How Michael Jordan’s Off-Court Influence Was More Meaningful Than Any Dunk

Features

/ February 17, 2014

Branding.

Not a new word in any sense, but a term that’s become a buzzword of the moment in the globally connected world we live in. No company can live in 2014 without a social media strategist, or two, or ten, to create hashtaggble phrases that their consumer will use to plug a product and feel connected. Something that will make them feel #CoolByAssociation when posting to the various online social channels.

For millennials, this is the norm. Even before Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, we grew up making jokes requesting Taco Bell in spanish, using surfer slang because our favorite talking turtles did so, and being reminded to Just Do It. Company images ruled our worlds, but in 1988 Michael Jeffrey Jordan’s Jumpman logo appeared on the Air Jordan III’s, it changed the game forever on how athletes affected what was considered collectively cool.

What do you think of when you see Nike’s trademark Swoosh? Coolness. Innovation. Excellence. The Jumpman is equally as recognizable and comparable to the same thoughts as the company it came from. That image captured a moment in Jordan’s career that sums up who Mike was to us on the court: powerful, graceful, otherworldly. However, once the silhouette hit his kicks it explored a new realm.

Having your own shoe is a part of the package that most young athlete aspire to. Jordan changed the idea of what having YOUR own shoe meant. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had the adidas Jabbar that dropped with his image. However, an image of him, more or less, fails to represent what we appreciated him for. It doesn’t allow you to invest in anything other than the literal “Kareem.” In contrast, the Jumpman is an icon that stands for something bigger than what it is. It’s tells a narrative with emphatic power that’s open to interpretation and meaning for the consumer.

The Converse Weapons are iconic sneakers generally associated with NBA legends Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Each had their own signature colorways, and yes, we do think of them when we see the shoes, but there’s nothing that tie the two brands (the company and the athletes, themselves) other than the fact that they wore them in their heyday.

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