The buzz is so big that the NBA hero even has his own trending topic on Twitter Search.
The impersonation was allegedly discovered by Sports Media Challenge, a consulting firm who works with the athlete. Upon discovering that O'Neal's name -- and brand -- had been hijacked, the firm reportedly claimed that they were thrilled -- and fooled. But does Shaq even care? Apparently so.
According to a Times interview with O'Neal:
“Somebody out there was trying to use my language and trying to speak for me,” O’Neal, sounding more amused than offended, said Wednesday night in a telephone interview. “Rather than have that happen, I thought I’d do it myself.”
And he is.
What's most interesting to me, is that according to the Times article the fake Shaq had been in action for quite a bit before Sports Media Challenge even noticed. Now, I won't discredit the firm - who knows exactly what they are hired to do. But this, along with the "Mad Men" situation, is proving how imperative it is that people monitor their brands on the social Web to ensure reputations aren't damaged.
I wrote a while back that some brands should allow themselves to be jacked. However, Shaq is a person as well as a brand, and having your image stolen, well, is not a good thing. Regardless, marketing and PR firms and internal social media types alike need to pay more attention to their clients' social Web presence so that they -- or their clients -- can make the call around whether or not they want an impersonator of their brand. Anything else is just bad reputation management.