Consumer product

Papa John’s PR Agency Ends Deal; Schnatter Resigns

Papa John’s has just seen its hired public relations agency, Olson Engage, cut ties with it after the pizza chain’s founder made racially charged comments, which were made public on Wednesday.

Papa John's Pizza logo on a shop

The PR agency was hired in February this year to aid the brand, franchisee, and employees recover from founder John Schnatter’s critical statements about the NFL last November.  The remarks ultimately caused the league to end its sponsorship deal with Papa John’s.

“We were hired to help their brand, franchisees, and employees recover from recent controversies and connect with customers in new and exciting ways,” said Olson Engage in a statement.

“On the consumer front, we did precisely that through several programs that delivered very positive results.  But we had significant recurring differences with their founder regarding the best way to address the controversies and restore and advance the brand’s corporate reputation for the good of the workforce and franchisees,” the PR agency explained.

Olson Engage stated that none of its employees were on the media training when Schnatter used the N-word.  It also stated that none from Papa John’s has ever used that type of language around any of its team members.

“If they had, we would have addressed the issue immediately and directly,” Olson Engage claimed.  “Our day-to-day clients were dedicated professionals and we wish them success moving forward.”

Schnatter to Step Down as Chairman

Shares of Papa John’s still moved up on Thursday, gaining more than 13 percent following Schnatter’s announcement that he would step down from being the company’s chairman of the company’s board.

Papa John's founder John Schnatter standing with a box of pizza with one hand pointing fingers at the pizza box while he's smiling at the camera in his red polo

Papa John’s said in a statement on Wednesday that it will designate a new chairman in the coming weeks.  Olivia Kirtley, who is the board’s lead independent director, will run the board until the company finds a permanent replacement.

News over Schatter’s exit came shortly after Major League Baseball indefinitely suspended its Papa Slam promotion.  The promotion was aa campaign that both of the parties have collaborated on since the year 2016.  In addition to that, the Miami Marlins announced Thursday that the team was suspending its relationship and all promotions with the brand.

Schnatter’s name was also removed from a signpost of a gymnasium in his very own hometown of Jeffersonville, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

On Wednesday, Schnatter also stepped down from University of Louisville board of trustees.   On the other hand, the university’s stadium is still called Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

Papa John’s Schnatter Apologizes

Schnatter’s conference call in May caught public attention after a magazine detailed the incident in an article published on Wednesday.   The report stated Schnatter was on a call with marketing agency Laundry Service when he attempted to downplay the comments that he made during the National Football League last fall.  He allegedly said, “Colonel Sanders called blacks n—s.”

Schnatter complained tha the KFC founder never received public backlash.  Meanwhile, the call was intended as media training for Scnatter to prevent future public relations fumbles.

“New reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media training session regarding race are true,”  Schnatter said on Wednesday in a statement that was released by Papa John’s.  “Regardless of the context, I apologize.  Simply stated, racism has no place in our society.”

“This is the danger when organizations are too tied to a personality,” said Hill.  “We saw it with Subway and Jared … when things are going well and those people are popular, and they are doing smart things, it works.  But then you have a single point of failure and it’s that person’s actions that reflect on the entire organization.”

Even though Schnatter is no longer the CEO or chairman of Papa John’s, he is still tied with the pizza brand’s image and is featured prominently on the company’s pizza boxes.  Schnatter owns 24 percent stake in the company and he also stays on the company’s board.

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