Shaquille O’Neal will make his Papa John’s debut this week in a series of television ads that the company hopes will further distance the chain from the problems of the past year.
O’Neal, who is a company director and a franchisee, is starring in the “Better Day” campaign for the Louisville, Ky.-based pizza chain, featuring three television ads showing him making pizzas and surprising customers by making the deliveries himself.
The trio of ads will begin airing nationally Thursday—which also happens to be the first day of the new NFL season.
“I had a blast making these commercials,” O’Neal said in a statement.
The campaign is the first from the company’s agency, Camp + King. The ads were directed by filmmaker Amir Farhang with Hungry Man Productions. Farhang has worked with O’Neal previously and has also worked with brands such as Adidas, Nike and Dove.
The idea behind the ads is to demonstrate O’Neal’s connection with the brand. His role as company director and restaurant operator make him more than a typical brand spokesman.
O’Neal “is playing a real role of being more deeply invested in the company as both a store owner and member of the board,” Roger Camp, chief creative officer and co-founder of Camp + King, said in a statement.
The commercials are part of a larger campaign that will feature additional candid moments with O’Neal in select cities in the coming months.
The upcoming campaign is as important to the chain as any ads in recent history, given Papa John’s sales challenges that began in late 2017 with controversy surrounding comments made by founder John Schnatter during a conference call—and which worsened when he admitted using a racial slur just more than a year ago.
The controversies sent sales plunging and ultimately led to Schnatter’s departure and the end of his marketing relationship with the company.
Schnatter has ended all of his roles with Papa John’s, which at one point included CEO, chairman and spokesman. He has been selling his shares in recent months.