|The first pair of Air Jordans, “Notorious,” were|
made in 1984, in time for the 1984-85 NBA Season.
Be Like Mike. Just Do It.
Those two phrase could quite possibly be the most famous advertising catch lines in the history of marketing. Be Like Mike was used by Gatorade to promote Michael Jordan, quite possibly the greatest basketball player or all time. The phrase, “Just Do It,” was coined by Nike, the famous shoe manufacturer, in the 80s and has become synonymous with winning, championships and high profile athletes.
When Jordan signed on with Nike in the 80s, the cultural landscape changed not only in marketing and the strength of a brand behind its endorser, but also for young people, particularly young men, who dreamed of idolizing the man who they would end up watching on TV, emulating, and aspiring to be like for the next 20 years.
In the years since that endorsement deal was put together, hundreds of millions of people around the world have worn the Nike swoosh logo in their shoes as well as t-shirts, sweatshirts, wristbands, hats, and conceivably every other form of athletic apparel possible. With Jordan, his sub-brand has been built up to the point where the logo which features him dunking as a silhouette, has become equally as powerful, as the Jordan Brand has exclusive deals with top schools such as the University of North Carolina, which happens to be Jordan’s alma mater.
In today’s sports culture, with the 24-hour sports cycle and with every league seemingly having their own massive TV deals to have their products broadcast around the world, Nike seems to be regaining their complete stronghold on the sports apparel industry, and along with the Jordan brand to go with, Nike seems to be proving itself as the kings of the apparel game.
When I think of Nike, I think of quality products and products that are stylish when I workout. Yes, there have been the stories and situations of workers making products overseas in bad working conditions, but honestly, none of us have been over there to see them in person, outside of reporters, and consumers will normally purchase based on style and a brand that they know and are familiar with and Nike and Jordan are two brands that instantly ring a bell with most consumers around the world.
Growing up, I was living right in the middle of the really popular Nike ad campaigns with Jordan. The spots were always incredibly unique, and had social media been around during the 90s, who knows if both of the brands would be 10-20x larger than what they are now.
The company made its first ad in 1982 during the New York Marathon and has won the Emmy Award twice for Best Commercial – in 1994 and 2003.
For my generation and my love of sports, and watching a ton of sports on a regular basis, Nike represents a cultural symbol of excellence because of the affiliations that the organization has. The company sponsors and produces all of the gameday NFL jerseys, sponsors top athletes including LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, Junior Dos Santos, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Manny Pacquiao, and many other top athletes.
The company also has exclusive team deals with many colleges and international soccer teams such as the Texas Longhorns, Miami Hurricanes, Oregon Ducks (the alma mater of Nike Chairman Phil Knight) LSU Tigers, USC Trojans, the Brazil Soccer Team, Manchester United, Manchester City, and the Alabama Crimson Tide, among others.
Along with the professional and college teams, Nike also sponsors and outfits thousands of high schools across the United States in terms of shoes, bags, jackets, sweatshirts, t-shirts, jerseys, and more.
Clearly, though, the main area where this company has made its niche has been in shoes. People will still line up at sporting goods stores and log online anytime a new pair of Jordan shoes come out or a new pair of Nike LeBrons or Kevin Durant shoes and such. And while they are buying the shoes, many times they end up being extra products to be outfitted along with the shoes. Last year, even music sensation Kanye West had his own pair of Nike shoes, the Air Yeezy, marking the first time that someone outside of sports had their own pair of Nike shoes marketed.
|The latest Nike LeBron James shoes, titled the “LeBron X.”|
Does the love go a bit too high, especially for Jordan shoes? Perhaps. Over the years, there have been many stories of kids getting beaten up, bullied or worse for a pair of Jordan and/or Nike shoes. Many of the Jordan line of shoes are used as collector’s items and, many owners don’t even wear the shoes, they will keep them in mint condition, still in the box, and keep them as a piece of sports memorabilia.
When I think about what Nike has meant to sports, it has meant that athletes and organizations have truly become household names and full “brands.” With many endorsement deals going into the hundreds of millions of dollars for many Nike athletes, the company has helped to make sure that many athletes will have financial security for the rest of their lives, no matter what happens with the athletic career, whether they suffer a severe injury or not. In a way, a professional athlete plays for 2 teams, their team organization and their endorser.
Other companies who have been around for many years including Adidas, Under Armour and Reebok have effectively competed with Nike, but many times, its to compete with #2, which has become a very key area to have because it has been shown that there is room for everyone in the sports licensing and apparel industry. For example, Adidas has Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant in its camp, Under Armour sponsors the University of Auburn and other schools, and Reebok has sponsored top athletes such as Shaquille O’Neal and currently endorses Washington Wizards All-Star PG John Wall.
But at the end of the day, Nike is still the one to see. While it may look like I am writing to just kiss Nike and Jordan’s ass for this whole post, I am simply speaking the truth, as sports fans, we have Nike to thank for the way that we watch sports, for some of us the way that we have been able to play sports, and the comfort that we have had while playing and the same time being stylish and trendy while doing it.
In terms of where does Nike go from here in terms of being able to grow the company and adapt to the athlete of today’s world? I guess its pretty simple. Just Do It.