“Papa” John Schnatter Delivers Defiant Message

John Schnatter is firing back at the company he founded, which has taken steps to distance their brand from the guy who, not that long ago, was the, face of the operation. “Papa John” was on everything, from the branding to the TV commercials to the radio spots.

All that was true for years, until a few weeks ago, when reports surfaced that Schnatter made some remarks on a conference call that some considered racist. Once those allegations  surfaced, Schnatter was quickly wiped away from the company’s branding. Schnatter maintains both that what he said, in context, was not inappropriate, and he says the company would be better off keeping him as the center of its brand.

“My persona resonates with the consumer because it’s authentic, it’s genuine and it’s the truth…” He told the media.

But, so far, Papa Johns is sticking to its previous decision to keep Schnatter off its branding and out of its marketing campaigns for the foreseeable future. This is a huge shift for the company, especially with football season approaching. The connection between the NFL and Papa Johns has been rock solid for years now, and fans have come to expect to see Schnatter’s smiling face hawking his “better ingredients and better pizza,” often working alongside a popular NFL player.

Schnatter says the company should reconsider its stances, just as he reconsidered his decision to resign as chairman following the allegations of the “racist” remarks.

Of course, this is not the first time Schnatter has been in hot water for comments he made. Last season, in the heart of the NFL anthem PR crisis, Schnatter went on record saying lower than expected pizza sales had to do with the NFL’s failure to properly address the anthem issue. At the time, Schnatter said the company didn’t do enough to defend him or “clarify” his comments.

In defending its decision to move on from its founder, Papa John’s cited reports that indicate Schnatter’s “trust and endorsement” ratings have dropped since the comments he made about the NFL. While no one is saying if the removal of Schnatter as the public face of Papa John’s is permanent, for the foreseeable future, it doesn’t appear he will be back.

In addition to consumer pressure due to the comments made by Schnatter, Papa John’s is also facing stronger competition, and the company needs to find a way to increase its brand value for consumers in its target market. Otherwise, that value could continue to struggle.

-Ronn Torossian, 5WPR CEO

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

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