Apple Makes Shaq And Celebrities Everywhere Grovel Like Common People

Stars can often score hot products before the rest of us. But in the lead-up to a product launch at Apple, nobody's tastemaker status matters.

Free stuff flows readily for celebrities. As New York recently reported, companies leap at any personal news--sending baby stuff to new moms, cars to a birthday party, and $100,000 in goodies to red-carpet walkers. Companies want to glom onto a celeb's buzz, so they can chalk the giveaways up to smart marketing. But at Apple, whose product launches spark entire news cycles, no celebrity symbiosis is necessary. Which means the company is skilled at saying "no" to people who only hear "yes."

Apple would never say who's calling them right now, but we found a few people willing to admit to past inquiries.

Shaquille O'Neal
Analyst, NBA on TNT/NBA TV, Big Aristotle

"I've always wanted to be the one that's on the edge of technological curve. I always wanted to be ahead of everybody else. The great Steve Jobs, rest in peace, when the iPhone was first coming out, I used to call him every other day. Can I please get one first? Can I please get one first? He never gave me one. He said, 'Shaq, I can't, I can't, I can't.' He was a great guy."

Bradley Frank
Celebrity publicist, Rogers & Cowen

"When we shot the last Old Spice campaign with Isaiah Mustafa, Apple was shooting the iPad 2 campaign on the next sound studio. We tried to check it out, but it was like machine-gun guards, check-in at different stations. They had code names. It was like dealing with the CIA. Then they walked their asses right onto our set, and had no issue doing that. They just walked onto our set! We were like, 'What are you doing? You can't do that!' And when the iPhone4 came out, I can't tell you how many clients were like, 'We need that early.' And Apple's like, 'No.'"

Channing Frye
Forward, Phoenix Suns

"My cousin works for Apple, in marketing. I bug her every day about what's coming out. All she can say is, 'What you have works perfectly fine.' Literally, they are like a secret society--if I tell, I have to kill you. It's just wild how they are so tight-lipped about everything. That makes everyone want it so much more--and the NBA is sponsored by Apple, basically. I've yet to see a player use a PC on the road. So, we're all interested. I went to Apple and visited once, checked it out, looked around. I was more interested in if I could find any secret codes. But I can't hide. I'm too big for that."

And now, a word of restraint...

William Gibson
Author, Neuromancer (and most recently, Zero History)

"I used to imagine that they might call me, one day, but I don't think they work that way, and the story about Shaq seems to bear that out! I've never owned a computer that wasn't Apple. I started with a IIc. I am never very up to date, though, on tech products, though many people expect me to be."

Follow Jason Feifer on Twitter (@heyfeifer) and Fast Company (@fastcompany.com)

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2 Comments

  • melonbee

    The headline is pretty misleading. I know someone who works at the Apple store, and celebs ask for and get free stuff there all the time. Obviously Apple, known for its ultra secrecy, is not going to give out or show stuff to celebs when they're not on the market yet.