Pizza Hut becomes the Official pizza of the NFL

In a major marketing coup, Plano-based Pizza Hut has replaced Papa John's as the official pizza of the NFL.

Football ranks as the most-watched sport and the move gives Pizza Hut greater marketing access to its millions of fans.

"The multi-year agreement will offer Pizza Hut a vast array of exclusive marketing rights, benefits and designations that will unmistakably connect the brand with the NFL and its teams, players, events, partners, properties and the many NFL experiences that capture the passion of consumers and football fans from all over the world," the nation's largest pizza chain said in a statement.

Terms were not disclosed.

"With a focus on family, friends and fun, Pizza Hut has the creativity we are looking for in a partner and we look forward to working together with them to make the at-home NFL experience more exciting than ever for our fans," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.

The new partnership with the NFL allows Pizza Hut to use all 32 team marks. It also involves the NFL working closely with Pizza Hut to help craft local, exclusive team partnerships. Pizza Hut also will have the opportunity to access game tickets and unique fan experiences to all NFL games in marketing and promotional campaigns throughout each year.

The move marks a further shellacking for Papa John's, which took heat after founder and then-CEO John Schnatter said Papa John's sales were hurt by the NFL's handling of protests by players who knelt during the National Anthem.

On its website, Papa John's said the split was by "mutual agreement" with the NFL.

Shares in both Pizza Hut parent Yum Brands and in Papa John's were up slightly in the opening moments of the trading day.  But since June, Papa John's stock has dropped from nearly $85 a share to just under $57.

Earlier this month, Yum reported 2017 Pizza sales that were up slightly, but profits that slipped by about 6 percent.

Pizza Hut has more than 7,500 restaurants in the U.S., and 16,700 worldwide in more than 100 countries.

Meanwhile, Pizza Hut and the NFL are wasting no time.

The NFL partnership will first bear fruit for Pizza Hut during the 2018 NFL Draft to be held beginning 26  at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

The stadium is home to the Dallas Cowboys whose owner, Jerry Jones, has been a long-time Papa John's franchisee.

This story is developing. Check back soon.

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