Shaquille O'Neal Ads Help Turn Around Papa John's Lagging Sales - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise magazine Fall 2019 issue

The Shaq Attack seems to be working! According to ABC News, Shaquille O’Neal and his appearances in Papa John’s commercials have helped turned around lagging sales numbers.

O’Neal started appearing in ads in September. He also joined the company’s board and invested in nine restaurants in the Atlanta area.

The Louisville, Kentucky-based pizzeria chain has stated that its North American same-store sales grew for the first time in two years in the July-September period. Sales at locations open for at least a year—a key metric of a retailer’s health—were up 1%.

Papa John’s President and CEO Rob Lynch said the latest ad campaign, which also showcases the diversity of Papa John’s franchisees and employees, is paying dividends.

“I do think we’re starting to turn the corner on consumer sentiment,” Lynch said on a conference call Wednesday with investors and analysts.

AP has reported that international same-store sales rose 1.6%. Papa John’s has 5,343 restaurants in 49 countries. More than half are in North America.

Lynch said a combination of new customers, more repeat business, and higher spending per visit drove the sales increase. He said new partnerships with third-party delivery services like DoorDash are not yet contributing to that growth but remain an important part of the business. Third-quarter net income was $385,000, compared with a loss of $13.3 million in the same period a year ago.

Papa John’s announced in March that O’Neal would serve as a pitchman. The move was part of a larger effort to repair the damage left by the company’s founder and namesake, John Schnatter.

O’Neal, the four-time NBA champion, joined the Papa John’s board of directors earlier this year after the Schnatter resigned last year following reports that he used a racial slur during a company conference call and criticized NFL players kneeling in protest during an earnings call. O’Neal secured $8.5 million in cash and stock options in the deal. The NBA legend also invested in nine Papa John’s franchise restaurants in Atlanta.