Nike Air Jordan - Behind The Brand (2022)

Nike Air Jordan - Behind The Brand (1)

By Justin | May 22, 2020 (5 min read)

Branding | Marketing | Video

Before 1984, the world of basketball sneakers was fairly boring.

The standard running shoe or sports shoe was mostly white in color, with some small aesthetic additions such as logos, extra tread or support. But all that was about to change with a new player, and a new era of sports marketing.

The company originally known as Blue Ribbon Sports, founded by Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman in 1964, was renamed Nike after the Greek Goddess of Victory.

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Their original shoes focused on running and athletics, but soon the crossover began into sports with a more widespread appeal. The iconic Nike swoosh was first introduced in 1971.

In 1972, the world saw the introduction of the iconic Nike Blazer, named for The Portland Trail Blazers, and made famous by George ‘The Iceman’ Gervin. The shoe was an advance in both technology and branding.

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Nike invested heavily in advancing the technology that made for better performance, something it would continue to be at the forefront of for generations to come. But more than function was the form: the Nike Blazer was an overtly branded shoe, with the swoosh taking up the whole side of the shoe.

(Video) NIKE AIR JORDAN - Behind The Brand | Brandastic

Every game that ‘The Iceman’ played in, the cameras focused on him, and his shoes. Every game became an advertisement for Nike Blazers. Soon, a new fascination with sneakers emerged.

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A New Era Begins

In 1984, a new player entered the NBA with a future full of promise. From his first season, Michael Jordan was a noticeably talented player. Nike took a risk on the young athlete and signed a unique deal with Jordan to produce his own line of shoes. Jordan ironically had always worn Adidas up until that point but was swayed to the deal after meeting with Nike executives.

The original Air Jordan I sneaker was produced exclusively for Jordan in early 1984 and released to the public in late 1984. With their iconic red and black features, the original shoes were actually banned by the NBA for being too colorful at a time when all shoes were mandatory white.

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The famous ploy by Nike at the time was to pay the $5000 fine that Jordan received every time he wore the new shoes on the court. This sparked news headlines and was capitalized into a TV advertisement which played off the rebellious aspect of the shoes.

“On September 15, Nike created a revolutionary new basketball shoe. On October 18, the NBA threw them out of the game. Fortunately, the NBA can’t stop you from wearing them. Air Jordans. From Nike.”

The first 50,000 pairs of Air Jordan’s (known today at Air Jordan I) sold out immediately. This marketing strategy – a quick reaction to the NBA banning – proved to be one of the all-time greatest marketing coups, driving more than $150 million in sales.

A Unique Logo

The original Air Jordan logo was different to what is well recognized today. Known today as the ‘OG logo’ or the ‘Wings logo’, it featured a basketball with wings stretching from both sides and “Air Jordan” printed above the ball.

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The ‘Jumpman’ logo was would first appear on the third version of Air Jordan in 1987. However, it’s origins are from a Life magazine photo shoot that was done in 1984 for the Olympics.

The original photo was based on Jordan performing a mid-air ballet move called a grand jete, which was actually not used in his true jumping style.

Jordan himself explained in an interview in 1997:

“I wasn’t even dunking on that one. People think that I was. I just stood on the floor, jumped up and spread my legs and they took the picture. I wasn’t even running. Everyone thought I did that by running and taking off. Actually, it was a ballet move where I jumped up and spread my legs. And I was holding the ball in my left hand.”

The original image spurred Nike to reshoot it for the 1985 sneaker release. It was first included as a photograph and branding image and then incorporated into the shoe design themselves.


The Player Becomes a Product

Michael Jordan was perhaps the first player in the NBA to linked to a product from the moment he joined. His stellar on court performances, and ability to ‘fly’ increased the public’s desire to own a piece of action.

Every few years, an updated design with new additional features has arrived. The Air Jordan III, released in 1988 and was worn famously by Jordan during the 1988 Slam Dunk contest, has been reported to be the favorite of Jordan’s of all the designs throughout the years.

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What began as an insightful partnership between a player and a brand has evolved into an icon and revolutionized an industry.

The Air Jordan brand today now covers over 32 versions of the shoe, many of them re-released several times. The shoes frequently sell out as soon as they are available and are resold online to sneaker collectors.

Famous Air Jordan Moments

Many individual pairs of Air Jordans that Jordan wore during games have been sold at auction or donated to charities over the years.

The most famous pair of Air Jordans are the Air Jordan 12 ‘Flu Game’ pair worn by Jordan during a 1997 NBA finals game in which he was feeling ill due to food poisoning, yet still managed to win the game. This pair was sold for $104,000 and the design itself sells out immediately every time it is re-released.

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Jordan also famously wore the original Air Jordans for his final game at Madison Square Garden in 1998. In an interview before the game, Jordan explained he wanted to ‘pay respect and remember the old days’ by wearing his original ‘Chicago’ Air Jordan 1s from 1985.

However, the original Air Jordan’s didn’t provide the same level of comfort and support as the newer iterations:

“It’s been a long time since I wore them and it’s funny coming back and playing and remembering some of the old days and some of the games I had here and the shoes are a part of that. But, my feet are killing me.”

(Video) History of the Nike-Jordan Brand

The Chicago Bulls won their sixth Championship in 1998 and earned their second three-peat (winning three back-to-back championships). At that time Michael Jordan was not only the most famous basketball player, but one of the most famous athletes in the entire world.

After that iconic season, there was a lot of speculation about whether the team would return for a seventh championship attempt. However, it was not to be. The following year Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippen, and Michael Jordan all left the Chicago Bulls. In 1999, Michael Jordan went into his second period of retirement from basketball.

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The Last Dance

In 2020, there has been a resurgence in interest in Michael Jordan’s career with the release of the ten-part ESPN documentary The Last Dance. According to ESPN, the Last Dance documentary averaged more than 5.6 million viewers per episode during its run, pulling in over 13 million viewers an episode from on-demand viewing.

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The Last Dance shares an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the story of the Chicago Bulls’ 1997/98 season. The ten-part series features thousands of hours of unreleased footage of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls team.

It also features interviews with Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Phil Jackson, and many other famous basketball players. Most significantly the documentary features interviews and commentary by Michael Jordan himself and his view of his basketball career.

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The Michael Jordan Legacy

Since the era of Jordan, there have been manyNBA players who have had custom-designed shoes. Some of the most famous include Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, and Steph Curry just to name a few.

However, no one has managed to match the legacy or sales success of the Air Jordan range. These shoes have branched out beyond Jordan himself today to encompass ‘Team Jordan’ athletes who are sponsored by the brand and wear the shoes. These include 21 NBA players, as well as athletes in Baseball, Football, NASCAR, and Soccer.

Nike also offers unique partnerships with musicians and fashion designers to collaborate on new designs.

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Even as a retired player, Jordan is intimately involved in the selection process as well as the design for the shoes along with the revered designer Tinker Hatfield.

With a net worth of over $2 Billion, Michael Jordan still earns $130 Million a year through sales of Jordan’s shoes. The Nike Air Jordan brand share continues to increase by 17% per year. The Nike Jordan brand has revenues of $3 BIllion per year.

Blending Sports and Culture

Nike has always been at the forefront of branding and the Air Jordan story is one of the most historic and most successful.

There is a lot to learn about how to capture market attention and stand out from the crowd. With a player like Michael Jordan, his brand sets him apart just as much as his performance.

(Video) Everything You Need to Know About Jordan Brand’s Iconic Jumpman Logo

As a digital marketing agency, we’re huge fans of both Jordan and the way that Nike captures the market with their partnership.

Over more than 30 years Nike has shown how thinking ahead and making bold moves can create huge success.

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Brandastic is a digital marketing and advertising agency with offices inOrange County,Los Angeles,andAustin. We specialize in SEO,Social Media marketingand building websites to grow online sales. Talk to us today to see how we can help grow your business to the next level.

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What is Jordan Brand mission statement? ›

Background Information. Air Jordans Mission Statement is: "To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. If you have a body, you are an athlete."

What is special about Nike Air Jordan? ›

The Air Jordans' exclusive level relative to other types of footwear has been the reason behind this phenomenon. They made these sneakers with extremely high-quality materials like full-grain calfskin and premium leather uppers like boots. Thus, people cannot marvel at the look and feel of a high-quality product.

What is Jordan's brand promise? ›

If you buy your pair of Jordan's—whether you're fifteen or fifty—the idea is that it will help YOU jump, if not reach, as high as you can.

What marketing strategy does Nike use? ›

Nike relies heavily on advertisements to promote their products, especially those featuring high-profile athletes and celebrities. Additionally, Nike makes use of sales promotion strategies like discount codes to entice potential customers to buy their products.

What is the main purpose of Nike? ›

“Our purpose is to unite the world through sport to create a healthy planet, active communities, and an equal playing field for all.” Here is our analysis of Nike's purpose : Progress Sport.

What is the message of Nike? ›

Nike's vision is “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.” While its mission statement is to “do everything possible to expand human potential.

Is Nike and Jordan the same brand? ›

Ever since the initial release in 1984, the Air Jordan and its related products have expanded Nike's domain and continues to define the modern basketball and sneaker culture we know today.

How do you identify Jordans? ›

Confirm the nine digit style number on the manufacturing sticker. All Jordans have a style number listed on the outside sticker. In almost all cases, it will be nine digits long.

Who is the target audience for Air Jordans? ›

While this seems like they service a broad market, their main target market is males ages 15-25. This is because people in this segment are usually involved in high school sports and possibly college as well. In regards to their social media, the brand needs to be more consistent across their various accounts.

What is Jordan slogan? ›

Jordan Brand, a division of Nike, unveiled its new brand campaign and tagline, “BECOME LEGENDARY.” The campaign was developed to pay homage to the legacy of a brand created by Michael Jordan and to celebrate 23 years since the launch of Air Jordan.

What is the relationship between Nike and Jordan? ›

Air Jordan is a line of basketball shoes and athletic clothing produced by American corporation Nike.

What makes Nike a successful brand? ›

By offering more products to more people, in more markets than any other sports company, they are able to capture a far greater market share of the market than any other company. Like most leaders in the market, Nike values the consumer and the importance of providing a quality product.

Why is Nike a strong brand? ›

Nike has successfully created a strong brand by fulfilling the pillars of brand equity, which include: brand loyalty, brand awareness, brand associations and perceived quality. Strategic marketing messages, combined with quality products have allowed for Nike to excel in each dimension of brand equity.

What is Nike's brand identity? ›

The Nike Brand Identity

The brand is famous for its swoosh logo and tagline that states “Just do it.”. They have become one of the most recognizable visual brand elements. Originally a styled version of the name served as the logo, later combined with a swoosh.

What is Jordan slogan? ›

Back in the 90s, the Jordan Brand has taken inspiration from Nike's classic slogan "Just Do It", and made their own tagline "Dream It, Do It". This slogan has become an appare.

What is the mission statement for Adidas? ›

The Adidas mission statement is "to be the global leader in the sporting goods industry with brands built on a passion for sports and a sporting lifestyle. We are committed to continuously strengthening our brands and products to improve our competitive position."

Is Jordan Brand owned by Nike? ›

Ever since the initial release in 1984, the Air Jordan and its related products have expanded Nike's domain and continues to define the modern basketball and sneaker culture we know today.

Is Jordan its own brand? ›

Michael Jordan's signature shoe was created with the help of Nike, but the Air Jordan line became so popular that it eventually didn't need the Swoosh to back it. The Nike and Jordan partnership achieved a level of success that allowed Jordan Brand to become its own company in 1997, and it has never looked backed.


1. How Michael Jordan Changed Sneaker Culture in Chicago I Sole Origins
2. The Story Behind All 6 of Michael Jordan's ICONIC Championship Sneakers
3. Air Jordan's - How Nike Created a Brand Worth Billions - A Case Study for Entrepreneurs
4. Why Nike Air Jordans Are So Expensive | So Expensive
(Business Insider)
5. Air Jordan 2010: Behind The Design
(JD Sports)
6. KO Behind The Scenes: Off White x Air Jordan 1
(Kicks Overload)

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