Papa John's kicks off online recipe contest

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Pizza chain Papa John's International is conducting a web-based contest encouraging consumers to create a new pizza for its menu. The effort began May 25.

The company is urging consumers to share recipes for the chance to make a new menu item in its “Papa's Specialty Pizza Challenge.” It is promoting the contest through online ads and its Facebook page. The creative was developed in-house, but Facebook app developer Stuzo worked on the social networking application.

Papa John's is also e-mailing its database, running banner ads, TV ads and ads on pizza boxes.

Papa John's primary goal is to put the focus on its "Better ingredients, better pizza" brand positioning, said Melissa Richards-Person, senior director of advertising and promotions at Papa John's.

“We wanted to do that in a way that was engaging and authentic, that would give consumers a reason to want to learn about our ingredients,” she said.

Richards-Person added that this messaging will take a back seat to sports-themed ads during the football and basketball seasons.

Consumers can enter the contest at through June 14. Entrants must share the recipe and name of the menu item, and tell the company, in 250 words or less, what makes their pizza special. Papa John's will feature all entries in a gallery on its Facebook page. Judges will consider each item's name, recipe and story when picking 10 semifinalists.

“Papa” John Schnatter, the chain's CEO, and a team will test the recipes at the company's Louisville, KY headquarters, then pick three finalists that will be added to the chain's menu from August 2 to August 29. The pizza that earns the most sales will earn a spot on Papa John's menu.

Papa John's will give the three finalists a $1,000 marketing budget to drive sales of their recipes. The grand prize winner will receive free Papa John's pizza for life and the chance to appear in a “Papa's in the House” TV ad.

The company's goal is both customer acquisition and retention, said Richards-Person.

"Pizza is a very competitive category with everybody being actively engaged in marketing and talking about their products, so we want to continue to reinforce loyalty from existing fans, while encouraging new customers to try us,” she said.

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