Papa John’s Goes Social for NFL Kickoff

Peyton Manning stars in TV ads

In its biggest social media campaign to date, Papa John’s is teaming up with Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning to kick off the 2014 NFL season this week.

The national chain, pizza sponsor of the NFL, will use a variety of media channels in its campaign, but will rely heavily on social and digital marketing. Grey, New York, which won the pizza company's business in February after a review, is spearheading its first work on the brand.

Manning, who's also a Papa John's franchise owner, appears in a series of television ads along with John Schnatter, the chain's CEO. In the commercials, the pair, who assume the roles of "Pizza Maker" and "Play Maker," trade jokes and commentary on pizza and football. The voiceover is from Earl Mann, the well-known NFL Films announcer. Limited-time promotions are highlighted in the ads, which run on CBS, FOX, NFL Network and other major cable channels.

Beyond TV ads, the pizza chain will have a prominent digital presence throughout the 2014 season. Videos and content on viral sites, such as Buzzfeed, will engage fans through contests, special offers, and football stats, with the theme of #UpYourGame. Fans will be encouraged to share their own content and experiences in exchange for prizes and discounts.

Tor Myhren, Grey's worldwide chief creative officer, said of the effort: "Peyton knows football, and Papa knows pizza. These are two incredibly charismatic guys, so the campaign is designed to let them be themselves and talk about what they know."

Bob Kraut, Papa John’s chief marketing officer, added that the pair is well suited to deliver a seasonal twist on Papa John's long-running tagline. The football-themed line is, “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza, Better Football."