The Jordan 1 and Nike’s Marketing Revolution


The iconic Jordan “jumpman” logo.Unsplash | Klim Musalimov

“On September 15, Nike created a revolutionary new basketball shoe. On October 18, the NBA kicked them out of the game. Fortunately, the NBA can’t stop you from wearing them. These are three sentences from a Nike Jordan ad 1 which was at the center of a real change, not only in the way the public viewed basketball shoes, but in the marketing of athletes in team sports.

As a company, Nike started in the running business. In the early 80s, they were firmly second in America to Reebok, and in the basketball business, it was all about Converse and Adidas. Around this time, the talent of black players began to transcend racism and they began to dominate basketball. In 1980s America, the black community was struggling. The crack epidemic and Reagan’s neoconservatism had hit them disproportionately. Nike knew that to reach this crucial audience, they needed a figurehead the community could identify with. This man was the Chicago Bulls’ first draft pick, Michael Jordan.

“…it was the way he jumped that was a crucial marketing tool: ‘Michael Jordan 1-0 Isaac Newton'”

The Jordan 1 (the first shoe in the line) was so successful because of how, through its association with Michael Jordan, it represented and empowered the black community in the United States. Hope in a time of devastating economic disparities. Nike understood the power of a personal connection between consumers and professional athletes, and used that power to create an unprecedented marketing strategy. People who don’t trust you or your brand will trust their favorite shot-stopper or their favorite team’s best attacking midfielder. They will trust people who grew up like them, who talk like them and look like them.

Far from the connection the American public had with Jordan, it was the athlete’s own maverick nature that contributed to the shoe’s success. Jordan was a terrific basketball player. He shot with devastating precision and ran with undeniable elegance, but it was his way of jumping that became a crucial marketing tool. One title sums it up best: “Michael Jordan 1-0 Isaac Newton.” Jordan couldn’t be stopped, not even by the laws of gravity. But it was deeper than that. He wore these shoes in everything he did. He played well and the shoes were part of it. Every moment of brilliance concocted in Jordan’s brain, the shoes participated in the execution of it.

Although the Jordan 1s were originally banned because the NBA had a specific rule about requiring the shoes to be white, the idea has been floated that they were banned because they somehow made Jordan look too much. good player. Jordan couldn’t be stopped, but more importantly, you couldn’t be stopped in the Air Jordan 1s.

“Nike had created a sales technique so powerful that it went beyond the public’s understanding of the limits of a shoe’s value. ”

Jordan had initially not wanted to sign with Nike. He wanted Adidas, but they didn’t really approach him and it was Nike’s specific deal with his agent that got him signed for them. They agreed to market him not as a basketball player, but as a tennis player, in an unusual strategy that initially wasn’t supposed to work with team sports athletes. Converse had great basketball players – Magic Johnson, Julius Erving, Larry Bird – but all 3 wore the same shoes despite being stars. Converse actually charged some NBA teams to buy their shoes and wear them in games. It is a typical example of the lack of recognition of opportunities by shoe manufacturers before the Jordan 1s.

Some basketball players had shoe deals, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s $100,000 contract with Adidas is perhaps the best example, but a lot of money was never made. That’s a far cry from the 126 million Jordan 1s sold in the year since their release or the murders that have occurred because of these coveted shoes. Nike had created a sales technique so powerful that it went beyond the public’s understanding of the limits of a shoe’s value.

The Jordan 1s paved the way for exceptional athletes to sell themselves, or a version of themselves, on a much larger scale. Jordan himself and the longevity of the brand’s success testify to this; other examples include Cristiano Ronaldo and his billion dollar Nike contract or Gary Lineker’s role as cover boy for Walkers chips. In the latter, the inherently patriotic nature of a footballer who played for his country in a World Cup was used to represent the company’s British values. Jordan has begun its rise and, in combination with the ever-increasing reach of technology and the rapid commercialization of many sports clubs, the sky is the limit financially. Newton’s laws will certainly not be able to stop this rise.


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