Plenty Of Air In Jordan's Sales
The Michael Jordan and the Shaquille O'Neal balls have been moving briskly. But a third one has been collecting dust so much, in fact, that Champs put it on sale last week to try to clear its stock.
It's a model endorsed not by a current NBA star, but by someone who's retired now. Some guy named Johnson. Magic Johnson.
"Shaq sells the best, definitely," said salesman Bob Skripol. "Then Jordan."
The Magic Johnson ball? "We sold one this week," Skripol said.
Will Jordan perhaps history's most active celebrity pitchman face the same endorsement fate in retirement as Johnson, the Los Angeles Lakers legend who as an active player only two years ago was raking in big bucks selling sneakers, soda and other goods?
Most experts said Wednesday that won't happen to Jordan, who pitches products from sneakers to underwear, from beverages to burgers.
"His ability to command the market arena is not going to be diminished," said Kurt Barnard, a retail analyst in New York. "In fact, I would say it will be enhanced."
Jordan stunned the sports world this week, announcing that he would retire at the height of his career after playing nine seasons for the Chicago Bulls in the National Basketball Association.
And as merchandising experts were weighing the effect of the news, quick thinking collectors were leading their own fast breaks to sports card shops to grab up Jordan memorabilia.
Experts in the commercial use of athletes said that Jordan is different from most athletes, whose advertising appeal fades fast once they are out of the day to day spotlight in their sport.
Jordan's long term contracts with advertisers, his appeal beyond hard core sports fans and his decision to leave at the peak of his playing career make him a more durable pitchman, they said.
"For a very long time, there is not going to be any dent in this man's commercial and corporate appeal," said Marty Blackman, who heads a New York based firm that matches advertisers and sports figures.
Jordan's most valuable contract is with Nike Inc., the sneaker company from Beaverton, Ore., that sells $200 million a year in Air Jordan basketball shoes, clothes and accessories.
"Nike has bred 13s for sale done a great job promoting Jordan," said Dana Pound, assistant manager of the Foot Locker store at Westfarms.
The most recent version of Jordan shoes is a set of black hightops with a multicolor sole and streaks of white and red on the side. Price? $130.
"Kids do ask for them by bred 13s 2013 name, especially during the season," Pound said.
The Sports Marketing Letter, a sports industry publication based in Westport, estimated that Jordan will get $17 million or more from product royalties and commercial appearances for Nike, more than half of the $28 million it estimates Jordan will command from commercial deals this year.
Nike spokeswoman Liz Dolan said the company will have to re examine Jordan's role in advertising for his newest shoes, due out in late November.
But she said Jordan's retirement probably will mean an expansion of his association with Nike rather than a dilution of it. "We have always planned to have a relationship with Mike beyond his playing days," she said.
Commercials for the Quaker Oats Co.'s Gatorade sports drink have invited consumers to "Be Like Mike" when quenching a big thirst, and company spokesman Ron Bottrell said Jordan's retirement won't affect the company's contract with him.
But the retirement announcement was clearly affecting the sports card business. Jordan was showing a higher profile at Pro Ball Sportscards in West Hartford center.
"We've had five or six people in here today buying cards," said Josh Alloy, a salesman. "I only jordan 13 bred have one version left."
That was a $1.59 card encased in plastic.
Alloy had stocked Jordan cards ranging in price from bred 13s 75 cents to $8.50.
If a collector were fortunate enough to come across a mint condition 1984 Jordan rookie card from the Star Co., it would cost about $7,500, said Roger Thornton, owner of Collectible Investments in Meriden.