Shaq, aka Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal, isn’t just a sports celebrity. He’s an icon instantly familiar across a giant handful of platforms. His start with the Orlando Magic. The video game, Shaq Fu. The ads (“Shaq Attack!”). His eight years with the Lakers. The quartet of NBA championships. The rap album, Shaq Fu: Da Return. His seasons with Miami, with LeBron in Cleveland, with the Celtics. The movies. The tweets. The everything.
Now Shaq’s 40, retired from the NBA, and “working harder than ever,” he tells Co.Create. “I’ve got a lot of things to fall back on, and I hope I’ll continue to get better.”
He’s certainly upped his game as an endorser. In a new campaign for Dove Men+Care, the silent, menacing Pepsi pitchman of decades yore is gone, replaced by an affable Shaq speaking about being comfortable in his skin. Sitting alongside his mother in one clip, a goateed Shaquille talks about being teased for his name and his size as a kid. In another, he recalls battling a childhood stutter. The Dove campaign also includes a Facebook element, “Shaq’s Big Excuse,” whereby fans can sign up to have The Big Aristotle leave a voice mail for their loves ones excusing them for flaking on personal commitments in favor of watching March Madness.
Fittingly enough, Shaq’s comfort level is one of the characteristics to which he attributes his successes as a media multi-hyphenate. “I’ve shown that I’m comfortable in my own skin. To me it means, know who you are, know your limits, just be yourself. A lot of people don’t,” he tells us, adding that in opting to join this particular campaign, it didn’t hurt that Dove felt like a good fit. “If I didn’t love the products or believe in the brand, I would not have partnered with Dove.”
But how heavily does that self-confidence factor into Shaq’s brand-building? Well, you’ll have to pump the brakes on that inquiry. “I don’t like to use the word ‘build,’” Shaq interjects. “Your brand has to become your brand by doing certain things. I just concentrate on being myself and I think people will respect that I’m myself,” Shaq says. “Be yourself, and be real. I don’t like guys that try to build something. A lot of guys do things to get money and so-called ‘big-up’ their brand. It always catches up to ’em.”
Shaq’s tips for maintaining your brand, rather, are simple. “Remain humble, always tell the truth, always smile. People ask things like how I got so many followers on Twitter (5.2 million and counting). It’s because of all the work I’ve done, and I got the work from being myself; people finding me interesting. Be true to yourself. A lot of times you just have to sit back and think about things before you do ’em.”
Being a multi-hyphen magnate, he says, “was always my plan. I was always a class clown, and that can make you very successful or get you in a lot of trouble. I just wanted to be different. Wanted to be a great, a legendary athlete. I just want to make people laugh, try to enlighten people.”
It’s telling that when citing his idols, Shaq says that while he did look to basketball types, his first idol was Roger Enrico, the CEO of Pepsi. “And of course Steve Jobs. I look at guys like that. I look at how they were leaders, their business models. I always meet a lot of people and ask a lot of questions; Donald Trump just tells me, ‘Stay humble, stay humble.’”
It’s not a concept he seems to have trouble with. To wit: “One day, it’s all gonna all be over. I want to be able to just be a great businessman, make my little mark in history, and then go to my old-folks home that I will purchase.”