As so, so, so many companies have done in the past (that really can't be emphasized enough), Papa John's is tapping Shaquille O'Neal to help promote their brand. However, instead of just appointing him as a spokesman, the pizza company is also putting Shaq on their board of directors, and the big man will also invest in a number of their Atlanta franchises:
For his services Shaq is set to be paid $8.25 million over the course of three years.
It's certainly not the first time O'Neal has waded into the food industry, as he also owns an Atlanta-area Krispy Kreme, nearly 30 Five Guys restaurants, his own chicken joint in Las Vegas, and even a newly opened restaurant in L.A.
"Shaquille has an excellent entrepreneurial background, including as a restaurant franchise owner, and is a natural creative marketer," said the current chairman of Papa John's board of directors, Jeff Smith.
While everyone from Icy Hot to the General himself has tapped Shaq for commercials, Papa John's could really benefit from the four-time champ's popularity. The pizza chain, which was once seen during nearly every NFL commercial break, has watched as their sales decline for five straight quarters. This drop started in October 2017 when founder and then-CEO John Schnatter criticized the NFL for not doing enough to squash protests taking place during the national anthem. Schnatter made those comments during a conference call with investors when he blamed the league for a decline in sales. Two months afterward he stepped down as CEO.
Then, in summer 2018, Schnatter resigned from his role as the company's chairman after news came out that he had used the N-word while trying to make the argument that his previous comments had been blown out of proportion. In that same conference call he had talked about his upbringing in Indiana in an apparent effort to convey his antipathy towards historical racism. Somewhat ironically that call was intended to be a training exercise to avoid future PR snafus. Since then the company has done its best to distance itself from the man who is the John in Papa John's. Obviously that's proving difficult.
"Papa John's is building a better culture, and I want to be a part of improving the [company] from the inside," said O'Neal in a statement.
"I know that behind every large company, there are thousands of people that put their heart and soul into the business. Papa John’s is no different, and it struck a chord with me that the company is putting in the work to do better within its walls and in the communities it serves across the country," he added.
Though it's the very definition of a small sample size, early returns look good, as the company's stock reportedly rose five percent upon the announcement.