Zappos, Amazon Partner With Shaquille O'Neal for 'Shaq-to-School'
Zappos.com, the online shoe and clothing retailer, and its parent company, Amazon.com, are teaming up with legendary basketball player Shaquille O'Neal for a charitable back-to-school initiative, Shaq-to-School. This is the second consecutive year Zappos and Shaq have partnered on this initiative, but Amazon is new to the program. All three players will deliver school supplies for kids in multiple cities, which will benefit the Communities in Schools (CIS) program. I interviewed Steven Bautista, head of charitable giving at Zappos, to find out more about Shaq-to-School and how companies can easily incorporate charitable giving into their brand culture.
Total Retail: Can you tell us a little bit about how this partnership between Zappos and Shaq came to be?
Steven Bautista: Zappos and Shaq joined forces very organically thanks to our shared values and desire to help kids in need in our local communities and beyond. We initially teamed up for Shaq-a-Claus, with the goal of helping ensure no kid has to wake up empty handed on Christmas morning. As Shaq’s like-minded partner for the charitable toy drive, we’ve been working together to put smiles on kids’ faces since our 2018 Christmas in July event.
TR: Amazon is new to the partnership this year. How did it get involved with Shaq-to-School?
SB: In 2018, when Shaq and Zappos were partnering on Shaq-a-Claus to deliver presents to kids in need, we found another company with shared ethos whose employees were looking to help kids in their community: Amazon. As we entered 2019, another opportunity for all three companies to come together and amplify our efforts to reach even more kids came to fruition through the Shaq-to-School program.
TR: Why do you think it’s so important to help kids in local communities by donating school supplies?
SB: Education is something that Shaq himself credits for much of his professional success, and at Zappos, we want to ensure every kid has an equal opportunity to have a successful school year. Doing well in school starts with having the right supplies, and feeling confident in knowing you have the same tools for success as your peers. The Shaq-to-School program helps empower kids with these essentials.
TR: What is Zappos doing to market its participation in this initiative?
SB: One of our core values at Zappos is to be humble, and this comes through in a number of forms. For Shaq-to-School and Shaq-a-Claus, our mission is to power the charitable programs and help extend and amplify their reach, but we prefer to be in the background as we find ways to help Shaq’s efforts to be successful.
TR: Why is corporate social responsibility so important to Zappos' brand culture?
SB: At Zappos, everything we do is built upon and based around our 10 core values and what we call our 4 C’s: clothing, customer service, company culture, and community. Combined, these pillars ensure we maintain a strong culture and a higher purpose, which ultimately helps us perform better as a company, and be around for the long haul. As a testament to this, we’re celebrating our 20th anniversary this month. We also strongly believe that you have to be the kindness you want to live in, and through partners like Shaq, we’ve assembled some powerful and sustainable options for helping others.
TR: What advice do you have to retailers that are looking to start (or partner with) a charity?
SB: We started Zappos for Good, the charitable arm of Zappos, as a way to help our employees and our customers give back. This not only drives engagement at the employee level, but it helps create a greater mission for the company that’s bigger than itself. The best place to get started is by identifying your company’s core values, being clear on what you stand for, and then aligning with (or creating your own) charitable program that aligns with it. Finding like-minded partners in your community also helps inspire and get things off the ground.