Shaq and Icy Hot play and stream for community hoops

Amid COVID-19, the brand and its longtime celebrity supporter pushed a handful of efforts designed to help athletes in need.

Longtime brand partner Shaq is helping Icy Hot make a comeback. (Photo credit: Getty Images).
Longtime brand partner Shaq is helping Icy Hot make a comeback. (Photo credit: Getty Images).

Given that COVID-19 eliminated any number of races and other athletic events, Icy Hot took a big hit during the pandemic. After all, it’s harder to reach an audience of young athletes if those athletes aren’t actively engaged in competition.

That’s why, as part of its most recent campaign, the Sanofi brand sought to leverage the popularity of the primary downtime activity of young athletes: gaming.

According to Alberto Hernandez, head of pain and sleep, U.S. consumer health at Sanofi, that was the thinking that underlined the creation of Comebaq Courts. The campaign represents another collaboration with longtime Icy Hot endorser Shaquille O’Neal.

Central to the effort was the Icy Hot x NBA 2k22 Charity Game, with Twitch influencers on the court and O’Neal as co-host. The charity component paid for the refurbishment of public basketball courts in Las Vegas.

The relationship between O’Neal and Icy Hot dates back 17 years. “He is not a traditional ambassador for a brand; he is part of the Icy Hot family,” Hernandez stressed. “We talk with him and his team monthly about how business is going, opportunities that we have, about how he sees the outlook. The communication channel is always open.”

Thus when the pandemic hit, O’Neal and the Icy Hot team endeavored to find ways to ease the burden on hard-hit communities. Out of those conversations came Get Game Ready, through which a portion of Icy Hot revenue was dedicated to helping athletic programs follow COVID safety protocols, including via the purchase of PPE.

Comebaq Courts, however, represented a departure of sorts for the O’Neal/Icy Hot partnership.

“Twitch was new for us,” Hernandez explained. “We knew it was a great way to connect with young athlete audiences, so we decided to give it a try.”

The experiment succeeded, he reported, to the tune of some 800,000 viewers. When asked what Icy Hot learned from the Twitch effort, Hernandez said it was to trust the experts – namely, the Twitch influencers themselves.

“Twitch influencers know how to reach their audience and engage them,” he noted. “You can come to the table with preconceived ideas of how to reach the audience, but they really know whether content will perform or not. So listen to the experts on the platform, then adjust your plan based on those insights.”

O’Neal’s participation didn’t hurt, of course. “Shaq is an icon,” Hernandez continued. “Not only is he one of the most dominant basketball players of all time, he is also a smart businessman and an engaging storyteller. What makes him so special, however, is that he has a big heart.”

And then there was the multichannel nature of Comebaq Courts.

“There is no channel that doesn’t have this campaign included in it: TV, social, digital, search, retail, earned, influencer,” Hernandez said. “It is a 360-degree approach that covers the entire funnel and goes all the way to having conversations with customers about how they can help us give back to communities.”

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