Sanofi's Icy Hot teams up with Shaquille O'Neal Foundation to help people rise up from pain—this time, mental pain

Sanofi Consumer Healthcare and Shaquille O’Neal have been working together for over 18 years. The NBA legend has been the spokesperson for the brand’s Icy Hot pain relief since 2003. Now, Sanofi’s Icy Hot division is partnering with the Shaquille O’Neal Foundation on the charity’s “Comebaq Courts” initiative.

The program refurbishes inner-city public basketball courts that are in need of some TLC. While public basketball courts are decidedly old school, to raise awareness Sanofi and the foundation kicked it new school, with Icy Hot sponsoring the “Icy Hot x NBA 2k22 Charity Game” on the streaming platform Twitch.

Shaq hosted the event, which reached over 800,000 live viewers. It featured streamers and professional gamers Kristopher London, WNBA star Aerial Powers and Nicholas Amyoony, all of whom promoted the event on their personal social media platforms.

Besides the Twitch event and influencer partnerships, there was a full-court press as well, with a mix of earned, social, paid and digital ads. Shaq was also interviewed by a variety of major media outlets including "USA Today," "People TV," "Yahoo!" and "Sports Illustrated."

Besides the obvious Shaq connection, Sanofi’s US Consumer Heath head of pain and sleep, Alberto Hernandez, said the Comebaq Courts initiative fits with the brand’s mantra of helping people rise up from pain, in this case not only physical pain but also the mental pain these kids felt by not having a safe space to meet up and play.

To raise money for the courts, Icy Hot donated $1 from each product sold or up to $300,000.

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So, what’s so important about basketball courts?

“Public basketball courts are a key aspect of community development, Hernandez said. “It’s a place young athletes get together to train and have fun. They get to know other athletes; they get to know other kids.”

Late October in Las Vegas, Shaq, members of Sanofi’s Icy Hot team and the city’s mayor all joined in for a ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of the first court—the newly named “The Shaq Court at Doolittle.” And to keep the event going, right after the ceremony, the local community hosted a 3x3 tournament.

“There were 90 kids playing on a shiny new basketball court. I can tell you that the ribbon cutting was very nice … but the most beautiful part of all was to stay afterwards and see those kids play,” Hernandez said. “It was such an exciting moment for us as a brand.”

The next Comebaq Court location is in Newark, New Jersey, and the goal is to continue the project throughout the U.S. in the future.

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This isn’t the first time Sanofi's Icy Hot division and the foundation have worked together to help young athletes. They last organized the "Get Game Ready" initiative, a grant program to help high schools sports programs affected by the pandemic.

Even if he’s no longer playing in the NBA, no matter what he does, Shaq is still a huge draw. “Shaq is an icon,” Hernandez noted.

In 2020, Sanofi's pharma business raked in about $25.7 billion, and creeping up right behind is the company’s consumer health care division, which generated around $$4.4 billion.