Some athletes when they retire take up quiet lives of solitude. Others begin new careers that, while successful, keep them far from the public spotlight.
Shaquille O’Neal is none of them.
O’Neal began to build his brand even as he was being drafted as the No. 1 overall pick by the Orlando Magic in 1992.
Since retiring from the NBA in 2011, O’Neal has made it his goal to not only remain in the spotlight but to increase the scope and intensity of his brand, marketing partners and cause-marketing endeavors.
Late last year, he signed a deal with Authentic Brands Group in New York for the rights to manage his name in endorsement and merchandise deals worldwide.
In recent months, O’Neal has signed pacts with American Express, The General (insurance), Wix (Web development) and Krispy Kreme, the latter as an owner (in Atlanta) and spokesman.
That is in addition to such alliances as Gold Bond, Icy Hot, Macy’s (men’s clothing), Zales (jewelry), Arizona Ice Tea, Sportcraft (arcade games), Zyloware Eyeware and Walmart (basketball shoes).
Industry analysts estimate he takes in close to $25 million via endorsement deals and has a net worth north of $325 million.
What makes his deals work for many people is that they are organic. He used The General while in college and has long been a consumer of Krispy Kreme donuts. In-store, he sees to it that prices for suits, shoes and jewelry are affordable.
His reward: More than 6 million Likes on Facebook, more than 13 million followers on Twitter.
O’Neal, now in his fifth season as an analyst on Turner Sports’ “Inside the NBA”, has ownership in ten 24 Hour Fitness clubs (mostly in Florida, according to the company), more than 150 Five Guys burger locations, almost 20 Auntie Annie’s Pretzel shops, a small stake in the NBA’s Sacramento Kings and an investment in NRG eSports.
Last week, when one of his former teams, the Los Angeles Lakers, visited another of his former teams, the Miami Heat, O’Neal’s No. 32 Heat jersey was retired. Fittingly, O’Neal worked as one of the announcers during the game on TNT.
The Lakers, which retired his No. 34 in 2013, this March will place a statue of O’Neal outside of Staples Center. To match O’Neal’s role with the team — which included three NBA championships — and his own 7’1”, 340-lb. stature, the statue will be nine feet tall and weigh 1,200 lbs.
He is in the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame, important but not as big as his induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this past summer.
As has been his tradition for many years, O’Neal becomes Shaq-A-Claus during the holiday season to work with Toy ‘R’ Us (this year joined by The General) on its Toys for Tots Program. He and Macy’s donated 35,000 coats to Clothes4Souls “for those in need.”
“In addition to Shaquille’s status as a sports and entertainment icon and businessman, he is known for spreading joy, which aligns with our positioning and mission,” Tony Thompson, president and CEO for Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, said when O’Neal officially joined the Krispy Kreme family. “We are confident this partnership will have a big impact for us in Atlanta and around the world.”