Shaquille O'Neal rightly considers himself a marketing master who has leveraged his on-the-court success and his own unique personality into a global brand rivaling many Fortune 100 companies.
There's no question that he's one of the most recognizable figures in the world and his online popularity as evidenced by his nearly million strong tweeple army has reached epic proportions.
It should come as no surprise then to learn that Shaq's virtually-marketed diet is part of a scheme to sell something. In this case not just product but hope in the form of a multi-level marketing "opportunity".
The "Shaqlyte" diet (as previously discussed here) is probably a serious attempt by the Big Fella to lose weight and become a more mobile big man in the waning days of his great career. It is also clearly part of a bigger plan to generate hype for the July 31st Las Vegas mega-launch of a new product called Enlyten which seems to consist of two things, a product and an ethically questionable business model.
The product is based on a strip of dissolvable "stuff" similar to breath freshening strips but in this case loaded with various supplements and nutrients like melatonin and theanine. There are various flavors geared towards helping you sleep, improving your energy and antioxidenting yourself. Think of Vitamin Water without the water.
That's all well and good. Another product with another celebrity endorsement.
In this case though Enlyten is selling more then just a sketchy health claim.
Enlyten and Shaq operate a so-called "Direct Sales" organization and are promoting independent distributorships at the low low price of $49.95. Highly emotional sales tactics are used that focus less on the benefits of the product then the "opportunity" of being "distributor" and recruiting people into your down-line.
Ever hear of Amway? Same thing.
That's not to say that these types of things don't work for people. Many folks have made quite a lot of money with these enterprises but normally that is limited to the folks at the very top.
Fundamentally, these get rich quick schemes are based on the same thing that drives people to buy lottery tickets every day - the hope for making a fast buck. In fact, research by the non-profit Consumer Awareness Institute indicates you have better odds gambling in Vegas then making money from your "down-line".
Any business that needs to go to these lengths to make money and is built around taking advantage of people in such an exploitative way is not the kind of endeavor that bodes well for a famous athlete's reputation as a "man of the people".
Here's what the Federal Trade Commission says about such things:
The FTC advises that multi-level marketing organizations with greater incentives for recruitment than product sales are to be viewed skeptically. The FTC also warns that the practice of getting commissions from recruiting new members is outlawed in most states as "pyramiding".
In reviewing Enlyten's contract and policies document it is clear they are concerned about this. They mention some variation of the phrase "the primary function of the Company is to sell products and services to the general consuming public" multiple times and have rules designed to support that impression.
Those efforts don't change the fact that recruiting others to pay their $49.95 and make at least one order of product (the recommended initial order being $400) is where the focus is at:
If you introduce others to the opportunity of owning their own enlyten business you will find many differences from other companies you may have looked at in the past...You’re paid to help others promote, you’re encouraged to build strong and stable teams AND it pays to infinite depths!
Fast Track Pack
$400.00 ($815 retail value)
Includes 16 bags of enlyten strips (4 bags each of Antioxidant Strips, Energy Strips, Electrolytes Plus Strips, and Melatonin Strips), plus enlyten will mail a sample Energy cassette to your top 10 leads. Also includes product brochures for all four products (50 each) and 50 business opportunity overviews.
(only available to new IDs who subscribe to an autoship and place a First Order of 100BV or more)
Shaquille O'Neal, purveyor of dreams.
At least though he won't find himself alone in the Suns organization. The Suns are themselves a "Legacy Partner" of Verve Energy Drink. They market the heck out of it at the arena and there's even a Verve Energy Lounge in the building but you can't buy Verve at the store. You can only buy large quantities and the opportunity to sell more to your own down-line.
I hope Shaq and the Suns know what they are getting into with these deals. It is one thing to put your name on a bottle of Gatorade which sells for $1.25 at the gym but it is quite another to become a pitch man for companies like this.