Basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal owns nine Papa John’s pizza restaurants located throughout the Atlanta, Georgia region. One year after a high-profile public fallout involving Papa John’s owner, Shaq invested money from his lucrative NBA career into saving the beleaguered pizza chain.
Through a joint venture partnership formed in 2019, Shaq invested $840,000 for ownership of nine of Papa John’s Atlanta-based franchise units. In exchange for his 30% ownership, Shaq stands to hit some valuable bank shots. At that time, each unit had a worth of approximately $3 million.
How Shaq Started With Papa John’s
Shaq also received more than 87,000 shares of Papa John’s stock as part of the 2019 deal, which at the time were worth more than $4 million. The partnership started to gain traction when the company named Shaq as its brand ambassador. The marketing team replaced its former chairman and founder John Schnatter with Shaq in its advertising campaigns.
During the summer of 2019, activist investors hired Rob Lynch as the new Papa John’s CEO. Investors also added Shaq to the company’s board of directors in March of the same year. Both individuals have contributed to Papa John’s stock and public-imaging turnaround. The power duo has since improved the company’s stock performance and the aggressive development of innovative new pizza products continues.
The contract between Papa John’s and Shaq allows the retired basketball star to collaborate with the CEO on the company’s creative strategies. By remaining engaged in the designing of Shaq-approved new food offerings, such as the Shaq-a-Roni Pizza, the co-branded products have proven themselves to be strong sellers.
While only available for a limited time, the Shaq-a-Roni Pizza offers oversized slices topped with extra cheese and pepperoni. Because of the super-sized slices, pizza lovers find that folding them is easy. Folding an extra-large Shaq-a-Roni slice also traps the layers of cheese and pepperoni between the thin crust and adds a satisfying texture to each bite. The Shaq-a-Roni Pizza is expected to be a long-term winner for Papa John’s branding.
The Shaq-a-Roni XL slices are popular with today’s busy customers. As more consumers prefer buying from companies dedicated to social causes, it also allows purchasers to help Shaq give back to the communities that supported his career growth. With each Shaq-a-Roni purchased, the company promises to donate $1 to The Papa John’s Foundation. Charitable gifts have included generous contributions to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, which lists Shaq as one of its notable members.
New Branding and Product Innovations Propel Sales
A significant rebound in the company’s sales shows that adding Shaq as a franchise owner, brand ambassador and board member was a forceful shot. With more room for the company to grow its product lines and revenue, investors are following Shaq’s moves in the pizza franchise field.
With his experience taking winning shots both on the court and in the board room, Shaq has shown his capabilities for innovation and getting results. He may prove to be a major factor in company growth by expanding his franchise ownership and increasing his involvement as a board member. Placing an order and trying out the new food offerings can help make it clear what’s behind all the good news.