A pizza with this big of impact deserves an ambassador to match. Especially when that pizza is making an extra-large impact. Who’s big enough to share all that cheesy goodness with the world? Hint: he has four championship rings, over 23,000 career points, an NBA Hall of Famer and is on the Papa Johns Board of Directors and a franchisee. It’s Shaquille O’Neal. The face that launched 1,000 gifs.
This is the fourth year the Shaq-a-Roni is available as a limited-time special in our U.S. restaurants. Pizza people love the “Shaqification” of a classic pizza, with extra cheese and extra pepperoni all on extra-large slices. But what truly sets this menu item apart is that Papa Johns donates $1 from every sale to the Papa Johns Foundation, which supports local organization and partners charities with charities that focus on youth leadership and entrepreneurship, food waste reduction, hunger relief and food insecurity.
Since the Shaq-a-Roni debuted in 2020, we’ve raised over $9.6 million for the Papa Johns Foundation through sales of the pizza. In the U.S., the Foundation donates these funds to nonprofits like Boys & Girls Clubs of America. But now, for the first time, the Shaq-a-Roni is going global. This year, we’re rolling it out in 20+ worldwide markets–the largest number to participate in an aligned global activation to date.
An International Pick and Roll(Out)
Bringing a successful innovation from the U.S. to other countries requires thoughtful planning and adjustment. Andrew Lanzziano, Director of International Brand and Marketing, is helping lead the team through the Shaq-a-Roni international launch.
Andrew shares, “As a kid, I lived in Japan. I lived in Hawaii. My Dad was in the military, so I was a bit of a nomad. I've always appreciated learning about and connecting with different cultures. I was beyond excited to dig into consumers in each launch country.”
That passion and perspective help guide our global marketing initiatives and his team’s approach. He believes in being insight-led and immersed in the different cultures of Papa Johns consumers around the world.
“We aim to be closer with the consumer than our competition,” Andrew says. “Globally our core consumer is Gen Z, so we need to truly understand them, their motivations, habits, needs, wants; how they interact, embrace and even change culture. We need to understand how Papa Johns can organically and authentically be part of their life.”
With the Shaq-a-Roni, Andrew saw the ingredients to cook up a real connection: a Gen Z global audience, a relevant cause of youth empowerment and a larger-than-life celebrity who is a genuine stakeholder. Their team, along with regional marketing partners in each country, just had to make sure it came together in an impactful and authentic way.
Serving Up Shaq Across Latin America, Asia and Europe
One of the team’s biggest challenges was connecting with the right charitable partners across different regions. With a commitment to local youth empowerment, our partners had to be local as well. That meant Andrew’s team coordinating with franchisees in each market to sign contracts with local branches of Junior Achievement Worldwide Global Changemakers and Second Harvest in Canada.
With partnerships brokered in all 20+ international markets, the remaining piece of the pizza puzzle was tailoring the Shaq-a-Roni campaign to each country. Teams across Latin America, Asia and Europe signed on to be a part of Shaq-a-Roni, and even locally adapted their marketing when feasible.
In Spanish-language countries, a core phrase for the campaign is, “¡Mucho más pepperoni!” to highlight the extra pepperoni.
In China, where Shaq is especially popular, a prominent actress went back and forth with Shaq in Mandarin. Shaq even visited China to celebrate the country’s 300th Papa Johns opening and build hype for the Shaq-a-Roni launch.
In the UK, the campaign leans into the holiday season–showcasing the extra-large pizza as a feast to share with family and friends.
Everywhere the campaign runs, the big personality of Shaq and the giving component shines through the work.
Extra Large Growth Around the Globe
As sales of the Shaq-a-Roni stack up in the new launch markets, Andrew and his team are constantly tracking and adapting. They’ll use this data to shift media plans, monitor results and find ways to make even more of an impact with the future of the campaign
Ultimately, the goal of Shaq-a-Roni’s global expansion is more funds to uplift the next generation of leaders and more growth for Papa Johns. We have more than 5,000 restaurants around the world, but across the company, there’s a startup mentality and an ambition to grow our global presence.
Andrew is inspired by what’s ahead for Papa Johns, the Shaq-a-Roni and the causes we support. He sums it up with, “At the end of the day, when we're doing the right thing globally–with this amazing charitable component and an iconic partner–it brings us all together. We have the opportunity to drive growth and good worldwide.”
With the rollout of the Shaq-a-Roni in 20+ international marketing we’re taking a large step towards BETTER INGREDIENTS. BETTER PIZZA.® for all.