Brand Jordan

Some really fascinating information coming out about Michael Jordan this week as he celebrates his 50th birthday tomorrow.  An interesting article from Forbes says that Jordan pulls down an estimated $80 million a year.  Don’t know about other retirees, but $80 mil a year is not too shabby.  Of course “retiree” is a different concept for Jordan, who retired from basketball three times and earns more per year now than he did in his playing days.

Most of Jordan’s income ($60 million) in 2012 came from royalties paid by Nike for his Jordan Brand, which includes the Air Jordan line of sneakers.  According to the Forbes article “The Jordan Brand is doing “exceptionally well” says Susquehanna Financial analyst Christopher Svezia.  He estimates the Jordan Brand grew 25-30% in 2012 and now generates more than $1.75 billion globally, including apparel. The U.S. Jordan Brand sneaker business alone had $1.25 billion in wholesale revenue in 2012, says Matt Powell, an analyst at SportsOneSource. LeBron James is the top-seller among current NBA players with signature shoe deals, but Jordan outsold James by a 6 to 1 margin in 2012 in the U.S.”

Gatorade, Hanes and Upper Deck are other long-term Jordan sponsors and he his constantly striking new deals.  And of course, he is also majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats NBA franchise.

But it is not just about the dollars.  He remains hugely popular 10 years removed from his playing days.  You can argue whether he was the best professional basketball player of all time, but few could argue he is not among the top three.  According to Facebook he has over 22 million fans, about 50% more than Kobe Bryant, who has the largest Facebook fan base of current basketball players.  Only three other athletes, all current soccer players, outrank him on Facebook.

Of course the popularity and high earnings feed off one another.  And his popularity is not because he was always a nice guy.  His chip-on-the-shoulder, somewhat-nasty Hall of Fame acceptance speech was not a highlight of his career.  And his well-publicized gambling also raised some eyebrows.

Maybe his popularity is because he is a winner: Six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls and leading an Olympic Dream Team.  And doing it all with a competitive intensity and an incredibly unique style of play.  We had never seen anything like him on the court before and, frankly, we haven’t since.

Or maybe he is so popular because of his human frailty: Taking competitiveness a bit too far, giving into some vices, indecision about when to retire, changing his mind, etc.  There is no doubt, we can all relate to his humanness, even when he seemed physically superhuman.

In the end, he earns money because he makes money.  Those who pay him feel there is value in connecting their brands to his brand.   Given his popularity and the financial benefits these companies, especially Nike, derive from their sponsorships, it is hard to argue with that.

So for his 50th birthday, all the best Brand Jordan and 50 more!

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