This year, the Academy Awards didn’t have many unexpected wins. However, fans of Southern California’s Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizzeria franchise were surprised to see a familiar box of pizza on their television screens as celebrities including Brad Pitt and Jennifer Lawrence grabbed a slice.
At first, host Ellen DeGeneres’s reference to having pizza delivered to the Academy Awards seemed like a one-off joke. However, after a commercial break, a Big Mama’s and Papa’s delivery man arrived with several boxes.
That was a real pizza delivery guy, not an actor. (Well, I guess he might be an actor. It's Hollywood.) #Oscars— Anthony Breznican (@Breznican) March 3, 2014
Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep and Jamie Foxx were among the stars who grabbed slices, a live celebrity endorsement for Big Mama’s and Papa’s that would have taken millions of dollars to replicate in a commercial. While at first it appeared that Kerry Washington was passed over, the visibly pregnant Scandal star tweeted a picture of herself snacking on a gluten-free slice backstage. Leonardo DiCaprio, perhaps nervous about his Wolf of Wall Street nomination, passed on the snack.
Surprisingly, as brands vie for new ways to engage with customers on television and over social media, Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizzeria appears not to have been an official Academy Awards sponsor. The chain’s Twitter account took a half an hour to comment on its Oscar appearance – a significant lag given that everyone from Pizza Hut to Ellen DeGeneres herself was live-tweeting the event.
Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizzeria has 19 locations in Southern California. The chain is known for serving up the world’s largest deliverable pizza, a 54-inch giant. If the pizza’s cameo appearance was indeed unsponsored, Big Mama’s and Papa’s may have just landed one of the best free-advertising spots in the business.
Related: Branding Lessons from the Oscars