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Shaq Promotes His Personal Brand
Shaquille O'Neal, the legendary seven-foot NBA center, veteran of many championship seasons and recipient of multiple MVP and All-Star accolades, retired from the court after 19 memorable years. But in some circles he is better known now than ever. Almost 9 million people follow him on Twitter, where he makes millions of dollars tweeting about the product brands he prefers.
O'Neal has kept tight control on his personal brand in the process. Upon retirement, he told consumer product firms eager for his endorsements that he would talk directly to fans on his own terms. Those terms are simple: Shaq wants to entertain and inspire. Determined not to become just another product spokesperson or allow his Twitter feed or Facebook page (also with millions of followers) to be scripted for him, he has focused on a strategy some call "soft power" to infuse his promotional messages with hid own personality. Even his retirement announcement video was linked on Twitter.
Stunts he films to share with fans and quirky pitches that reflect his daily life are clearly catching on with his growing audience. "I never say, 'Go buy this' on my Twitter," O'Neal says. Instead, he'll ask fans how many Oreos they think he can eat in 15 seconds, and hundreds of thousands of people respond to his credibility and humor by buying Oreos. One industry observer calls O'Neal's brand one of the most authentic in social media today, praise that stems from the basketball star's commitment to project an online personality that's funny and smart, that inspires people by making them laugh, and that doesn't try to sell anything, not even himself.
Other promotional efforts with O'Neal's backing include AriZona Beverages' basketball camp scholarships, set up to coincide with the introduction of a new all-natural line of cream soda called Soda Shaq. The partnership seems perfectly authentic for O'Neal, who credits sports with keeping him ouit of trouble when he was a kid.
O'Neal advocates entertaining and inspiring as ways to convey a successful promotional message. What makes people take his message seriously enough to buy products as a result of his approach?