Papa John's, Shaquille O'Neal endorsement deal includes $4.1M payday

Shaquille O’Neal’s new role as the face of Papa John’s came at a hefty price for the embattled pizza chain.

Papa John’s will pay O’Neal’s company, ABG-Shaq, a total of $4.125 million over three years in an endorsement deal, the company disclosed in an SEC filing on Monday. The deal grants Papa John’s the right to feature O’Neal, his likeness, his nickname and other intellectual property in its advertisements. O’Neal will also serve as a brand ambassador for live appearances and social media campaigns.

In addition to his pay, Papa John’s will cover O’Neal’s expenses related to “marketing and personal services and grant him stock in the company. Aside from serving as a brand ambassador and member of Papa John’s board of directors, O’Neal has invested about $840,000 in nine Atlanta-area Papa John’s restaurants in a joint venture that gives him 30 percent ownership of the locations.

The endorsement deal is set to expire in March 2022, though it can be extended for one year by mutual agreement. The contract also includes unspecified exclusive rights and early termination clauses.

Papa John’s first announced its partnership with O’Neal in March, shortly after it settled a lengthy dispute with company founder John Schnatter. The pizza chain has overhauled its brand image and marketing campaigns in recent months after an incident in which Schnatter used a racial slur during a conference call exacerbated an ongoing sales slump.

Schnatter, who was long Papa John’s largest shareholder, reportedly plans to divest his interests in the company and has already begun selling some shares.

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“In addition to his business acumen, Shaquille understands how to build lasting connections with consumers and energize employees,” Papa John’s CEO Steve Ritchie said in a statement in March. “I look forward to working with him as a board member and brand partner to advance the many initiatives we are pursuing across the organization to create even greater success for Papa John’s and our stakeholders.”

Papa John’s plans to roll out its first commercials starring O’Neal later this year, USA Today reported.


“I plan to purchase as many [locations] as I can,” O’Neal told the newspaper. “Everyone loves pizza and pizza loves everyone.”