Jordan Brand History
It’s crazy to think that the Jordan Brand almost didn’t happen. Can you imagine Michel Jordan rocking Adidas? If had been up to MJ at the time, that’s what would have happened.
When the GOAT was entering the league and fielding sponsorship offers, Nike was pretty low on his list. At the time, Nike was a struggling running shoe brand on the mend, concentrated on reinventing itself as a company for sports superstars.
Jordan really wanted to sign with Adidas, but the German sneaker brand wasn’t able to put together an offer as the company was undergoing a leadership shift at the time.
Converse also tried to bring MJ on board. Mike had rocked Converse in college playing for UNC (University of North Carolina) and was already familiar with the brand and what it brought to the table. But Converse already had several NBA superstars signed and Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were the faces of the brand. Converse made an offer, but apparently Michel wasn’t impressed and felt he would be just another basketball player on their already stellar roster of sponsored athletes.
Still, Michel wasn’t sure about signing with Nike. Even after Nike offered MJ $500,000 a year for five years, Jordan took the offer to Adidas and to see if the brand could get “anywhere close” to the offer. But Adidas turned him down. Hindsight is 20/20, but it’s still crazy to think Adidas passed on Mike.
Nike became Jordan’s best option by default and it ended up being a match made in heaven. Nike wanted to build an entire “brand inside the brand” around Jordan and his superhuman ability to dunk.
The Air Jordan I was released in April of 1985 and they were an instant hit. By May, Nike had sold $70 million worth of the shoes. INSANE. By the end of the year, Air Jordan had made Nike more than $100 million. Phil Knight, Nike’s co-founder, summed up the success of the Air Jordan 1’s as “the perfect combination of quality product, marketing, and athlete endorsement.”