Shaquille O’Neal Gets Alkaline Water Stake in Branding Pact

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NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal is joining Alkaline Water Co. as an equity partner and member of the board of advisers, betting he can help make inroads for the bottled-water company in a crowded market.

The basketball star will ultimately receive 7 million common shares of Alkaline Water over a three-year period, which equals a stake of about 5% to 6% on a fully diluted basis, Chairman Aaron Keay told Bloomberg News in an interview. Ranked by current holdings, this would make O’Neal the largest shareholder. The stock climbed as much as 9% Thursday, marking the biggest intraday gain since March 9.

O’Neal also will serve as a brand ambassador for Alkaline88, which contains just two ingredients -- water and pink Himalayan rock salt -- and boasts a “perfectly balanced” pH level of 8.8.

“We all know that water is one of the biggest categories for food and beverages on the planet, and I was struggling to find a water company that I felt represented what was most important to me,” O’Neal said in an interview.

O’Neal’s “positive presence and global outreach will enable Alkaline88 to aggressively push our growth trajectory even faster,” Keay said. “We will have a ton of fun with Shaquille’s larger-than-life personality.”

Advertising plans include everything from social media to national and regional television campaigns. O’Neil said the plan is be in 90,000 to 110,000 stores by the end of 2022, up from 75,000 U.S. stores currently. “We want to get into China,” he added.

This isn’t O’Neal’s first brand partnership. Back in March 2019, Papa John’s International Inc. said O’Neal would be joining the pizza chain as a board member and an investor in nine restaurants in the Atlanta area. Since that announcement, the stock has more than doubled, handily outperforming both the S&P Supercomposite Restaurant Index and the broader market. Even pre-pandemic, Papa John’s shares rose 48%.

Shaquille O’Neal Gets Alkaline Water Stake in Branding Pact

O’Neal also has done promotions for Carnival Corp., J.C. Penney Co. and Sanofi’s topical pain reliever Icy Hot, among others. He said he likes to think of himself as a “medium to bring information” to people, rather than a pitchman. As for Alkaline, O’Neal said he’d been drinking the water for a long time before this deal. “I like the water -- I buy in bulk,” he said. “I like the big sizes.”

Increasingly, athletes and other celebrities have sought to take equity stakes as part of their endorsement deals. In 2015, LeBron James ditched his role as a McDonald’s Corp. pitchman so he could build the Blaze Pizza startup as an investor. Oprah Winfrey helped fuel a rally at WW International Inc., formerly known as Weight Watchers, after she became both a major shareholder and an endorser.

Scottsdale, Arizona-based Alkaline Water is in need of a boost. Through Wednesday’s close, the stock was down 62% from a July high of $2.60, with a market capitalization of $87.2 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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