Papa John's Founder Becomes a Ghostbuster in New Campaign

Chain's Tie-Ins With Movie Reboot Include New Pizza, Jumpsuit Giveaways

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Papa John's Ghostbusters pizza box.
Papa John's Ghostbusters pizza box. Credit: Papa John's

Who you gonna call Papa John's best customer? Slimer.

The pizza chain is the latest brand ready for its "Ghostbusters" marketing moment. On Monday, Papa John's will begin airing a 30-second ad starring founder John Schnatter and the Slimer character from the 1984 film and the upcoming 2016 reboot.

Mr. Schnatter, Papa John's chairman and CEO, is the face of the company in numerous commercials and often on its pizza boxes. This time, instead of wearing his usual red Papa John's shirt he's clad in a Ghostbusters jumpsuit.

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The commercial begins with Ghostbusters-style music as the Ecto-1 drives by. Mr. Schnatter delivers pizzas to Slimer in a theater as people flee. Along with the movie tie-in moments, the spot from WPP's Grey focuses on a limited-time $12 XL Dual Layer pepperoni pizza. Near the end of the ad, a slime-covered Mr. Schnatter delivers his "Better Ingredients. Better Pizza" line.

Papa John's began speaking with Sony Pictures Entertainment about a collaboration in early 2015 according to Robert Thompson, SVP-Marketing, Papa John's International. In the movie, imagery of Papa John's store branding appears and its pizza boxes and pizza can be seen in a scene in the Ghostbusters' headquarters.

"It's reaching a broad base of our consumers -- those of us young enough when it first originally came out and now a whole new millennial group," Mr. Thompson said, adding that the film appealed to the chain because it is family friendly.

Of course, Papa John's is not the only company hoping to win over "Ghostbusters" fans. Insurer Progressive has its first film integration in "Ghostbusters," along with movie-themed commercials. Coca-Cola's Hi-C Ecto-Cooler is back; Hostess is hawking Key Lime Slime flavored Twinkies; and Orville Redenbacher's has a sweepstakes, with prizes including Sony electronics, the new Ghostbusters video game, DVDs of the earlier Ghostbusters films and popcorn coupons.

Dannon YoCrunch yogurt's plans include Ghostbusters-themed packaging, while Dave & Buster's touts itself as the only place to play a new Ghostbusters arcade game and has themed cocktails.

Papa John's is the pizza brand featured in the movie that hits theaters July 15, however pizza rival Little Caesars promoted the film in its own way by sponsoring an airing of the original "Ghostbusters" on "VH1: Flashback Friday" in April.

Papa John's Ghostbusters pizza promotion.
Papa John's Ghostbusters pizza promotion. Credit: Papa John's

However the reboot is received by moviegoers, Papa John's could use a boost from a fresh dose of marketing and a limited-time product. First-quarter sales at longstanding U.S. shops rose just 0.1% amid "a competitive promotional environment," as Mr. Schnatter described it in a statement in May. At that time Papa John's, which trails Pizza Hut, Domino's and Little Caesars in sales and number of U.S. shops, said it expected stronger sales moving forward.

Papa John's first national film sponsorship was the 2002 DVD release of "Ice Age." More recent work included an XL Extreme Cheese pizza to promote 2009's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." The company said its exposure in 2013's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" was organic, but it did pay for placement in 2005's "Rebound" and was included in 2014's "Draft Day" as it is an NFL sponsor.

The tie-in with "Ghostbusters" marks its biggest film integration project, Mr. Thompson said. In the real world, the XL Dual Layer pepperoni pizza comes in a special box with Ghostbusters imagery including the Ecto-1 and Mr. Schnatter in the jumpsuit.

Papa John's Ghostbusters themed Snapchat filter.
Papa John's Ghostbusters themed Snapchat filter. Credit: Papa John's

Earlier this month, Papa John's teamed up with event production company BBQ Films to give away pizza at screenings of the original "Ghostbusters" film in Brooklyn. Other plans include a "Who You Gonna Call" sweepstakes for those who order online, with prizes including four jumpsuits from the movie and Ghostbusters video games.

The chain will have a special Snapchat filter with Papa John's and Slimer imagery. It is also offering a $5 Fandango gift cards with the purchase of $25 Papa John's electronic gift cards, and will have Ghostbusters-themed cards in shops.

Papa John's does not plan to run its commercial in movie theaters but is thinking about the possibility of it being included in some way in the DVD release or in gaming opportunities, Mr. Thompson said.

The company's U.S. advertising spending rose 5.3% to $210.9 million in 2015, according to the Ad Age Datacenter. Grey is the company's creative agency, Interpublic Group's Initiative is its media agency and Edelman handles public relations.

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