If you like pizza, get used to seeing NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal’s face. The legendary basketball player has entered into a major partnership with Papa John’s pizza in the hopes of resurrecting the brand. The agreement includes an endorsement deal in which he will be the brand ambassador, a major investment from the big man, a spot on the board of directors, and personal ownership of 9 (and counting) locations.
O’Neal’s first remodeled location is open now on Georgia Tech’s main campus, just minutes from the TNT studios where he shines on “Inside the NBA” programming. Shaq will add his personal style to each location and leave his mark on each one of his locations. The addition of his signature “Shaq-eroni” pizza to the menu seems inevitable. The larger than life pizza includes more pepperoni, more sausage, and extra cheese.
Shaq is not new to the food industry. He currently owns a Krispy Kreme location in Atlanta Georgia, he is the founder and owner of a Las Vegas restaurant named Big Chicken, he owns a fine dining restaurant in Los Angeles, and he is the former owner of 27 Five Guys franchises.
The Shaquille O’Neal Papa John’s partnership began during the 2019 Super Bowl after they worked together on “Shaq’s Fun House” an Atlanta based event that was sponsored by Papa John’s. The company’s CEO spoke with Shaq at the event and informed the NBA legend that they are committed to reestablishing themselves as one of the premier restaurants in America.
The pizza maker has been in a state of flux since their founder, and former CEO, became embroiled in controversy. New CEO Steve Ritchie has made multiple statements indicating their regret for the situation and pledging a renewed commitment to diversity as well as quality.
Shaq has stated that he believes in the brand and the product. He hopes that his involvement can help to reestablish the brand as one of America’s best pizza makers. His hopes are evident in his quote, “everybody loves pizza and pizza loves everybody”. Shaq will be lending his image, likeness, voice, and other intellectual property rights, in order to advertise for the brand.
Papa John’s pizza is eager to re brand itself after recent controversies. Papa John’s CEO, Steve Ritchie, has stated that they are eager to win back the trust, and business, of the pizza buying public. He has penned multiple letters to apologize directly to the customers, and pledge to do better. Their partnership with NBA legend Shaquille O’neal is a big step toward their ultimate goal.
The brand will work with O’Neal to advertise and promote the company. He will also use his unique business acumen and experience to serve on the board of directors as well as operate 9 Atlanta franchises (the first of which opened on the Georgia Tech main campus). The big man has given his seal of approval to the brand and wants to help them get back to doing what they do best; get people the pizza that they love.