We were in 1984 and Nike was a growing company that had entered a hole, far from being the multinational conglomerate of today. Back then, Nike was looking to compete with Reebok and Adidas to dominate the US market. Nike had 2.5 million dollars to hire a mega star and make the big hit: and decided to bet everything for a semi-unknown young basketball player from the University of North Carolina and who had recently signed with the Chicago Bulls. That young man was Michael Jordan.
From the leadership of Nike they became obsessed with Jordan and although he had been a university champion and had signed with an NBA team, it was nothing more than a promise with a lot of potential, which had not yet shown anything as a professional. However, from Nike they were determined to take this risk and spend the entire budget on convincing Jordan.
Convincing him was difficult, since Jordan had a preference for Adidas. However, Nike's offer was irresistible: 2.5 million dollars divided into 5 seasons, two cars and, most importantly, sneakers designed especially for him: the Air Jordan. It was the first time that a company customized a product for one person, but Nike was willing to do whatever it took to have Jordan. In addition, the basketball player would receive a 25% royalty for each Air Jordan that was sold. Michael signed an exclusivity contract for 5 years.
Of course, Nike was not willing to give away her money either. However much faith they had in Michael, he was still a rookie without debuting in the NBA. That's why he set several goals that he had to reach: he had to win the "Rookie of the Year" award, be elected to the All-Star Game or score an average of 20 points per game. If in the next 3 years Jordan did not achieve any of those three objectives, Nike could break the contract. But there was another objective related to the Air Jordan: if they managed to sell 4 million shoes in the first 3 years, Nike would fulfill the other two years of contract no matter what.
Finally came the moment of Michael's debut in the NBA in the 1984-1985 season and the first Air Jordan in black and red saw the light. And Michael did his part, because as soon as he got his first board in the NBA he started to show why they bet on him.
But this story had setbacks. At that time the NBA forced players to wear white sneakers in games, which in no way resembled the colorful and revolutionary shoes that the rookie felt. The NBA forced the Chicago Bulls to pay a fine of $ 5,000 for each game in which Michael used the Air Jordan. Nike paid with great pleasure the fine that made the Air Jordan the "forbidden" model, unintentionally that fine became the best advertising campaign that ever existed.
Jordan started flying in his first season where he averaged more than 28 points per game and was named "Rookie of the year". The NBA ended up definitively withdrawing the "forbidden" model, but the effect was inevitable. Michael's rebelliousness and talent, along with his revolutionary sneakers, became an irresistible cocktail for the public. Everyone wanted to be like him and the Air Jordan became the most coveted item.
Finally in March 1985, the first Air Jordan went on sale to the public, along with a controversial Nike commercial where Jordan himself appeared in uniform, with black stripes on his shoes; while a dramatic voice said:
"On September 15, Nike created a revolutionary shoe for basketball. On October 18, the NBA banned it. Fortunately, the NBA will not be able to prevent you from using them. Air Jordan, from Nike. "
Who would have thought that in 1985 the line of personalized shoes of this rookie would sell the amazing sum of 100 million dollars. The Air Jordan marked a before and after in sports marketing and showed how profitable and lucrative sport could be in society.
The truth is that thanks to the vision of the directors of Nike, the help of what would end up being the best basketball player in history and a bit of luck; the Air Jordan became a cult object, one of the most lucrative franchises in history, selling 2.5 billion dollars a year and making Michael Jordan the retired sportsman who earns the most money. Such has been its impact on society that today the names Nike and Jordan can not be explained separately.