I am not a sneakerhead, nor do I really watch any sports. So most of what AIR covered as inspired by a true story was all new to me going in. However, if you were either a fan of Nike back in the day or Michael Jordan, this is the story of how the two iconic brands began working with each other.
Sonny Vaccaro and Nike pursue basketball rookie Michael Jordan, creating a partnership that revolutionizes the world of sports and contemporary culture.
The story is more than just one for every marketer to know, seeing what they did shows the type of out-of-the-box thinking that’s missing in a lot of meeting rooms today. But it is also about how athletes finally started to get their voices heard and share in the wealth that they created.
AIR took special care to not focus directly on Michael Jordan. You almost never see the actor playing his younger self during the entire film. This film wanted to tell the story of his mother and family, especially Jordan’s mother Deloris (Played by Viola Davis). This was actually smart in the film’s approach. It highlighted the important role Deloris played in the negotiations with the various brands and Sonny’s unorthodox approach to convincing her that Nike was the brand to go with.
The Air Jordan would go down to be one of the most sought-after and well-known shoe lines in sports history, with $130 million in sales in the first year. Now what made this special for sports was the deal signed by Nike and Jordan which cut him into a share of the profits from the sale of the shoe line with his name on it (5% to be exact). This was not something any athlete in the sport had previously.
In all the story focuses heavily on the story of Deloris’ brilliant deal with Nike and Sonny’s willingness to make it happen. This forever changed the way athletes negotiated deals and Sonny would go on to be a part of a class action suit against the NCAA that would lead to players getting compensated at the college level. As a marketer, seeing how Nike and its marketing teams worked to make the first Air Jordan is a fascinating inside look at the process back then.
AIR is in theatres April 5th.