Matthew Stafford’s 2021 NFL season was a bit of a fairytale.
After spending 12 years with the Detroit Lions, the 2009 No. 1 overall draft pick was traded to the Los Angeles Rams and promptly led his new team to a Super Bowl title.
That’s not to say there are hard feelings for his old team, however. In fact, quite the opposite.
“I have a lot of admiration for the Detroit community. They were so good to me for so long,” Stafford said during a phone interview Thursday afternoon.
In fact, that Detroit tie is the biggest reason Stafford agreed to be the new spokesperson for Little Caesars’ new, multi-year NFL sponsorship.
“It’s really a natural fit. I was in Michigan for 12 years. Little Caesars is a Michigan-based company. I’m familiar with the brand. So, when they became the official sponsor, this was really a no-brainer,” Stafford said. “It’s fun to be a partner with (Little Caesars) and watching them take the next step and I’m proud to be a part of that.”
That “next step” for Little Caesars came about in June when the company was named the official pizza sponsor of the league, following more than a decade of sponsorships from rivals Pizza Hut (most recently) and Papa John’s.
Little Caesars was riding plenty of momentum before the NFL deal, however. The nation’s third-largest pizza chain turned in record-setting sales in 2021, driven by its signature $5.55 Hot-N-Ready pizza and added conveniences like delivery and the Pizza Portal pickup option. Those sales have translated to unit growth, including a recent announcement that the chain is expected to double its rate of new store commitments this year.
As Little Caesars continues to expand into new U.S. markets, it is ramping up its investment in sports media. The NFL sponsorship will play a big part in that objective, not just by leveraging NFL Champion Stafford in a TV spot, but also through season-long social media activations and a new Pizza!Pizza! Pregame promotion to drive fans to order before game time for a chance to win prizes, including tickets to Super Bowl LVII.
Stafford has already been prominently featured in the chain’s first TV spot, showing him at camp training to secure a Little Caesars pizza. His “coaches” are humorously intense, with several iterations of disappointed reactions to Stafford’s “Pizza!Pizza!” delivery before he finally nails it. (Watch the 30-second spot here).
“It was an awesome experience and fun to be a part of. It was fun and funny, and it came out great,” Stafford said. “The majority of the crew was Detroit-based and it was fun to be able to work with some of those people again.”
Stafford is no stranger to commercials. In March, for instance, he appeared in an AT&T commercial that also included a nod to Detroit with a hint of humor. Though ours was a brief conversation, I got the sense both are important to him.
“Football is a serious business, but it’s a game at heart and I love getting to play that game,” Stafford said. “(The Little Caesars commercial) is about bringing the fun and joy of football and family to light and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
He adds that Detroit-based Little Caesars is the perfect fit for the NFL sponsorship because the city and league are both, “blue collar, working hard, doing everything they can to support their family, enthusiastic to give back to the community.”
Indeed, there is also a charitable component with Little Caesars’ sponsorship. The Little Caesars Love Kitchen, a restaurant on wheels, will visit NFL cities throughout the season to serve pizza to communities in need, in addition to providing ongoing monetary donations. Food insecurity is a component of the NFL’s focus on economic advancement as part of the Inspire Change program.
Financial details of the NFL sponsorship contract or Stafford’s contract with Little Caesars were not disclosed.