Papa John’s Forgoing SuperBowl Ad to Offer Free Pizzas as Part of Online Loyalty Program Launch


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According to USA Today, on Monday, pizza chain Papa Johns will announce plans to give a free large pizza to every American — if the Super Bowl goes into its first-ever overtime. The catch: You must sign up for its online loyalty program before game day (Feb. 6).

“We’d rather give away millions in free pizzas than spend millions on a spot,” says Andrew Varga, Papa John’s marketing chief.

Because Papa John’s is an NFL sponsor — advertising in games all season, he says, “We don’t feel the need to make the investment in the game.” The free pizza deal — which he estimates could cost Papa John’s 100,000 pizzas — will be promoted digitally, he says. The chain also will randomly give away pizzas on Super Bowl Sunday to folks who order online.

According to Papa John’s Facebook page, customers simply need to go to, open an acount and register for Papa Points to “get in the game.” If Superbowl XLV goes into overtime, Papa Johns will offer everyone who registers a free large pizza. You can see the official rules HERE.

Loyalty marketing publication COLLOQUY wrote a cover story about restaurant loyalty programs in 1997 noting that most frequent-diner programs were still “missing some key ingredients.” The COLLOQUY article noted:

The fact that customers by the hundreds of thousands are ready and eager to enroll in these programs underlines and confirms their appetite for the value-added, interactive relationships these programs promise either explicitly or implicitly. But most of these programs fail to deliver on their relationship promises.

The current frequent-diner template is simple and superficial. Customers join and earn points based on dollars spent in the restaurant. Mag-striped membership cards are swiped by cashiers to capture visit dates, times, locations and dollars spent. Points are redeemed for gift certificates which can be used for discounts and/or free items in the restaurant. Point earnings and totals are printed on the dining receipt and/or on quarterly account statements mailed to the member. A toll-free number permits members to inquire about their account balances or about program features and benefits. What’s wrong with this picture? Lots.

More than a decade later, loyalty in the fast-food segment still hasn’t reached its full potential although social and mobile media are making it simpler and easier for customers to participate. Hardees and Carl’s Jr. fast-food chains recently launched their own loyalty mobile apps for iPhone and Android phones that reward customers for “checking in” at any of their 3,000 locations. The app, Happy Star Rewards, allows users to reveal their locations in exchange for free food and prizes.

Jill Z. McBride
Jill founded JZMcBride & Associates in 1996 to provide marketing, public relations, social media and event planning services and consultation. More than a decade later, the firm serves an impressive roster of consumer, business-to-business and non-profit clients. Jill's contagious energy, personal involvement and extensive industry knowledge infuses every endeavor of the group in order to help her clients grow.


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