Papa John’s ‘Coin Toss Experience’ Super Bowl Pizza Promotion

With Super Bowl XLVII just a day or two away, the world’s marketing blogs and insight resources are awash with sponsor activation and advertiser analysis. Indeed, it is genuinely hard to avoid the US annual marketing juggernaut. So why try?


So we thought we’d start at the very beginning – the coin toss.


Or, to be more specific – The Papa John’s Coin Toss Experience.


The official pizza sponsor of the NFL is running its ‘Superbowl Coin Toss Experience’ which offers a free, large one-topping pie to those who guess the outcome correctly. This is a digitally-led initiative that revolves around the initiative’s website (www.papajohnscointoss.com) or its Facebook page (www.facebook.com/papajohns), both of which gives football fans and pizza lovers a chance to vote for heads or tails with the simple click of a mouse.


Of course, the initiative also captures customer data which enables the brand to run targeted promotions to drive online/mobile orders through the year.


Winners will receive a promotion code via email which must be redeemed by 4 February. And even if you call it wrong, all participants are emailed a 50%-off coupon just for voting.


For those looking to research past history rather than just guess, the Papa Del’s website helps out by analysing the history of the Super Bowl coin toss. The toss has been heads the last four in a row, but neither side of the coin has ever come up five consecutive times. Unsurprisingly, over the long term the odds are exactly even as the coin has turned up 23 times each so far.


The campaign also includes integrated marketing across other channels including a national TV commercial, social media built around the hashtag #headsortails, as well as print and other more traditional advertising platforms.


The promotion’s objectives include adding excitement to the Super Bowl, rewarding Papa John’s customers and generating positive brand buzz.


‘Unlike last year when everyone who voted was cheering for “heads”, this time people tuning in will be cheering for either “heads” or “tails”, depending on how they called the coin toss individually,’ said Denver Broncos quarterback and Papa John’s celebrity spokesman Peyton Manning. ‘This should make it even more fun, and it guarantees that Papa John’s will give away more pizzas.’


And this year Peyton’s father (fellow NFL legend Archie Manning), who lives in Super Bowl XLVII host city New Orleans, also joins as a Papa John’s spokesperson. ‘It’s indisputable that the coin toss is the first edge of your-seat moment of the Super Bowl, so having millions of free Papa John’s pizzas up for grabs makes it even more fun for fans,’  says Archie Manning.


The Coin Toss campaign is the culmination of Papa John’s season-long NFL activation.


Papa John’s has also been attempting to maximise pre-game-day orders by randomly selecting winners from among online pizza-orderers every 46 seconds each weekend leading up to the Super Bowl. This initiative began on 30 December and ends on 4 February


Through the NFL season the brand has already given away a staggering two million large pizzas (twice the number it gave away during the previous 2011 regular season). Much of the company’s work is fronted by star ambassador Manning alongside the company’s owner John Schnaatter.



In October customers were offered a free pizza (after buying one) to celebrate Manning becoming a Papa John’s franchisee (in Denver).




Another initiative saw Manning announce ‘18-Point Sundays’, which offers a large pizza to Papa Rewards Members for only 18 points (Manning’s shirt number) rather than the standard 25 points. These offer evolved through the season and eventually the deal was reduced down to just 7 points.


The company also runs internal employee Superbowl-related initiatives. These include the General Manager of The Year award which rewards top performing employees with all expenses paid trips to the Superbowl.



In 2012, Papa John’s chose not to advertise during the game itself and instead leveraged its rights through a double-whammy promotional strategy. It offered free, large, three-topping pizzas to all its online rewards program members if the game went into overtime (it didn’t), and also gave away $45 Papa John’s gift card every 45 seconds to randomly selected consumers who ordered its pizzas online during game day.


The brand ran a different coin toss led marketing campaign which included a 30-second national TV spot starring Super Bowl champions Peyton Manning and Jerome “The Bus” Bettis which first aired during January’s NFC and AFC Championship games and aired the following two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.



Plus the online release of the accompanying ‘Making Of’ webfilm.



Other elements included Manning appearing on behalf of the brand on game day in his hometown, plus interactive online voting video and other video-led promotional pages on the Papa John’s site, as well as digital media advertising and social media work that included the dedicated Twitter hashtag #freepapajohns.


This strategy resulted in Papa John’s selling more than a million pizzas on Super Bowl Sunday (which beat its previous single day record of 940,000 set during Superbowl 2010.



 Sponsorship activation around the coin toss is a basic idea that official partners could apply to almost every sports event and the NFL certainly focuses its sponsorship rights strategies around specific events that each of its key sponsors can ‘own’

The Super Bowl is one of the five biggest days in the year for pizza chains (the others being Halloween, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and the day before Thanksgiving) with about 4.5 million pizza sold on the day.


Indeed, fast food brands are competing ever more fiercely for game day business year-by-year – whether they have rights to leverage or not.


This year not only sees Yum Brands roll out its KFC ‘Couchgating’ initiative (see previous case study), but also launch a major new Taco Bell campaign revolving around a ‘Live Mas’ 60-second game day Superbowl spot (which has already had 500,000 YouTube views).



Papa John’s it relationship with the game with individual team sponsorships and it is also the official pizza of the Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Tennessee Titans and Washington Redskins.


For most of these deals, the Kentucky-based pizza giant (the third largest in the world) also runs local initiatives – such as this year’s Dallas Cowboys campaigns.





Campaign Website



Brand Website






2012 TV Ad YouTube



2012 ‘Making Of TV Ad’ YouTube



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