NBA legend, investor, and successful businessman Shaquille O’Neal is no stranger to brand extension. So when news broke that Shaq would be joining the Board of Directors for pizza franchise Papa John’s, it came as no shock.
Last Friday, I had the opportunity of sitting down with Shaq to talk about his new venture, the importance of extending and taking full control of your brand and the state of racist fans heckling athletes.
When Shaq first spoke to Papa Johns’ CEO, Steven Ritchie, he was looking to own some franchises. After a brief discussion, Ritchie returned offering Shaq the opportunity of being a brand ambassador. But the already successful businessman had other plans.
“They got back to me and said, ‘we want to bring you on as an ambassador’. I said no. I want a triple threat deal. I want to be on the board, I want to be an ambassador, and I want to be a franchisee.‘” Shaq said. “And I also said there has to be new leadership up top. Like if the other nonsense is going on, I don’t want to do it. But if [you] and Jeff Smith, chairman of the board, are on top, I want to do it.”
This new partnership will be more than just Shaq advertising good pizza. Papa John’s, and O’Neal are gearing up to do more community work, and even has an upcoming deal with the Boys and Girls Club.
In an era where audiences have become accustomed loving you one day and forgetting about you the next, having various and diverse projects has been key to longevity. This is something Shaq knows very well.
“I heard the great Jeff Bezos say that if you invest in things that are going to change lives, it’s usually a win-win,” Shaq said reflecting on the importance of diversifying your brand. “I’m not the anal guy that says, look, ‘I put ten million in this.’ I’ve never done that. I’ve been very successful and very lucky. Very blessed. I’m doing it because I want my children to look at me as more than one of the greatest basketball players to ever play the game. I want them to be super and extra proud of me.”
With nineteen years in the league, traveling from city to city, you encounter almost every type of fan. Naturally, I had to ask Shaq his take on the uprise of racist NBA fans heckling athletes.
“It’s not an uprise, that’s what people don’t understand. It’s been going on for years. It’s an uprise now because somebody records it. And everybody sees it.” Adding, “We as athletes, we are taught to relax. Don’t listen to them. ” However, that’s not always so easy.”
Recently, Russell Westbrook had his own encounter with a racist Utah Jazz fan, after he was told to “get on your knees like your used to.” The altercation went viral and ended with the fan being banned for life and Westbrook paying a fine.