Shaq and Papa John’s sign a 3-year extension

The former NBA star-turned-pitchman helped the pizza chain turn around when he became spokesman and director three years ago. He’s being rewarded with a deal worth at least $11 million in cash and stock.
Papa John's Shaq endorsement deal
Photo courtesy of Papa John's

Papa John’s will keep Shaq around for at least three more years.

Shaquille O’Neal, the former NBA player who has had a more lucrative post-playing career as a pitchman and investor, signed a new three-year endorsement deal for the pizza chain worth more than $11 million in cash and stock, according to a federal securities filing on Thursday.

The deal also features a royalty arrangement that can increase the value of the deal. O’Neal will get $5.625 million in cash over the three years, starting out at $1.75 million in the first year and increasing to $2 million by the third.

He can earn more, however, if people buy a lot of Shaqaroni Pizzas. Papa John’s agreed to pay O’Neal a royalty payment of 20 cents per Shaqaroni Pizza sold if that amount exceeds the cash payment in a given year.

O’Neal will also receive 55,898 in restricted stock, which will gradually vest over a three-year period. That stock is worth $5.6 million based on Thursday’s trading price.

O’Neal initially signed a deal with Papa John’s in 2019 as the company was working its way out of a bad, two-year funk stemming from controversies surrounding its founder and former spokesman John Schnatter. O’Neal became a franchisee of the brand as well as a director and a spokesman.

At the time, the deal was worth $8 million. But it’s safe to say the company is thrilled with the results. Same-store sales turned positive the next quarter after the O’Neal agreement was announced and have been positive since then—aided, clearly, by a pandemic that has shifted sales to delivery.

According to the deal terms, O’Neal will provide at least eight “service days” for Papa John’s every year, including production days with the chain’s creative agency and various public appearances at company and community events. He will also post company-created posts on his social channels and will make himself available for Papa John’s-related media interviews every year.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


Why MOD Pizza is not out of the woods yet

The Bottom Line: The fast-casual pizza chain was sold last week to Elite Restaurant Group. But few who’ve seen the finances believe the company can avoid closing large numbers of stores.


Restaurants have a hot opportunity to improve their reputation as employers

Reality Check: New mandates for protecting workers from dangerous on-the-job heat are about to be dropped on restaurants and other employers. The industry could greatly help its labor plight by acting first.


Some McDonald's customers are doubling up on the discounts

The Bottom Line: In some markets, customers can get the fast-food chain's $5 value meal for $4. The situation illustrates a key rule in the restaurant business: Customers are savvy and will find loopholes.


More from our partners