Peyton Manning is one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in NFL history. He won and was named MVP of Super Bowl XLI. He's made 14 Pro Bowls, won five NFL Offensive MVP awards, owns virtually every Indianapolis Colts passing record, and set single-season records back in 2013 for passing yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55). Oh, he's also thrown for more touchdowns than any other signal caller, at 530 and counting, and has a net worth of $165 million.
Another one of his notable accomplishments is that he owns a substantial amount of Papa John's restaurants in Colorado. 27, to be exact, after he added six more in the past two years. At this rate, he's on track to own 30 by 2016.
How did Peyton Manning, master of the pre-snap audible, and Papa John's, master of garlic-buttered pizza, come to partner with each other?
Papa John's was founded in 1983. Then 22-year-old "Papa" John Schnatter knocked out a broom closet in the back of his father's tavern in Jeffersonville, Indiana. After selling his '71 Chevy Camaro to buy $1,600 worth of pizza equipment, Schnatter began serving patrons of the tavern. One year later, thanks to the popularity of his pizzas, he was able to move into an adjoining space. In 2002, the company became the first to offer online ordering for all of its customers. Schnatter was even able to get his car back in 2009. Not sure how functional it was after nearly 40 years, but still, a nice moment.
Manning connected with the franchise in 2011 while filming an ad for the Super Bowl, and began doing commercials for the company before opening up 21 Colorado franchises the following year. One such spot found Manning convincing Schnatter to up his yearly free pizza giveaways from one million to two million. It's awkward acting at its finest, but it helped Papa John's – the franchise has grown from $1.34 billion in sales in 2012 to $1.6 billion last year, and is continuing to trend upward. Several of the pizzerias Manning purchased increased an uptick in sales, as well – after a year under Manning's ownership, the Colorado locations reported their sales had increased from $3,000-$4,000 per day to about $5,000-$6,000.
Manning's signing was part of Papa John's foray into sports that's been going on for nearly a decade. It's the title sponsor of the University of Louisville football stadium, and had its own bowl game in Birmingham, AL from 2006-11. After joining the NFL as a sponsor in 2010, the franchise naturally needed a spokesperson from the league, and Manning has fit the bill.
And if you're curious why Manning chose Colorado as a location to invest in, well… just think of some of the laws that the state has (or rather, something that ISN'T against the law there) that's more illegal in most other states.
Today, Papa John's is the third largest takeout and pizza delivery chain in the world, with headquarters in Jeffersontown, Kentucky and 4,600 establishments in 34 countries. And perhaps throughout 30 select locations in Colorado, you can hear a southern accent imploring the pizza chefs to audible from sausage to pepperoni.