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Wanna Be Like Mike

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Retired and marketable as ever!

All-Star Weekend.  In my opinion, the best weekend all year.  Athletes, celebrities and of course, basketball.  This weekend is filled with color commentary, flashbacks and a show of the best of the best NBA players.  This past weekend in Houston was no different.  However, it appeared the most hype was surrounded around…Michael Jordan.

The attention was not because of Jordan’s six NBA championship rings or his ownership status of the Charlotte Bobcats.  All the talk was on two things.  The first is that his Royal Airness turned 50 on Sunday.  The second, Jordan earned $80 million last year.  Yes, he is retired from the game of basketball, but remains one of the most bankable athletes in the world.

The entire week was spent reporting on the many accomplishments Jordan has made throughout his career.  Old interviews, former coaches and highlights created a timeline of the greatness and marketability of the former Chicago Bulls player.  During the 1997-98 season, he was paid more way more than any other player (like $33 mill to $5 mil).  This was a huge breakthrough for African American athletes.  It appears that just about everyone wanted and still wants their brand associated with Jordan.

AARP capitalized on marketing in several ways.  First, Jordan is on the cover of AARP Magazine for February.  It’s his birthday and all eyes and mouths are already fixated on this birthday milestone and churning out reports.  Secondly, it’s All-Star Weekend.  There’s more activity this weekend and greater visibility among not just athletes and celebrities but also with fans.  Thirdly, the use of social media.  AARP had a stream of tweets mentioning their newest celebrity member.  They included a photo of the Jordan magazine cover, statements about him and a “Welcome to AARP” tweet with a photo of his new card (minus the membership number).  During a broadcast on TNT, AARP’s Happy Birthday tweet was highlighted.  In turn, AARP re-tweeted the highlight and recognized TNT.

Let’s get back to the $80 million.  Hanes, Gatorade, 2K Sports and a host of other sponsorships and investments make up a small portion of his earnings.  Nike alone accounted for $60 million last year!  It seems that just about every athlete has their own shoe line: Kobe, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose.  Now pause.  Not only does Jordan have his own shoe line, he has his own brand.  The “Air Jordan” franchise encompasses phonemes such as Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and MLB star Derek Jeter.  Jordan has truly revolutionized sports marketing for multicultural athletes and utilized his likeness to the fullest.  Everyone “Wanna be like Mike” and decades after the debut of the Jordan shoes, they are still a hot commodity, even becoming collectables.

Marketers have found a solid niche with African Americans endorsements.  Michael Jordan’s athleticism and marketability has paved the way for countless African Americans.   This has transcended to other cultures to play not only at the highest level but also get paid at the highest level.

What athlete before Jordan or since has come so far and has been as marketable?

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