- Papa John's having Shaquille O'Neal on board as a spokesperson and board member is driving customer engagement for the pizza brand, according to data by advertising analytics platform EDO cited in Yahoo News.
- Consumers were 37% more likely to search for Papa John's after seeing an ad featuring Shaq than another pizza brand. Viewing a Shaq-starring ad caused consumers to be 30% more likely to search for the brand than if they saw a Papa John's ad that didn't feature the retired basketball star.
- The company spent upwards of $50 million scrubbing founder John Schnatter's image from Papa John's and shifted Shaq as the main face. Despite complaints that the NBA star missed a quarter of the company's board meetings, his association with the brand proves powerful.
Papa John's started looking to sports stars and social media influencers to help rebuild its brand identity last year after the fallout from the exit of its founder and CEO John Schnatter. The pizza company inked an $8.25 million deal with basketball legend Shaq in March 2019. Recent data signals that the connection to Shaq is paying off, as the EDO report shows a direct correlation between viewers seeing him in an ad with searching for Papa John's online.
The study suggests how the power of a celebrity spokesperson can help a company turn its business around and boost brand awareness. Papa John's sales were up 5.3% for the three months ending March 29, after experiencing losses last year likely due to Schnatter's negative behavior. Following the founder's ouster over using racial slurs on a conference call in 2018, Papa John's has continued to retool its branding and marketing strategy — a daunting task considering Schnatter's first name is attached to the company's name and he served as the face of the brand for years.
In 2019, the pizza chain pivoted to trendier digital marketing tactics, such as enlisting social media influencers and sports stars, amid a continued sales dip and named a new CMO to turn the ship around and develop product innovations and partnerships with third-party delivery services to boost the brand.
Now, the company is "nearly fully operational" during the current coronavirus pandemic and is still delivering food in most markets, The New York Post reported. Papa John's announced plans to hire 20,000 workers to meet demand, even as many Americans face layoffs due to the pandemic's economic impact. By focusing on marketing its delivery options during the global crisis, the pizza chain could boost delivery orders and overall brand buzz.