s pursuit of ad dollars?
Please respond in the comments section below.
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