Fall is a very special time for sports fans as it signals the beginning of football season, and nothing goes with a fierce game quite as well as an equally fierce pizza. In honor of this classic combination ESPN and Pizza Hut have teamed up for a match made in marketing heaven.
ESPN (Entertainment and Sports Programming Network) is the king of cable sports networks. It offers comprehensive, if not exhaustive coverage, of a vast array of sports and offers year-round programming. In 2008 it even opened a new division solely dedicated to sports-themed films. When it comes to football, both college and professional leagues, ESPN does not disappoint legions of fans.
Coverage includes sideline reports and documentary-style programming such as the flagship SportsCenter, College GameDay, Monday Night Countdown, and the Sunday NFL Countdown. ESPN does an admirable job of covering college basketball, a league whose fans are even more voracious than even the most die-hard NFL followers. It is perhaps this intensity that made the network and Pizza Hut see the marketing potential for giving away 10,000 pizzas the opening week of college football season.
While the brand has been around for decades, Pizza Hut has seen dramatic decline over the past several years as consumers search for a better quality of pizza. There is no doubt that the chain listened to customers with the result being a comprehensive new menu, but they needed a vehicle to truly promote these new pizzas. Jared Drinkwater, Pizza Hut’s vice president of marketing, summed it up flawlessly when he stated “we recognize that our fans are also huge college football fans and we feel there is no better sports property to reach these consumers than College GameDay.” As the new official pizza sponsor of ESPNs renowned college football programming, the company saw the potential to flood the market with their redesigned product
ESPN’s College GameDay has long been recognized as the premiere college football pre-program in the United States which is where Pizza Hut seized its opportunity. In order to get one of 10,000 free large one-topping pizzas, viewers simply had to tune in to the first day of the program’s telecast (Saturday, September 5) and look for a “sign” which unlocked the code for a free pie on Pizza Hut’s Website. The company made the deal even more appealing by giving participants until September 11 to redeem the offer.
Yet the promotion didn’t stop there as Pizza Hut sampled their pizzas on college campuses and even gave fans the chance to create their own promotional signs and compete for their designs to be seen on the College GameDay telecast. Home viewers were also invited to participate in the sign contest with the winner receiving a year’s worth of pies from Pizza Hut. There is no doubt that this promotion was a stroke of genius based on a very simple concept.