The Shaq Bowl Slam Dunks On The Big Game

– Can You Dig It?
Shaquille O’Neal performs at Tomorrowland in 2019. Touring under the name DJ Diesel, Shaq has quietly developed a substantial presence in the music industry over the years with a platinum album, a full touring regimen, and his own festival.

Shaquille O’Neal – a.k.a. Shaq, Superman, The Diesel, Shaq Daddy, Shaq Fu, Manny Shaq-uiao and The Big Aristotle – is once again set to make his mark as only he can, this time on Super Bowl Sunday’s live programming with a massive pivot for his annual music festival. 

Ahead of Super Bowl LV this Sunday, The Diesel is set to put on a special livestream party, “The Shaq Bowl,” which will feature celebrity teams competing in various obstacle-course and competitive challenges, musical performances and football analysis. The whole thing will be filmed with a full television-quality crew from a custom stadium set up in Tampa Bay, just minutes from Raymond James Stadium. The production will be broadcast for free on Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, Twitch, Twitter and LiveXLive.

“After sitting down with my team … I realized there was a real need to bring Americans the ultimate Big Game Sunday Countdown show,” Shaq told Pollstar. “What do people watch before the big game usually? Nothing! A bunch of old guys in suits who used to play when I was a kid. We are about to change that all up …. It’s about time, am I right?”

The event is carrying the torch of Shaq’s Funhouse, a 5,000-cap music festival he has been hosting since 2019. Last year’s event featured Tiësto, Pitbull, DaBaby, Diddy and French Montana. Now just a year later, The Shaq Bowl is set to air at 3 p.m. ET on Super Bowl Sunday, competing with the pre-Super Bowl content on television before the big game at 6:30 p.m. ET.

The Shaq Bowl is being produced by Shaq and Medium Rare, whose co-founders Adam Richman and Joe Silberzweig have been Shaq’s partners in developing Shaq’s Funhouse for the last several years. Both Richman and Silberzweig are live event guys, through and through. Richman runs Made Event in New York, which (in normal years) puts on the Electric Zoo festival and books approximately 120 shows annually at the popular Avant Gardner venue in Brooklyn. Prior to founding Medium Rare, Silberzweig worked with Insomniac, Live Nation and Tomorrowland.

– Partners In Showtime
Shaquille O’Neal with Adam Richman (left), Joe Silberzweig (right) and DJ Carnage (front). O’Neal, Richman and Silberzweig have in three years helped build Shaq’s Funhouse into a brand able to completely pivot from a sellout live event into a major livestream production without dropping any revenue.

“Shaq’s Funhouse has existed at the Super Bowl for the last two years and has really become a staple of Super Bowl Weekend. Last year it received about 3 billion media impressions, it sold out very quickly, and had amazing celebrity appearances,” Richman told Pollstar. “We were obviously holding out hope, for a while, that we were going to be able to do the Funhouse in its original iteration. We were hoping to have the party on Friday night, but [while in-person events have been suspended] we have really pivoted to these broadcast events.”

The Shaq Bowl is actually the fourth major livestream broadcast being produced by Medium Rare. Silberzweig and Richman teamed up with clients Shaq and Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski for the “Shaq’s Funhouse Vs. Gronk Beach” livestream in June; worked with Daymond John – CEO of FUBU and frequent shark on NBC’s “Shark Tank” – to produce “Black Entrepreneurs Day Presented by Chase for Business” in October; and “The Sports Illustrated Awards” show in December. 

Silberzweig notes that although, at the time he spoke with Pollstar, it still appeared legal to host events for 5,000 people in Tampa, the Medium Rare team and Shaq decided that current conditions would not allow them to host an event with a live audience. But that does not mean there won’t be lots of personality in the house, as the Shaq Bowl will feature a slew of Shaq’s celebrity friends who are participating in the challenges, musical performances and football analysis. 

The various celebrity challenges will be held as competitions between two teams: Team Kansas City and Team Tampa Bay. Team KC will feature musical artists Diplo and Quavo, “Jackass” notable Steve-O, Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys, fashionista Olivia Culpo and wrestler The Miz. Team Tampa Bay will feature rappers Nelly and Offset, model Winnie Harlow, former NFL player Tim Tebow, and wrestler Drew McIntyre. The teams will face off in a variety of challenges including the JC Penny Tug O’ War; the Mercari Sports Obstacle Course; the Quaker Chewy Dodgeball Game; the Nautica Mechanical Shark Ride; the Aéropostale Best Dance Competition; the Emsculpt Neo Situp Challenge; the Truff Hotsauce Wing-Eating Competition; and the Skillshare Cooking Challenge with singer-songwriter and chef Kelis. 

There will also be a restaurant battle featuring four local eateries – 7th + Grove, Datz, Bubbaque’s, and Harpoon Harry’s Crab House – providing samples of their best dishes to compete for a $10,000 grant. 

Sponsorship is a huge part of what drives the revenue of the Shaq Bowl. The event will be broadcast live to an audience of millions from a custom-built production studio and crew, and the entire thing is paid for by the branding partnerships. Additional sponsors include Jack Links, Corona, Bacardi and Papa John’s Pizza.
“Last year’s in-person event, Shaq’s Funhouse, sold out with 5,000 tickets and more than 100 VIP tables. Revenue was primarily driven by sponsorship, tickets and tables, with a nice split across the three,” Silberzweig said. “Obviously this year there’s no tickets and no tables, but we’ve made up for that in terms of partnership revenue. I think the Shaq Bowl is one of the only ‘games in town’ on Super Bowl Sunday and we really are seeing a lot of brands gravitating towards our platform, which we have been building over the last several years.

“It’s really exciting as a live event promoter who did the biggest party in-person last year to now be transitioning to digital and hopefully still have the most buzzed about broadcast on Super Bowl Sunday.” 
The lead sponsor of the event is Mercari, a Japan-based ecommerce marketplace that allows individuals to list and sell unique, one-off items for small sums of cash. Mercari has been making major efforts to increase its presence in the U.S. for the past several years, but the Shaq Bowl marks its biggest opportunity to make an impression yet.

“The Shaq Bowl was an exciting opportunity for us to reach a broader audience of athletes, musicians, and artists who use our marketplace. We’re looking forward to bringing the magic of Mercari to the biggest Sunday in sports,” Walter Hangad, Mercari’s Brand Marketing Director said. “This is the first year that Mercari will be running an ad in the Big Game. Our marketplace caters to a broad audience across the U.S. and The Shaq Bowl is enjoyed by a similarly broad and diverse audience. By partnering with The Shaq Bowl, we’re delighted to bring an additional element of fun to the biggest Sunday in sports. We’re excited to bring people across America together in what has been a challenging year for many.”

Silberzweig and Richman said the secret to making the brand partnerships work has been finding ways for the sponsorships to feel like meaningful parts of the event. The brands are present throughout different segments of the broadcast, and it is made known to the audience that each segment of the show is sponsored by a different brand, which thus has the opportunity to directly engage with millions of eyeballs.

Pepsi, which is also sponsoring the official Super Bowl Halftime Show, is sponsoring multiple elements of the Shaq Bowl with its Pepsi Stronger Together program. Derek Lewis, President of PepsiCo Beverages North America’s South Division told Pollstar that the beverage behemoth wanted to use the Shaq Bowl as a way to highlight the work that it is doing for communities in Tampa Bay and around the U.S. Pepsi Stronger Together is also sponsoring the restaurant challenge which will be providing a $10,000 grant to the winner. Shaq and Pepsi Stronger Together are also partnering outside of the Shaq Bowl to inject $100,000 to the Tampa region’s local restaurants, which have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.


“The Shaq Bowl allows us not only to work with Shaq – we’re his biggest fans – but to leverage its huge platform to reach fans and give back to the Tampa community, which is so close to home for us,” Lewis told Pollstar. “Now, more than ever, it’s important for brands to stand up for issues that matter to their consumers, and to give back to the communities they operate in.

“We want fans tuning into the Shaq Bowl, especially during this time when the Super Bowl will look so different from normal, to enjoy game day like never before. We also hope that they’ll be inspired to take action in their communities.”

Lewis said Pepsi is using this partnership as a platform to help the public learn about Pepsi Stronger Together and the program’s work, which is composed of three main pillars: community, education and the environment. Pepsi Stronger Together has done work in cities like Memphis, Louisville, Nashville, Miami and Washington, D.C.

The charitable aspect of the Shaq Bowl is part of its DNA, as last year’s Funhouse took place just one week after the passing of Shaq’s longtime teammate Kobe Bryant and The Diesel donated the proceeds of that event to the Kobe Bryant Mamba Foundation. Medium Rare’s other livestream events also often include charitable components, most notably Black Entrepreneurs Day, which created a new Power Shift Grant with the NAACP worth $250,000 for Black business owners. The “Shaq Vs. Gronk” livestream also included a “sizeable six-figure” contribution to charity raised from the event, the Medium Rare founders said.

Shaq himself was estimated to be worth a total of $400 million by in 2019, but with his great wealth he has a long history of generosity. Not only do stories of Shaq buying tickets for everyone in line at the movies still get told in Los Angeles, but he provided boots on the ground to help supply and distribute resources to victims of Hurricane Katrina and he is a national spokesperson for the Boys & Girls Club of America, to which he donated $1 million in 1999 alone.

But a party with a purpose is still a party, and Shaq, an owner of the Funhouse and the Shaq Bowl brands, makes the fun one of his main contributions to the business.

“People know by now, especially my close friends, that if I am putting my name on something I am 100% behind it,” Shaq said. “I am the CFO (Chief Fun Officer) and I work with a great team to help the vision of these events come to life.”

Shaq said he feels proud of the brand he is building with the festival and is happy to invite his friends from all different walks of public life to participate in the Shaq Bowl. 

“It’s not like I’m just getting paid to show up like my DJ gigs, I am an owner of The Fun House, I have true incentive for this thing to be incredible. I never thought I would have my own traveling music festival, and I especially never thought it would be such a great business model.”

Shaq already has a huge presence on television, as not only has he graced millions of screens as one of the elite athletes of his generation, but he is currently an analyst on TNT’s “Inside the NBA” which has won 11 Sports Emmy Awards and frequently provides taste-making NBA commentary. Now he is leveraging his festival property and creating content competitive with major television networks. 

“There is definitely more opportunity for stars to create their own events,” Shaq said. “I think we are starting to see that more and more in music and will start to see even more in sports very soon. All the big athletes are focused on entrepreneurship at the moment, and events are a very hot topic too.”

– Whose House?
The design for the custom broadcast stadium where the Shaq Bowl will be filmed in Tampa, Fla.

Silberzweig and Richman are bullish that their content will be in prime position to not only make audiences laugh with celebrity challenges, but prepare for the Super Bowl itself, as the event producers have guaranteed a minimum of 5 million live viewers for the event across all platforms. The Shaq Bowl will be hosted by Terrell Owens and Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, two former NFL wide receivers known for their large personalities, as well as ESPN’s Jen Lada, Sara Walsh and Medium Rare mainstay DJ Carnage. 

Medium Rare’s previous livestream events have helped set the table for the Shaq Bowl, as the founders told Pollstar that support from platforms like Twitch, YouTube and TikTok made Shaq Vs. Gronk a numerical success and drove huge traffic to the broadcast, and Facebook became a very meaningful partner on Black Entrepreneurs Day, sharing the event on its corporate channels that have millions of followers.

“These events are really cable-quality productions, multi-million dollar productions, and they don’t look like the typical livestream,” Richman said. “Now, working hand in hand with these platforms, they want this content, Facebook tells us ‘This is amazing for us to have a piece of content like this on Super Bowl Sunday.’” 

And, of course, it wouldn’t be a Shaq party without music. The musical halftime portion of the Shaq Bowl is presented by Pepsi Stronger Together and features Jack Harlow, Migos and DJ Diesel (the performing name of Shaq). Bryson Tiller is also doing a separate performance, which is being presented by Papa John’s Pizza (a company that a younger Tiller once worked for). Those unfamiliar with the Diesel might think his performance is a novelty, but not only did Shaq release multiple rap albums throughout the ’90s – including Shaq Diesel which went platinum – but he regularly performs DJ sets online and toured the world in 2019 to perform sets at Lollapalooza, Tomorrowland and Electric Zoo and held a residency at XS Las Vegas. Shaq also recently dropped a new song with Scrilla King and Wuki called “SHUTUP” and he hints that an album may be in the works. 

“For me [these events are] all about bringing people together. That’s why I love DJing too. I did over 50 shows [in 2019] and I don’t do it for the money, I do it because I just can’t get enough of the energy. It reminds me of Game 7 energy … every beat drop is like a slam dunk in the 4th,” Shaq said. “Besides my time in the NBA, I have never been more passionate about a project than DJ Diesel. Touring in 2019 and early 2020 reminded me why I loved music and fueled me like no other. Performing in front of 100,000 people, when that fire hits, it brings me back to the NBA playoffs every single damn time.”

While the Diesel doesn’t usually rap anymore, he said he isn’t willing to write off the idea of revisiting some of his classic rhymes on stage.

And the story doesn’t end in 2021, as next year’s Super Bowl will be held in Los Angeles, where Shaquille O’Neal’s name is still as good as (purple and) gold. The Medium Rare founders said their hope is to have Shaq’s Funhouse on the Friday of next year’s Super Bowl weekend, Gronk Beach on Saturday (if he doesn’t once again find himself playing in the big game) and the Shaq Bowl on Sunday, hopefully with a live audience.

– Fast Talkin
Joe Silberzweig, Shaquille O’Neal and Adam Richman speak at the Winter Music Conference in Miami in 2019.

Silberzweig and Richman said the secret to their success is no secret, as he stands 7’ 1” and wears multiple championship rings.

When Medium Rare recently sold a 20% stake in its company to Authentic Brands Group, the deal was brokered by Shaq, who is an ABG stakeholder. It was Shaq who introduced the Medium Rare founders to Daymond John and Rob Gronkowski, who are now key clients. And it was Shaq’s name that made the phones ring when the Medium Rare guys started trying to pivot their business into the livestream game.

“Coming from the concert and festival world, then talking to Shaq, we quickly realized how special he was,” Richman said. “We called the same partners we worked with for some of the major festivals we produced, TomorrowWorld, Electric Zoo … and basically they weren’t interested. But when we called and said we were doing something with Shaquille O’Neal, within ten minutes they were ready to talk. 

“Our business is built on working with people who are special, like Shaq. That is why it works.”