Michael Jordan, as a young athlete, wanted to be different from his teammates, who were all sponsored as a group by Converse All Star. He, instead, wanted to have an individual sneaker deal. His preferred brand at the time was Adidas and when Nike asked for a meeting, Jordan refused. Nike after all was just known at the time for its running shoes and had no experience or recognition with basketball shoes; and anyway was so much smaller and lesser-known than Adidas.
But Jordan’s parents liked Nike though and convinced him to take a meeting and hear Nike out. What a great meeting that was and what a collab that turned out to be. Nike designed a totally new sneaker, the Air Jordan 1, in red, black and white – the colours of the Chicago Bulls. The sneaker was fabulous and became very popular with NBA fans. But its design and colours were immediately condemned and banned by the NBA as they allowed only white trainers and didn’t see a need for change or individuality. So, Nike and Jordan stood out. Just Do It.
Michael Jordan understood (early on) the power of being an influencer. He wore the Air Jordans in NBA matches anyway - despite the ban - and was fined $5,000 (about $15,000 today) every time he stepped on court in them. Nike of course loved this; it was the best ever advertising they could ever dream up and they happily paid the NBA fines for Jordan.
And people lapped it up. The Air Jordans stood for rebellion, for wanting to make a stand, for not bowing to the establishment and they started buying Nike Air Jordans in droves. There were long lines to get your hands on a pair, which was the beginning of Nike’s sneaker-drop marketing strategy, which is still used to perfection today.