“There are many examples of personal sports brands on a global scale, e.g. US basketball star Michael Jordan, who ‘made clear how closely athletic success is associated with the sales of sports products, especially the brand of Nike. So saying, Michael Jordan became a brand himself ‘ (Adjouri and Stastny, 2006, p. 48).”
The citation above clearly indicates the brand power of Michael Jordan and how his personal brand transformed as a ‘sort of corporate spin-off’ from a lucrative commercial partnership with Nike. Based on unique basketball skills and a move from collegiate athletics (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he won the national championship in 1982) into the NBA in 1984 (Chicago Bulls), Jordan’s brand took off. He promptly showed to be a new super star and provided the NBA with ‘fresh’ inspiration and an ‘entertaining’ style of play. Part of the ‘brand association’ with Michael Jordan became names like ‘Air Jordan’ and ‘His Airness’ due to his jumping abilities and rare ability to ‘soar in the air’. To ‘slam dunk’ found new meaning! As you can see in different portrayals of Michael Jordan, check the video below, individual success was not enough for Jordan, who strived for more than individual honors. Simply, he wanted to show the world that he could manage to lead his team Chicago Bulls to the NBA title, which he did in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, and 1998 – a fantastic achievement. In between, he left the Bulls to play professional baseball.
Not only did Michael Jordan position himself as a remarkable athlete and the best basketball player of all time, who sat new standards for the NBA and American sports in general, he also turned out to be one of the most successfully ‘branded’ sport stars of his time. Hence, he proved to be a ‘tipping point’ for the globalization of sports branding strategies, i.e. at the personal, the product and corporate branding levels. The NBA became more popular due to Michael Jordan and ‘the Jordan brand’ became synonymous with high earning potential. Jordan raise to unknown popularity, a status as a cultural icon and a ‘mass-consumed product’ of popular culture. He became one of the most famous and richest sport stars in the world. The real ‘brand power’ of Michael Jordan has revealed itself in the sense that Jordan’s earning power has transcended from his athletic years and into his personal brand after his athletic retirement. His impact on ‘personal sports branding’ is remarkably strong and ‘the Jordan brand’ is still ‘alive’. Take a look at the citation below:
“There is a ‘hybrid relationship’ or interdependence between brand levels initiated by sport stars, who are ‘popular’, which is due to the fascination of great athletes as ‘living brands’ (Horn, 2004; Gorman and Calhoun, 1994; Silk, 2004; Crawford, 2004; Coakley, 1994; Smart, 2004; Horne, 2006; Rein et al., 2006). Take the example of Nike and the influence of Michael Jordan in building a sports brand at the corporate level that is well known in the ears of most people globally – an example that can also be turned around by looking into what Nike has meant for Michael Jordan as a personal brand and what it has meant for the sales of sports brands at the product level, i.e. ‘Air Jordan’s bestselling’ shoes (Currid-Halkett, 2010). This type of interdependence has had great meaning for athletes and hence personal sports brands (Carter and Rovell, 2003; Gladden and Milne, 1999; Boone et al., 1995), which is also illustrated by other examples, e.g. Annika Sorenstam’s partnership with Cutter & Buck (design of golf wear), David Beckham’s partnership with Adidas, John Madden’s (NFL ‘Hall of Fame’ member) partnership with Electronic Arts, Danish tennis player Caroline Wozniacki’s partnership with Adidas and Stella McCartney, and the US Women’s Soccer’s success exemplified in collaboration with players like Brandi Chastain, Tiffeny Milbrett and Mia Hamm.”
In 2013, ‘the Jordan brand’ is still ‘alive’. He has more than 23 mio. followers on Facebook. Endorsement deals with commercial partners, e.g. Gatorade, Hanes, 2K Sports, Nike etc., have provided Jordan with solid revenue streams and in that equation other business ventures such as restaurants, a car dealership and a stake in the Charlotte Bobcats add to his ‘brand power’ and earning potential. Especially, his affiliation with Nike is very profitable and is a result of a long-term partnership spanning over two decades. This is evidence that Jordan is very profitable for his commercial partners and vice versa. The ‘Jordan/Nike partnership controls the U.S. basketball shoemarket. SportsOneSource, a company specializting in tracking retail trends concerning the sports market, stated that: 1) “The Jordan brand has a 10.8 percent share of the overall US shoe market, which makes it the second biggest brand in the country and more than twice the size of Adidas’ share.” 2) “Three out of every four pairs of basketball shoes sold in this country are Jordan, while 86.5 percent of all basketball shoes sold over $100 are Jordan.” For more information, check out this link.
In ‘The Economy of Celebrity’, Graeme Turner states that “McDonald and Andrews report that one year after signing Michael Jordan for Gatorade’s ‘Be like Mike’ promotion, Gatorade’s annual revenues had increased from $681 million to over $1 billion” (Turner, 2007, p. 197; originally from Andrews and McDonald, 2001, p. 20). The statement underlines ‘the hybrid essence’ of personal sports brands and the ‘brand power’ of ‘the Jordan brand’ but also that being part in the right processes and being able to manage them can provide a link to increased ROIs for all involved ‘branded properties’. The ‘Jordan brand story’ is another true example of the fact that a sport star’s brand image has transcended sports, gender, age, and national borders and has been feasible long after his athletic career came to an end. ‘The Jordan brand’ will probably go beyond Jordan’s own lifetime. Michael Jordan definitely left some notable footprints in the spheres of basketball and sports branding. He modified people’s perception of how sport stars can influence society, how sport stars are and can be perceived, including how sport stars can be used as ‘branding platforms’ for corporations and how they can be everything from cultural to marketing icons. In other words, he has been capable of transforming an entire industry (the business of sports) and how that industry has played an impact on other areas of society in today’s ‘experience economy’. In this economy, it is evident that a rather unshakeable sports brand can extend its business potential into other arenas, i.e. electroning gaming, videos, books, movies, fragrances, clothing etc. Jordan and his advisors knew how to take care of this. His brand has inspired to the production of various products in these lines of businesses. That is related to Jordan’s own revenues or his impact on society in general but on top of that his contributions to the game of basketball also had tremendous impact on the NBA. Jordan attracted ‘eyeballs’ and ‘wallets’ to the NBS and pulled masses of fans to the venues and in front of the television and thus generated millions of $ for the league each season.
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