Posted by Abe Sauer on February 25, 2010 01:45 PM
Last night, The University of North Carolina – Michael Jordan’s alma mater – donned its basketball team in special silver jerseys to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Nike's Air Jordan brand. Later this week, the university teams for California and Georgetown will also commemorate the occasion by wearing similar silver uniforms.
The anniversary is being celebrated to mark the journey of a brand and a man that were almost never brought together.
When Jordan was a rookie in the mid-1980s, he was more interested in signing with Adidas or Converse. In fact, when Jordan saw the first pair of now iconic red-and-black Air Jordans he said, "I can't wear that shoe, those are Devil colors."
Jordan's agent David Falk, however, recognized the merchandising opportunity for a line called "Air Jordans" and convinced his client to make the deal. A deal was struck. Nike cranked up the myth-making machine and the rest is history.
After Michael Jordan stopped playing in 2003, many wondered if the Air Jordan brand would continue to be relevant. Nike spun-off the Jordan brand into a subsidiary and, after struggling to gain a foothold, it exploded. Today the quasi-independent Jordan brand is one of the world's best selling shoe lines.
Wisely, Nike is maturing the Jordan brand's messaging to suit current times. In the early years Air Jordan stood for bucking basketball's staid conventions; now, however, it is all about history and legacy. Nike's Jordan "Heritage" website and the 25th anniversary silver jerseys stunt are vehicles for promoting this change to the public.
The Jordan brand, which came close to never happening, could become the Chuck Taylor of the next generation.