Monday, April 30, 2007

'Delivery for the Palace again?'

Pizza discounting is going a little too far. Tomorrow, a slice of Pizza Hut's updated New York-style Hand-Tossed pie will cost you zero, provided you can elbow your way into a unit between 3 and 5 in the afternoon. If you're a member of Britain's royal family, you can get an even better deal, assuming the coach-and-six can navigate the drive-thru of a Papa John's. The rival system is offering the Queen and her notoriously combative kin free pizza for life in honor of the regent's visit to the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. Presumably Helen Mirren might be entitled to a pie or two as well.

The Derby, of course, is held in Louisville, headquarters of Papa John's—and, of course, Pizza Hut parent Yum! Brands. Indeed, Yum! signed a pact last year to rebrand the race as "the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands." The marketing effort was supposedly conceived to lure more investors to buy stock in the quick-service restaurant franchisor.

Strangely, the race wasn't cited that way in Papa John's press release. But the announcement did note that the chain's chief executive, Nigel Travis, is a Brit himself.

But that head-turning announcement may have been lost in the buzz generated by Yum!'s promise to pony up $1 million if the Derby winner finishes more than 6-and-a-half lengths ahead of the show horse. That was the margin of victory last year for the late Barbaro, who was put down a few months ago after breaking its leg in the Belmont.

The name Yum! has given its promo: The Yumfecta.

All of this boils down to one incontrovertible fact: The chains' marketing departments clearly have too much time and money on their hands. Instead of trying to turn a race noted for roses and mint juleps into a promotional opportunity for pizza, both brands should dispatch their marketers into units that would benefit from a little more attention to quality. Or, of course, they could offer their delivery services, to cut down on the wait time for people wanting to munch a slice while they watch the race.

But Pizza Hut might have the edge there. A local business publication reported today that sister brand KFC has the pole position for landing a major NASCAR sponsorship.

No word yet on whether Papa John's will offer free pizza to the Erhardt family.

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