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Be Like Mike
6 minute read · Issue Number 16 · May 15th, 2020
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Hi everyone, happy Friday!
In the previous edition, I wrote about the history and architecture of sports facilities, and I explained why society needs them. I was happy to see that it intrigued lots of readers, and I will most certainly create a continuation of the topic in the future!
For the last month, ESPN has been releasing a 10-piece documentary series called “The Last Dance”. The well-rated documentary relates the story of Michael Jordan and the 1990’s Chicago Bulls.
Jordan is considered one, if not the greatest athlete of all time, and the 90’s Bulls are considered as one of the most notable dynasties in sports history.
In a world with no live sports, the documentary has been on top of my social feed for a month and has created tons of buzz in sports media around the world.
Whether you’re a basketball fan or not, I strongly recommend you to watch it, as it offers different perspectives to learn from, from sports culture in society to team leadership and winning mentality.
The series finale will be streamed this Sunday, so I decided to ride the hot-trend by writing this edition of the magazine about MJ!
Michael Jordan is easily described as a legendary player on the basketball court. However, today we’ll study Michael as a brand and as a businessman, to complement his story from a different –and maybe more intriguing– perspective.
The Jordan brand, also known as “Air Jordan” was created back in 1984 when Nike signed MJ during his rookie season in the NBA.
The brand began selling shoes and later added sports apparel and fashion.
Today it is known for being the elite brand of Nike and it brings 10% of Nike’s annual revenues, selling over 3 billion USD annually.
Such a powerful brand is a product of MJ’s image, excellent marketing, and positive brand effects.
Athletes carry brands embedded in their names. In branding, Michael Jordan equals Air Jordan.
Certain elements help us study the source of the brand effects, which then shaped Air Jordan's brand equity value:
Identity: a collection of associations surrounding the athlete’s personality
Awareness: the level of attention such athlete attracts
Perceived quality: judgment of the ability of the athlete as a competitive player
Loyalty: the emotional connection derived from the first 3 factors.
Firstly noticed by his coaches and teammates, then by the entire world, Jordan was known for having a winners mentality. Everyone knew he wanted to be the best, and he had to work harder than everyone else to achieve it.
His work ethic, passion for the game, and devotion to compete were immediately associated with the brand.
Every person that identifies her/himself with those associations would be attracted to the brand.
As an example, the positive effects of these personality associations resulted in overwhelming unexpected Air Jordan shoe sales in his first year for winning rookie of the year.
By continuously being a champion, an all-star, an MVP, a winner… he attracted tons of attention from the media and the fans.
Everyone wanted to “Be Like Mike”.
Michael retired from the NBA almost 20 years ago, and the snowball of awareness he founded continues rolling today. I don’t think there’s someone in the western world that has never heard about Michael Jordan.
The Last Dance documentary is all about awareness. Creating buzz and making the media talk about MJ just complements his brand further, and now suddenly everyone wants to buy his jersey or shoes.
Jordan’s explosive athleticism and technical abilities have been studied by the best players and coaches around the league for decades.
Many argue that MJ changed the basketball game as a whole, from a physical to a more technical game. The level to which Jordan’s game raised the bar demanded from teams around the league to change and reshape their strategies.
Changing the way a game is played, demands an extreme level of quality, and Jordan is one of few athletes in history that have achieved that.
The Air Jordan Brand was built upon the greatness of the athlete, and such greatness was successfully transmitted into the merchandise.
The Air Jordan apparel is considered quite pricy, with shoes now regularly selling for $200 or more per pair while certain models are sold for thousands of dollars when they’re released in low supplies.
Also, the brand only endorses and sponsors very few specific elite athletes across multiple sports that match the personality of MJ and the brand. They aim for “winning mentality”, “technical superiority”, “legendary potential”. Can you see the pattern? Good.
These factors generate massive brand effects such as signaling and status, which in turn generate consumer loyalty, making it then a very “sexy” product to buy.
More than a player…
During MJ’s full career as a basketball player, he made a total of 86 million USD from his contracts. However, thanks to the success behind the Air Jordan brand, he’s made over 1.3 billion USD from Nike.
He also has longtime endorsements with Gatorade, Hanes, and Upper Deck. Furthermore, Jordan bought a majority stake of the Charlotte Hornets and owns multiple restaurants and a car dealership.
MJ will always be recognized for his success inside the basketball court, but his success outside the court complements perfectly to the person he truly is.
The way he transitioned his character into the Air Jordan brand and his career as a businessman, is a lesson for life.
I want to be like mike!
Until next week,
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