American Express is reinvesting into the company’s largest and longest running campaign in “Shop Small” by enlisting basketball icon Shaquille O’Neal and rapper Kendrick Lamar for a social video and experiential campaign in preparation for the consumer shopping holiday Small Business Saturday on Nov. 26.

The comical online video series tipped off with Shaq and Kendrick enjoying an afternoon at a local Los Angeles soap shop sampling scents like the “Luscious Lamar Bar” and “Shea Butter Shaq.”

“As a card member since 1992, American Express has been a part of my life from when I began my NBA career to today,” O’Neal said. “I am excited to partner with such an internationally respected brand that has supported small businesses for more than 25 years. As a businessman myself, I understand how important it is for our communities to shop small and have a personal stake in supporting American Express’ 2X rewards campaign.”

In addition to more spots still to be unveiled on the financial services corporation’s social channels, they’re also getting experiential with their marketing by creating in-venue experiences for NBA fans for the six teams—Warriors, Nets, Heat, Bulls, Lakers, Celtics—they sponsor. Whether it’s sponsoring the NBA on TNT halftime show, buying ads on Twitter for the platform’s deal with the NBA, hosting intimate events with stars like Kobe Bryant, or becoming the first brand to livestream a sporting event at a US IMAX theater, American Express continues to play some serious ball as the official card of the league.shaqThe “Shop Small” campaign ties into the greater national shopping holiday American Express created in Small Business Saturday (SBS), a consumer-marketed day designed for their card holders to counter Black Friday and Cyber Monday and enable local business instead.

According to an SBS survey released by American Express this month, 48 percent of respondents who are aware of SBS and who plan to shop once the Black Friday dust has settled said they expect to spend more on the day this year than last year—the highest amount yet recorded. Reflecting on the rising importance consumers place on supporting local businesses, two thirds of respondents said they plan to spend at least $100 on the day.

SBS is also promoted by a commercial featuring Frozen actresses Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel as they shop in a small antique store to find the perfect holiday gifts for friends and family.

Brad Minor, vice president of global brand partnerships and experiential marketing for American Express, joined [a]listdaily to dive deeper into the strategy for their “Shop Small” campaign.

Behind The Scenes: Shaquille O'Neal And Kendrick Lamar Shop Small With American Express In Los Angeles

The “Shop Small” campaign is a social video and experiential campaign that encourages people to patronize small businesses. How has the campaign been received thus far? How does “Shop Small” fit into the overall American Express corporate strategy?

Now in its seventh year, Small Business Saturday (SBS) is larger than ever, and we’re excited to support it with our largest offer ever—the Shop Small for 2X Rewards offer—which gives card members the opportunity to earn twice the rewards when they enroll an eligible American Express card and shop at qualifying small merchants through December 31. This campaign expands on our ongoing support for small businesses, while delivering valuable rewards to card members. Founded in 2010, SBS supports the independently owned businesses that help create jobs and help make local economies thrive. According to the 2015 SBS Consumer Insights Survey, more than 95 million consumers shopped at small businesses on SBS, spending approximately $16.2 billion. This year, we’re providing small businesses with even more free resources, customizable materials and educational content to help them prepare for the day, and a successful holiday shopping season.

American Express has been a partner with the NBA for quite a while. Why are NBA fans a specific audience you’re trying to reach? What are the special in-venue NBA experiences supposed to accomplish from a marketing perspective?

We know our card members—and our card members love basketball. American Express has teamed up with the NBA and its teams for more than a decade to deliver experiences that heighten our card members’ passion for the game and bring them closer to their favorite sport. For our in-venue activations, we found a fun way to bring our ‘Shop Small’ campaign and partnership with Shaq to our partner teams and cities. By supporting a local small business in each of the six cities, our goal was to continue to drive awareness of the 2X offer and encourage NBA fans and card members to enroll and shop small.

What kind of social and experiential campaigns work best with American Express cardholders?

We are always looking for ways to provide our card members with premium access to memorable events and experiences. We know where they want to be, and we strive to make their experiences even better. Our most successful programs provide unique value at each stage of the customer journey—this includes everything from early access to tickets, in-venue opportunities, exclusive fan access and post-event surprise and delight moments to keep the memory alive.  

Behind The Scenes: Shaquille O'Neal And Kendrick Lamar Shop Small With American Express In Los Angeles

What is American Express’ social media strategy going to be in this particular space moving forward? Do you plan on experimenting on other channels and platforms?

The campaign will be featured across multiple social platforms including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. We’ve also started to explore Instagram Stories as part of this campaign. The content is light-hearted and fun to watch, so we’ve seen really strong engagement across platforms. Additionally, we’ve teamed up with influencers, many of whom are small business owners themselves, to help motivate their followers to shop small. Because this is a movement that everyone is excited to support, the influencers are excited to participate in an authentic and genuine way.

You’ve long been a sponsor of Shaq, and now Kendrick Lamar. Why is it so important to work with social influencers to get the right brand message across?

American Express continues its longstanding tradition of working with individuals who embody the brand, and what it represents.

How will you be further marketing “Small Business Saturday” this year?

With Shop Small Studio and Boot Camps, we’ve added an array of new activities and resources to help make it the most successful SBS, both for small businesses, and the community.

For Shop Small Studio, we completely refreshed and expanded our online Shop Small Studio. Small business owners can print customizable marketing assets to promote their businesses and SBS events at, including flyers, posters, website badges, social media assets, Facebook cover photos and many more. SBS 101 materials include how-to guides, and tips and insights from small business owners and influencers. SBS 101 tools are designed to educate, prepare and inspire small business owners to participate in SBS through videos, articles, infographics and more. We’ve also enlisted well-known entrepreneurs to share their secrets including Tyson Wheatly, Erica Domesek, Andrew Steinthal and Chris Stang, and more.

For Boot Camps, we hosted three SBS Boot Camps throughout October in Chicago, New York and San Francisco. Each session focused on how small business owners can excite their customers and market their business on SBS to maximize their presence throughout the entire holiday shopping season. Additionally, we’ve teamed up with Uber, The Infatuation and Daybreaker to offer several events that enhance the overall card member experience and make this year’s SBS more memorable.

American Express is asking consumers to join the conversation and spread the ‘Shop Small’ message to their family, friends and online followers by using the hashtags #ShopSmall, #SmallBizSat and #DineSmall.

How will you measure success of the “Shop Small” campaign?

Card members are encouraged to ‘Shop Small’ by gaining twice the rewards, and our merchants benefit by having the extra support, so it’s really a win-win. If our merchants and card members are happy, then we’re happy!

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan