Hoops fans in Ohio won't be burning Papa John's pizza boxes in effigy after all, thanks to a quick and savvy PR play by the third largest pizza maker.
Papa John's enjoyed a PR roller coaster ride this past week and turned a small slight into a big PR payoff after a D.C. franchise took a shot at basketball All-Star Lebron James and annoyed his loyal fans in Cleveland.
The pizza franchise made things right by offering Cleveland consumers large, one-topping pies for 23 cents – a nod to James’ jersey number with the Cleveland Cavaliers, 23.
A D.C. franchise had printed up t-shirts calling James a “crybaby” for his complaints about hard fouls during the Cavaliers’ recent playoff series against the Wizards.
The result of the 23-cent offer: “pizza insanity instantly reigned at each of the chain’s 41 Northeast Ohio franchises,” according to the Plain Dealer. Said the company’s VP/northeast: "We're certainly a bit surprised about how darn popular this is.”
There were traffic jams, a few arrests and demand far exceeded supply, but the company made good with vouchers for the cheap pizzas and, overall, came out ahead on the publicity front as statewide media gobbled up the story.
PJ’s also noted the “promotion” raised more than $17,500 for the LeBron James Family Foundation. It chipped in another $10K for the Foundation and $10K for the Cavaliers Youth Fund.
The response showed that the world’s third largest pizza company has its ears open to consumer behavior and is quick on its feet in turning a minor PR crisis into a hit.