How Shaq broke the marketing mold

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How Shaq broke the marketing mold

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

As dominant as Shaquille O'Neal was on the basketball court, he was an even larger-than-life figure away from the game.

Now that the Boston Celtics big man -- make that, former Boston Celtics big man -- has called it a career, we're bound to see even more of the market maven we have come to know, love and maybe most significant: Buy the products and services that he pitches.

In an earlier wide-ranging interview with CSNNE.com, O'Neal gave his thoughts on the various keys to establishing one's brand away from the game if you're a professional athlete.

"A lot of so-called experts may disagree with this statement I'm about to give you, but image is reality," O'Neal said. "When you have guys and they have guys that make up their image, it always catches up to them. I'm not going to say no names, but you have to be who you are. Everything that I do in the community, it's always how I've been."

O'Neal then repeats one of his favorite tales, the one about what how his dad gave an Army veteran his last 5.

"So I'm like, 'Why you do that?'" O'Neal recalled. "He was like, 'Yo man, if you ever make it big you have to help those in need.'"

Having a charitable heart only adds to the attraction that fans across the globe have to O'Neal and the dozens of products and services he has pitched over the course of his 19 NBA seasons.

Making his marketing success even more remarkable is that for so many years, players with his size were viewed as unmarketable.

Because most people aren't 7-foot-1 or weigh 300-plus pounds or wear a size 23, how could they possibly relate to O'Neal?

Even while at LSU, O'Neal recalls professors reiterating that big men aren't marketable to the masses.

So as he went about preparing for his career as a professional basketball player, he looked around at the great players and those that seemed to manage being great pitchmen as well.

There was Michael Jordan.

"They like Mike. Why? Because he's out there killing them," O'Neal said.

He looked at Magic Johnson.

"They like Magic. Why? Because he smiles. He ain't got the best vocabulary," quipped O'Neal. "But they like him."

So O'Neal reasoned that he could dominate the game like MJ and he certainly could flash an ear-to-ear grin with the best of them -- Magic included.

Up next?

Convincing companies that he was the man to pitch their products.

In hindsight, you would think it was a no-brainer.

But as O'Neal soon discovered, his perseverance -- maybe more than his personality -- would ultimately be the key to his marketing success.

"I was the one to break the theory that big men can't sell," O'Neal said. "I went to Reebok and they didn't want to give me a commercial. I said, 'Listen, give me a budget. I'll do my first commercial, and if you like it we'll do more. If not, we'll shut it down.' "

O'Neal's first commercial was the 'Don't fake the funk on a nasty dunk' campaign that featured Hall of Fame big men Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, as well as former Celtics Bill Walton and Bill Russell.

"It was designed, written and directed by me," O'Neal said. "I wanted to do that to let them know, these are the best, and I'm coming for your ass. I want to be mentioned with you all."

His career numbers say it all. His 28,596 points rank fifth all-time in NBA history. He's collected 13,099 rebounds which ranks 7th all-time. And the 13 seasons averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds is an NBA record.

But as much as he'll be remembered for what he achieved as a basketball player, he has given even more to the game in the way he paved the door for NBA big men such as Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin and Celtics perennial all-star Kevin Garnett to have opportunities to establish their own brand beyond what they have achieved on the floor.

"Marketing-wise, I had to push myself, push the product and at the end, make somebody laugh," O'Neal said. "Everything I do is just real. A lot of guys have a successful real brand. A lot of guys don't have a successful brand. To me, branding is reality. Those guys that are what they are, go far. Like Jordan has been Jordan since '87. It's working for him. Magic has been Magic since '85 and it's working for him."

He added, "I'm Shaq . . . and it's working for me."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Hawks hold decisive edge on the boards

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Hawks hold decisive edge on the boards

BOSTON – The return of Avery Bradley was a good thing for the Boston Celtics, but it wasn’t enough for them to control the action in the first half of Monday’s game against the Hawks who took a 51-47 lead into the half.

Bradley, who had missed previous 18 games and 22 of 23, had six points in the first half on 2-for-4 shooting.

The Celtics opened the game with a 7-2 spurt and led by as many as eight points (15-7) in the first before the Hawks begin to cut into Boston’s lead and eventually take their first lead of the night following a 3-point play by Paul Millsap with 4:20 to play in the quarter which put them ahead 18-15 as part of an 11-0 run.

Boston would regain the lead before both teams went into the second quarter tied at 24.

The second quarter saw Boston hit one of those scoring lulls that they go through from time to time.

But unlike last night’s win at Detroit when they went nearly four minutes without scoring, Atlanta’s offense did a much better job of taking advantage of Boston’s struggles.

Atlanta went on a 9-2 spurt in the second quarter capped off by a Kent Bazemore lay-up that put the Hawks ahead 35-31.

Boston rallied soon after with Bradley leading the charge.

Bradley drained a 3-pointer that cut Atlanta’s lead to 35-34.

A defensive stop by Boston led the way for an Isaiah Thomas lay-up that put the Celtics back on top, leading to the Hawks calling a time-out with 6:18to play in the half.

Atlanta tightened up defensively, doing just enough to go into the half with a four-point lead.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of tonight’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks.

 

STARS

Dennis Schroder

He really came out and set the tone for the Hawks, scoring eight of his 10 first-half points in the first quarter.

Isaiah Thomas

Atlanta did a nice job of blitzing Thomas and forcing him to pass the ball. But Thomas is a professional scorer so you knew it was a matter of time before he got going offensively. He led the Celtics with nine points at the half, in addition to dishing out five assists while also grabbing five rebounds.

Dwight Howard

The Celtics simply could not keep him from dominating play around the rim. He led all scorers at the half with 12 points while grabbing eight rebounds.

 

STUDS

Marcus Smart

When the offense seemed to stall, it was Smart who kept the Celtics within striking distance in the second quarter. He had seven points at the half along with three rebounds and an assist.

Paul Millsap

He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well (he missed six of his seven shots), but his presence was felt. He had five points at the half along with nine rebounds.

 

DUDS

Celtics rebounding

It really is an adventure when it comes to the Boston Celtics and rebounding the ball. Tonight, they have not been very good, with the Hawks holding a decisive 32-21 rebounding edge which has allowed them to hold a 28-14 advantage in points in the paint, an 8-2 edge on second-chance points in addition to leading the fast break points game, 7-4.

Report: Celtics still 'very much' in the running for Andrew Bogut

Report: Celtics still 'very much' in the running for Andrew Bogut

Just when it appeared Andrew Bogut was heading to Cleveland, a source has told Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe that the reports are "innacurate."

According to Himmelsbach, the Celtics are "very much" in the running and Bogut is "hoping to speak to a few Celtics players over the phone on Tuesday to get a gauge on how he might fit with their team."

The Dallas Mavericks traded Bogut to the Philadelphia 76ers at the deadline for big man Nerlens Noel.