In its first foray into NCAA NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) sponsorships, Imo’s Pizza, the leader in St. Louis-style pizza, has inked a deal with fleet-footed Missouri Tigers wide receiver Luther Burden III.

Imo’s said it has formalized an NIL sponsorship agreement with Burden, naming him an official Imo’s spokesperson who will appear in the brand’s print, electronic and billboard advertising. He’ll also take part in social media outreach for the St. Louis-based chain.

Throughout the 2023 football season, Burden will appear on Imo’s billboard advertising in Columbia, Missouri. The sponsorship officially kicks off on June 17 with a pizza party provided by Imo’s for participants in Burden’s youth football camp at Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club in St. Louis.

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ESPN named Burden, who played football at East St. Louis Senior High School, as the class of 2022’s top offensive recruit and the No. 5 overall recruit nationally. As a freshman, he saw action in all 13 games last season, made 10 starts and ended the year with 45 catches for 375 yards and five touchdowns, plus 88 yards and two TDs on the ground.

“I’ve loved Imo’s pizza for as long as I can remember, so this sponsorship was an easy ‘yes’ for me,” Burden said in a press release. “I look forward to the opportunity to serve as an ambassador for a brand I admire and a pizza I absolutely love!”

Mark Miner, Imo’s CEO, said he’s a “huge fan” of both Mizzou football and Luther. “I’m excited Imo’s could secure this sponsorship with someone who is genuinely a fan of our brand as well,” he said. “NIL sponsorships are relatively new, but they make so much sense, as they allow us to align our brand with hometown favorites like Luther Burden III while they are still close to home. We look forward to a great sponsorship!”

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Burden won’t be the first star athlete to lend his fame to an Imo’s marketing campaign. According to St. Louis Today, the brand’s ads have also featured David Freese of the St. Louis Cardinals and Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics.

Imo’s opened in 1964 and has become synonymous with St. Louis-style pizza, which features a cracker-thin crust, a slightly sweet sauce, square cuts and toppings all the way to the edges. The style’s most unusual ingredient, however, is Provel, a combination of provolone, Swiss and cheddar cheeses flavored with liquid smoke. Provel was invented in 1947 specifically for the pizza industry and is crafted to mimic the flavor of a wood-fired pie.

Imo’s currently has 99 locations in Missouri, Illinois and Kansas, while many of its products, including frozen pizzas, sauces, crusts and Provel cheese, are available at some grocery chains in the greater St. Louis area.

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