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Be like Mike!

In 1984, Nike was struggling. Their primary business was selling running shoes, but they recognized the need to expand their business to remain relevant. Their competitors, such as Converse and Adidas, were signing top athletes to represent their brands.

Nike began to court Michael Jordan. They offered him the highest paid contract. They custom designed a pair of shoes for him to wear in every game – the now famous Air Jordans.

Jordan was not interested in just the contract - he wanted a percentage of the sale of every shoe with his name on it. This deal was unheard of at the time, and it became the catalyst for changing the terms and endorsement opportunities for athletes going forward.

Let’s unpack some nuggets to consider with this story.

➡ Nike recognized the need to change their business model. Their current (aka safe) strategy was slowly leading to decreased market share and relevance in the athletic shoe industry.

➡ Nike took a huge risk investing more than they could afford to bet on a rookie player they believed in with the largest contract offered.

➡ Nike reinvented compensation for players by offering a portion of the profits to the player.

➡ Nike was willing to evolve….

➡ Michael Jordan had multiple offers on the table and was taking a chance on a company that had the least market share.

➡ Jordan had never worn Nikes prior to signing the deal, and was a fan of Converse and Adidas.

➡ Jordan's mother saw an opportunity for him to become a star for a struggling company, and negotiated not only the largest offer, but a longer-term compensation strategy through shoe royalties.

In both cases, Nike and Jordan took chances on each other. They both profited from the deal which led to both company and player to become iconic brands.

Look at where you are today – what opportunity out there might you take a risk on? One that you believe and know can be successful but have been hesitant to move forward?

Is there a new marketing strategy to launch? A niche to explore? What about your business needs to evolve but you haven’t been willing to let go of?

➡ How can you make your brand iconic?


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