The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard economically on many Americans who are struggling to survive. But someone that needs no sympathy in terms of economic stress is former basketball player Shaquille O’Neal. He is continuing to laugh all the way to the bank by making commercials for a variety of products.
Just in the past week I saw a couple of Shaq ads that were new to me--one for Papa John’s pizza in which he is promoting the “Shaqaroni” jumbo pizza and another in which he vies with Tony the Tiger to see who has the lowest voice while selling Frosted Flakes.
There is a reason that someone like Shaq makes commercials. He is one of the most likeable characters on the face of the globe. Besides making commercials he has worked for quite a few worthy causes. He has a gift for comedy and makes frequent appearances on television shows like Jimmy Fallon’s. One of my favorites is when he gets in a “Lip Sync” battle with Fallon. He makes some incredible dance moves while doing the lip sync, and his huge (7-foot-1) frame only serves to highlight his agility.
I wondered to myself just how many products has Shaq promoted over the years. Using my favorite search engine, I found that Mr. O’Neal has endorsed 50 products since he retired from basketball. Sports Illustrated pointed out that Shaq made $28 million as a basketball player in 2008. That is a huge salary to someone in my tax bracket, but it pales in comparison to the money that is to be made making commercials. In that same article Sports Illustrated estimated that his net worth now is approximately $400 million. Shaq has said himself that he makes more money per year now than he did in the NBA, including his $28 million salary in 2008.
O’Neal has a warm personality which sells a product, but he also has introduced humor into his pitches. He has said that he noticed early on that the ads that are the most popular are laced with humor. An early ad for Pepsi has him bending a basket pole with is very large hands making it easier for him to dunk a basketball. The idea that he needed help being enabled to dunk was so absurd it was funny. Another Pepsi ad showed him bumping his head on a doorway. “It isn’t easy being big,” was the line that went with the ad. Yet another ad that utilized his size was for Buick. A highway patrol had pulled him over and then looking in at the huge basketball star said, “OMG, you really do fit.”
Another beloved sports figure, Yogi Berra, did well with advertisements as well. I remember as a youngster seeing Yogi do a commercial for Yoo-Hoo. If for some reason you aren’t familiar with Yoo-Hoo, it is a chocolate flavored drink that comes in bottles like the ones Coke, Pepsi and NeHi Orange come in.
I was always a Yogi Berra fan, so when I saw a commercial featuring him selling Yoo-Hoo, I told my mother I had to have a bottle. She warned me that it probably wasn’t something I would like, but I wouldn’t listen. After all, Yogi Berra drank it. It had to be really tasty. I wasn’t satisfied until I had a bottle. So when I had a dime burning a hole in my pocket, I put it in the pop machine at school and purchased my first Yoo-Hoo. My mother was right, my first impression of Yoo-Hoo wasn’t a favorable one. But I dutifully drank it down. I had spent a whole dime on it and it wasn’t going to go to waste. I think I may have consumed only one or two Yoo-Hoos in the years since. I remember once, in a wave of nostalgia, buying a bottle of the chocolate stuff for my son relating to him that Yogi had been a spokesman for the drink back in the day. And as I recall, I was the one who finished off the bottle as my son didn’t relish the taste either. Research has informed me that Yoo-Hoo was first developed in 1928 and is still on the market.
There were reports that Pope John Paul II liked Yoo-Hoo. Those reports said that on a visit to Denver, the Pope ordered a couple of cases of that American chocolate drink he likes to take back to the Vatican.
It is against papal protocol to endorse a product so on later inquiries spokespersons for the Pope denied that he had any particular preference among American milk drinks.
I always wondered if there was any milk in Yoo-Hoo. Recent descriptions of ingredients say that the drink is made up of water, high fructose corn syrup, whey (from milk) and less that 2% of cocoa, nonfat dry milk, natural and artificial flavors, sodium caseniate (from milk), corn syrup solids, calcium phosphate, dipotassium phosphate, palm oil, guar gum, xanthan gum, mono and diglycerides, salt, spice, soylecithin, niacinamide, sucralose, Vitamin A palmitate, riboflavin and vitamin D3.
Yogi is known for his wise sayings, like “It ain’t over until its over.” He took advantage of his reputation as a folk philosopher in making commercials. In a spot for Aflac, he describes the insurance company as “The one you really need to have. If you don’t have it that’s why you need it. If you get hurt and miss work, it won’t hurt to miss work.” In a commercial for Miller Lite beer, he intones among other things, “It is less filling than it would have been if it was more filling than they didn’t want it to be.” In the same commercial he says “It’s got a third less calories than I probably thought I didn’t even have.”
There also was a Stove Top Microwave Stuffing ad in which Yogi explains that it is so easy to make that he could do it with his eyes closed. Covering his eyes he says, “You just mix it in its own dish, zap it and in three minutes you get your favorite stuffing.” The sound of a microwave timer goes off and Yogi with his eyes still covered opens the door to the refrigerator freezing compartment. “See,” he says.
Yao Ming is another former athlete who has been in ton of commercials. Yao, who stands at 7-foot-6 did a Visa commercial that also featured Yogi Berra. Yao asks at a sales counter if he can write a check. The girl working the counter points to a sign that says “No Checks” and says “Yo.” “Yao” was the response of the basketball player. This goes on, back and forth for a while. Then it shows Yogi Berra who says “Gi, Yogi” after apparently asking the same question about writing checks.
There is money to be made in commercials if you are a former, well-known, wellloved athlete. Shaquille O’Neal and Yogi Berra have proven that over the years.