What if you were given the opportunity to travel the United States and attend every NCAA national championship?
Through a unique partnership with the NCAA, Pizza Hut is giving one American sports fan the chance of a lifetime.
Earlier this year, Pizza Hut entered into a multi-year partnership with the NCAA. The partnership marks Pizza Hut’s first national sport sponsorship, although the brand has a number of local sport sponsorships in place. Wanting to fully activate the partnership, Pizza Hut worked to create a unique campaign that didn’t merely center around the Men’s Final Four, but brought attention to every Division I championship.
The result was the launch of the “Pizza Hut All-American,” a position hired by Pizza Hut that gave one lucky sports fan $50,000 and an opportunity to travel to every NCAA Division I championship to highlight each event on Pizza Hut’s digital and social media platforms.
To find the Pizza Hut All-American, Pizza Hut hosted a national competition wherein applicants submitted questionnaires and video submissions highlighting their passion for sports, love for pizza and creativity. Overall, Pizza Hut received more than 1,000 entries by people from 42 states and five countries. When all was said and done, though, Jason Zone Fisher was named the first-ever Pizza Hut All-American.
Since then, Fisher has been living every college sport fan’s dream. Fisher travels nearly weekly to NCAA championship events. Upon arrival, Fisher meets with NCAA athletes and coaches; enjoys behind-the-scenes venue tours; mingles with top professional athletes like Julie Foudy and Torii Hunter; and takes in the sites of each host city. During his year in the role, Fisher is expected to travel to at least 28 different NCAA Division I championships, ranging from FBS football to rifle and skiing to men’s basketball.
The NCAA has a wide portfolio of sponsors, but Pizza Hut’s activation of its NCAA partnership sits apart from the rest, because of Pizza Hut’s determination and commitment to bring attention to every NCAA sport.
“When we first signed the partnership, we knew we wanted to activate around it; we didn’t just want to put our logo up at events. We didn’t want to just focus on one big activation, and while we definitely will do something huge during March Madness, we wanted to activate at every sport’s championship. We started looking at the calendar to see if we could get to all 90 NCAA championships. We ultimately narrowed our focus to Division I championships and realized we could make it to 28 out of 32 in total,” Pizza Hut’s manager of public relations, Courtney Moscovic, explained.
Activating at 28 different championships also gives Pizza Hut the opportunity to engage with at least 28 different American communities that are home to Pizza Hut franchises. Moscovic noted that Pizza Hut “created a local market playbook that will allow [its] franchise system to activate in their areas if there are championships.” The creation of a localized marketing strategy allowed Pizza Hut to bring its, “entire franchise system into activate across this platform as often as the can,” according to Moscovic.
Pizza Hut’s unique strategy in activating its NCAA partnership serves as a guide to other sport brand partners, especially those of the NCAA. In activating every NCAA Division I championship, Pizza Hut is not only getting the greatest value and exposure from the partnership, but is also reaching the widest segment of NCAA fans possible. Furthermore, in providing authentic coverage of every sport’s championship, the brand is building goodwill with the millions of college sports fans across the country.
For Pizza Hut, the Pizza Hut All-American program presents a unique opportunity to engage with college sports fans–many of whom are pizza fans–for an entire 365-day window.
“The partnership affords us a year-long activation window. Oftentimes, just partnering with one of the big leagues, a sponsor would have a season to communicate and activate with customers that’d last weeks. Because we’re partnering with sponsors for several championships over several months in several markets, we’re enjoying a year-long activation window,” said Pizza Hut’s senior director of PR and partnerships, Doug Terfehr.
He’s in Columbus, OH tonight for the Women’s Volleyball National Championship and will soon travel to Tampa, FL for the College Football National Championship. Criss-crossing America, Fisher, the Pizza Hut All-American, is sharing video, pictures and stories of the thousands of college athletes competing in NCAA athletics. Through these stories, he’s bringing the millions of people who love Pizza Hut and engage on its digital and social media platforms glimpses of the hard work and perseverance necessary to reach a Division I championship. For many unable to attend said championships, the stories shared by the Pizza Hut All-American provide the greatest access to the feats of NCAA athletes.
“There are a lot of big championships in the biggest cities in America. That’s great, but Pizza Hut restaurants blanket America, from the biggest cities to America’s small, rural towns. Working across all national championships, from football to field hockey, and basketball to wrestling, we get to be where our consumers and restaurants are every day,” Pizza Hut’s Terfehr remarked.