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Special Project

Special Project
From the 15th Annual Shorty Awards

Icy Hot: Comebaq Courts

Entered in Event & Experiential


The impact of COVID-19 and other recent hardships was felt by communities across the U.S., with some hurt more than others. For those that struggled most, maintaining usable spaces for kids to come together to be active and play was a significant challenge. In line with Icy Hot’s purpose to “Help Everybody Rise from Pain,” the brand recognized an opportunity to drive change, guided by the belief that all kids deserve a place to play. 

With that purpose in mind, Icy Hot – in partnership with The Shaquille O’Neal Foundation – first introduced Comebaq Courts in 2021, to support local communities and inspire the next generation of athletes.

Working with local government leaders, Icy Hot created this purpose-driven program to help underserved communities across the U.S. get back in the game by providing rehabilitated basketball courts and other spaces for future athletes to play and work towards their goals.

In 2022, Comebaq Courts were brought to Newark, NJ and Miami, FL. Shaq spoke with media onsite at both unveiling events. Also incorporating the Las Vegas, NV Comebaq Court launch in 2021, to date, Comebaq Courts has impacted thousands of children in three major cities across the country, with additional courts launching soon.

Strategy and Execution

Every kid deserves a place to play the sports they love, so Icy Hot and Shaquille O’Neal stepped off the bench to build new courts (“Comebaq Courts”) in underserved communities – a purpose-led slam dunk that created lasting impact, media and social talk value, and real business results.

From the shopping aisle to the gaming world to the free-throw line and everywhere in between, the campaign all came together in support of one great cause: helping underserved communities rise up and get back in the game. 

The success of a 2021 Twitch tournament – dubbed the “Icy Hot 2K22 Tournament” – was followed by in-person 2021 and 2022 unveilings of newly rehabilitated spaces – in Shaq’s hometown of Newark, NJ, and then most recently, Miami, FL. All drove awareness of Comebaq Courts’ purpose, with Shaq attracting local and national media attention.

For background information, in partnership with the City of Las Vegas, Icy Hot unveiled its first Comebaq Court at an event well attended with media and local leaders. During the ceremony portion of the court unveiling, the Mayor of Las Vegas awarded Shaq with a key to the city, a special honor for the legendary O’Neal. Shaq and Icy Hot even partnered on (and have since delivered) the gift of 100 laptops to the young athletes in attendance after a successful free-throw was made by 13-year-old Alex Smith on the brand-new court. 

The campaign continued to evolve in 2022. The Newark Comebaq Court launched in June 2022, with an event that gave young athletes the opportunity to play alongside Shaq and local community officials. Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka addressed a crowd of local basketball team captains alongside Shaq, who also spoke with wide-reaching outlets – including ESPN, Access Hollywood, Complex and Cheddar News – about his personal passion for providing young athletes places to play, particularly in the city where he honed his own skills.

In line with that passion, Shaq also challenged student attendees to sink a basket from half-court – promising the winner a laptop and sneakers on behalf of The Shaq Foundation and Icy Hot, which one lucky student received following the event.  

And most recently, in November 2022, The Shaquille O’Neal Foundation and Icy Hot launched the newest Comebaq Court within Alonzo Mourning’s Overtown Youth Center in Miami, FL. Shaquille and Alonzo held a press preview, speaking with a variety of outlets about the importance of providing underserved communities with welcoming places to play.

In Spring 2023, Shaq will be onsite to unveil the next Comebaq Court in Atlanta, GA, followed by a fifth Comebaq Court launch slated for Q4 of this year.


To-date, Comebaq Courts has positively impacted thousands of future athletes and their communities, providing them a place to play and work towards their goals.

The program’s also driven ongoing earned media results – the June 2022 Newark Comebaq Court alone garnered 2.1B earned impressions from 150+ placements, with an additional 1.79B+ earned impressions driven by a November 2022 Miami court preview.

Through all activations to-date, Comebaq Courts has garnered a total of 5.1B+ earned media impressions total, with two more courts slated to launch in 2023.

Exceeding KPI’s, Comebaq Courts, those results also effectively illustrated the brand’s dedication to purpose through engaging storytelling and driven surround-sound conversations related to the brand’s efforts.

Additionally, a retail activation with in-store displays encouraging customers to help kids “get back in the game,” drove awareness in line with Icy Hot’s purpose. Icy Hot donated $1 for every Icy Hot purchase made (up to $200K) each year of the program and will continue to anniversary this donation.

The impact of the campaign has gone beyond the communities it has touched to drive real business results for Icy Hot, including an 11.5% growth in sales following the 2021 Las Vegas event – and Icy Hot sales growing almost 4x the topical pain category after the 2022 Newark launch.

In support of Icy Hot’s mission, Comebaq Courts continues to expand and evolve. Through partnerships and commitments to improving communities, it’s redefined and crystallized Icy Hot’s brand purpose, while bringing it to life in a fresh way.


Video for Icy Hot: Comebaq Courts

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Salutem, Icy Hot/Sanofi


Entry Credits