Nike is one of the most recognisable brands in the world. It has carefully built up its image and is now one of the foremost signatures related to sport and fashion. However, what is surprising about Nike is that from an age perspective, the global superpower it is today didn’t emerge until the late 80s and the growth of the company was primarily down to the power of a single story.
Here at Broadcast Reach, we continuously emphasise the power of the story in broadcast PR. The right story with the right ambassador is an effective way to live long in the audience’s consciousness. There is no better illustration than the story of Nike and Michael Jordan.
According to Michael Jordan, when he burst onto the scene and started becoming a viable marketing commodity in the 80s, his preference was Adidas, who, along with Converse, were better-known brands at the time.
Nike was officially created in 1971 and, whilst they were steadily growing, they recognised that they needed to make some big changes in their marketing campaigns. Michael Jordan turned professional in 1984. There was a massive buzz around him, and Nike made him a very high offer so that he could endorse their products. Even then, Jordan was reluctant, wishing to align with some of the more recognisable brands of the time.
However, the company were able to convince him, and the numbers speak for themselves. The Nike executives were hoping they could generate $3 million in sales in four years when they signed Michael Jordan. Today, Nike generates $3 million in brand Jordan sales every five hours.
But what made this ambassador, probably the most famous brand ambassador in the world, so successful? Of course, Nike developed a strong marketing campaign to promote him and no doubt the market conditions at that time were receptive. Still, nothing could have predicted the astronomical popularity that came of this brand ambassador.
Put simply, it was the power of the story. Michael Jordan started his professional basketball career in 1984; even in that first year, he created a buzz around the league due to his style of play and personality. There were many other great players in the league then, but Michael Jordan quickly established a popularity amongst fans that was unheard of. With his high-flying style of basketball and relentless drive, he distinguished himself not just as a great player but a great entertainer. This meant that his popularity wasn’t limited to his team’s fans but spread across the league. Everyone liked Michael Jordan!
It could be argued that it wouldn’t have mattered which sports brand had endorsed Michael Jordan; the result would have likely been similar. It was the power of his story that was his biggest promotion. People wanted to be like Michael Jordan. His most notable brand endorsement was the Nike Jordan branded shoes, and such was the influence of his narrative that sports shoes went from being a functional commodity to a style item. People were now wearing sports shoes in their day-to-day life, which has continued to this day.
This story is a fantastic example of the power of the narrative and ambassadors in brand promotion. Michael Jordan became the most potent brand endorser in the world, and it had everything to do with how Michael Jordan would make people feel. The things he did on the basketball court and how people related to that were far more important than how the marketing campaign was promoted. Michael Jordan himself says that he recognises that his most significant endorsement was his game. If he lost focus on his game and the things he was doing on the court, none of those other things would have the same impact. To this day, the Jordan brand is one of the most successful in the world and has catapulted Nike to be the most prominent sports brand globally. That is the power of a good story.