John Schnatter: ‘Peyton Manning is not replaceable,’ will continue as spokesman

NFL Quarterback Peyton Manning and sports commentator Jim Nantz with Papa John's founder John Schnatter | Courtesy of Papa John's

NFL quarterback Peyton Manning and sports commentator Jim Nantz with Papa John’s founder John Schnatter | Courtesy of Papa John’s

Peyton Manning may have retired from professional football, but that doesn’t mean he will back away from his role as a spokesman for Papa John’s International.

During a conference call with anaylsts Wednesday, Papa John’s founder, chairman and CEO John Schnatter, made it abundantly clear Manning wasn’t going anywhere.

“We will never replace Peyton Manning because Peyton Manning is not replaceable,” Schnatter said. “Peyton Manning is the Michael Jordan of football. Period. End of conversation.”

Manning ended his sports career earlier this year after his team, the Denver Broncos, won the Super Bowl. Schnatter notably snuck onto the football field following the win in February, and Manning pulled him in for a celebratory kiss on the cheek.

Papa John’s president Steve Ritchie said Manning will continue to own Papa John’s stores in Denver, and he teased that Manning will take on a potentially different role in the commercial now that he has retired.

“I think you will see some very fun and interactive ways the team has used Peyton in the spots,” Ritchie said.

Partnerships with sports figures and sports organizations have been lucrative for the Louisville-based pizza chain. The company renewed its partnership with the National Football League and this year premiered a partnership with the Major League Baseball. It also has branched into new non-sports territory this year by partnering to promote the release of the new “Ghostbusters” film.

“It has done really well,” Schnatter said, adding that the film partnership was specifically targeted at the key consumer group Millennials.

The company’s efforts to introduce better ingredients such as antibiotic-free chicken and cage-free eggs and remove bad ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors is another way Papa John’s is trying to connect with Millennials, as well as moms. Both groups are increasingly health conscious and socially conscious.

“Those are hugely important demographics for us,” Ritchie said.

It’s those demographics Papa John’s is relying on to help the company grow each quarter. The company yesterday released its earnings for the second quarter of 2016.

Papa John’s reported a 6 percent increase in revenues to $423 million during the second quarter, as well as a 20.1 percent jump in net income to $22.5 million. Same-store sales rose 4.8 percent at North American stores and 5.3 percent at international stores.

The company changed some of its guidance for the end of the year. It now expects same-store sales to grow anywhere from 3 to 5 percent in 2016 compared to 2015; previous guidance was 2 to 4 percent. Earnings per share also is expected to come in at $2.35 to $2.45, up five cents from the previous guidance of $2.30 to $2.40.