Everyone who has eaten pizza has heard of Papa John’s. And it’s also true that everyone who follows basketball has heard of Shaquille O’Neal, even if the current generation of fans may be too young to have seen Shaq play in his prime. He’s still highly visible these days in various sports shows, and you can always check him out on YouTube.
It’s not really surprising that Papa John’s partnered with Shaq, starting way back in 2019. The deal involves a 3-year contract, with Shaq making 8¼ million bucks to promote the Papa John’s brand. While Shaq certainly gets the moolah, Papa John’s gets a lot back in return.
Here are the reasons why the partnership is a huge win for everyone.
Rehabbing the “Racist Rep”
Papa John’s started earning a rather unsavory reputation for racism, starting about 2017 or so. That was when the company founder John Schnatter commented on how the NFL was mishandling the player protests at the time, and that this was connected to the slumping sales of Papa John’s.
That obviously didn’t come out right, and in fact it was highly lauded by outright racists and white nationalists. These folks even called out Papa John’s as their official pizza, which didn’t do any favors for the brand. It also didn’t help when news came out that Schnatter used the offensive N-word on a conference call during a training session.
Since Shaq is obviously black, it should keep Papa John’s from any similar missteps. Now everyone can focus on the pizza, rather than on racial politics.
Things were bad then, but Shaq entered the picture, even as Schnatter was out as CEO and board chairman. Schnatter may still be the single largest shareholder, but he’s out of the loop. He has also sold a lot of his shares to minimize his involvement with the brand.
Meanwhile, Shaq is also a board member as well, and such shenanigans will no longer be tolerated. Part of the deal is that Shaq also gets Papa John’s shares, and he received 87,136 shares of stock worth about $4.4 million at the time. As part owner, there’s no way that Shaq will let any racism continue with the brand.
Shaq is a Social Media Pro
You only have to check out the various social media platforms to confirm this. Plus, he has TV shows and guesting spots in various late-night talk shows. He comes across as both friendly and knowledgeable, plus he’s rich enough to say whatever he wants. No one can force him to say things he himself doesn’t believe in.
He’s obviously used to using social media to promote brands. That’s what he did with Krispy Kreme, after all.
It helps that Shaq’s reputation is a big goofy guy who loves to have fun and make others smile and laugh. He doesn’t court controversy. Instead, he’s all about finding the good even when bad things are happening. People see him and they automatically smile, even as they marvel at his unreal size. He’s just absolutely huge.
We Get the Shaq-a-Roni
Shaq is larger than life, and in a physical sense it’s literally true. Even other supposed “big guys” look puny in comparison when they’re standing side by side.
So, it’s not surprising that the Shaq-a-Roni is also “larger than life”. It’s back for another run, and it’s perfect for gatherings after the whole Covid mess. It’s an extra-large pizza, which is apt. It also comes with extra pepperoni and extra mozzarella cheese. For just $13, it’s virtually a steal. It’s like Shaq’s NBA rookie contract.
Great for Charities
Shaq has more than enough money, since he’s reportedly earned a total of $292 million over the course of his 19-year NBA career. He’s now worth an estimated $400 million. He’s actually the 6th-highest paid retired athlete in the world. He even makes more per year in endorsements, compared to his endorsement earnings when he was actually playing. It’s fair to say he has a lot of money, so it’s not surprising that the deal also benefits some charities.
Every time someone buys a Shaq-a-Roni, a dollar of the purchase goes to the Papa John’s Foundation for Building Community. This foundation helps out various charitable organizations, like UNCF, the World Central Kitchen, and the Boys and Girls Club of America.
A single dollar may not seem a lot, but in the last year with Shaq-a-Roni, sales led to raising at least $3 million for the various charities. The return of the Shaq-a-Roni can lead to a similar figure, even with the pandemic.