Recently I came across an interesting article from Forbes Magazine about Michael Jordan being the best paid retired athlete. A 52 year old ex basketball player became the first billion dollar athlete ever. This was a good enough reason to make me want to read and know more about it.

Back in the 1990s when I was a kid, I loved to watch Michael Jordan play. He was the reason why I stayed up whole night just to watch NBA matches. After a while the first Jordan cartoon movie „Space Jam“ was launched. A big hit among my generation, I must have watched it thousand of times. I remember my parents buying me my first pair of Air Jordan shoes. This was a big deal, especially because I come from a handball family and it is all about handball in our home.

Air Jordan

The NBA season 84/85 changed the basketball world forever. Nike signed a big contract with Michael Jordan to debut the Air Jordan line of basketball shoes. The first Air Jordan shoes were black with a big red swoosh. Nike brought revolution in the world of basketball. Before the launch of first Air Jordan shoes, basketball shoes were plain white and no colors were allowed. Each game Jordan played in his colored basketball shoes Nike had to pay a 5000$ fine.

Nike played it smart. They turned every fine into a new opportunity for brand promotion. Not only was Jordan making headlines because of his extraordinary games, but also because of his 5000$ fines. To many this didn’t make sense, but to Nike this was an opportunity that needed to be taken. They played with the banned signs in their commercial ads and used them for brand campaign. The brand reached audiences everywhere and sales was increasing like crazy. Nike, which was a small marketer back then became a well known brand worldwide.

Banned commercial

Even now, 30 years later, the Jordan shoes dominate the shoe market. I was very curious to find out why , so I began researching. After a while I came to one conlcusion, it is all about storytelling which Nike is so good at. Marketing experts around the world agree that Nike is one of the leading brands when it comes to storytelling and Air Jordan was the beginning of their successful storytelling era.

Back in the 1980s when there were no computers, no Facebook, no Twitter, Nike found a perfect way how to interact with Jordan fans. They found a way how to bring closer the great Michael Jordan to his fans, by launching first ever basketball shoes with players logo and signature. It was first time ever that one company put the emphasis on the player rather than the product and it worked. They made the best ever sponsorship endorsment deal.

Jordan brand never sleeps

Nike found the perfect recipe. They realised that short story doesn’t sell the product. Since the 1980s they stayed faithful to their stroytelling techniques. Even after Jordans retirement they did not stop. A 55 second ad was launched, where his major career accomplishments were shown followed by a picture of him as a young boy, making each young boy believe they could also be like Jordan one day. What a better way to reach to young generations and make them purchase Jordan shoes.

Air Jordan – Lifestyle brand

Michael Jordan is the best paid athlete ever, now retired, but still living the life of his dream, from various sponsorship deals, such as Getorade, Hanes, Upper Deck, 2K Sports and Five Star Fragrance. Jordan brand has around 30 professional NBA athletes under contract. His basketball shoes are 8 times more sold then current top NBA athletes such as Lebron James. After his retirement the brand did not die, on the contrary it has envolved even more. Nike made the Jordan brand from a pure basketball brand to a lifestyle brand, refreshing the Jordan retro line which now represents 50% of Jordans shoe business.

Last years model, the Legend Blue XI was sold out within 3 hours of its launch on the webshop, leaving behind brands such as Adidas, Under Armour and Reebok.

That Jordan brand is still very much IN, shows the fact that earlier this year in behalf of the 30th anniversary of the brand, Nike organized an All Star game in New York with a themed interactive experience for its fans in Manhattan and a pop up store in Brooklyn. The Jordan consumers have high brand perception and high demands. Nike found a perfect way to meet their requirements and expectations.

To keep up with the modern times and market demands, Getorade digitally remastered their ad from 1991 „Be Like Mike“. By remastering Jordans old ad they emphasize the traditional brand values by giving them a modern touch.

Remastered ad „Be Like Mike“

Social media – today’s privilege

While writing this blog I asked myself several questions. The main one was – How did brands in the past survive and obtain without digital marketing, without social media?

Seeing how one brand, Jordan, was so successful in the times when the only way to reach the consumers was through TV or newspaper ads, made me realise that actually marketing is all about two things: propor marketing and merchandising. It is simillar to cooking, without two main ingridients there will be no meal. So, if you put effort into evolving those two ingridients you will lead a successful marketing campaign. Jordan brand is a very good example. Nike has been „cooking the Jordan meal“ successfully for 30 years.

We are privileged to be living in the era of social media which makes it so much easier for brands and athletes to engage with their consumers and fans. Unfortunately, not all are using it in the right way, but that is something to be discussed in the future.

Brands reach millions of consumers and fans worldwide with only one post, but will that be enough or will new digital innovations and marketing techniques demand more, we are yet to witness.

READ MORE: 5 rules of great Nike storytelling!

Photo: Nike


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