From college hoops to gridiron greatness, learn how MJ’s $6.6 billion empire expanded arenas through savvy endorsements that have hit the highest of heights.
Scoring his own subsidiary under Nike’s then-$9.1 billion umbrella, Jordan Brand was primed to make it rain immediately. Upon launch, the Jumpman sought to fly higher internationally and across arenas, estimated to make $300 million alone in Mike’s first year as CEO and last season in the Windy City.
No longer would greatness sell solely from the Chicago Bulls shooting guard.
Instead, the brand would blossom beyond basketball through a slew of athletes and programs poised to carry on his legacy.
The $6.6 billion sportswear brand achieved greatness in a new field as the Jordan-endorsed University of Michigan won the College Football Playoff final, winning its first national championship since 1997.
Adorning MJ’s emblem in all its glory, the title-toting team from Ann Arbor was outfitted in Air Jordan apparel as far as the eye could see.
From sideline hats to receiver gloves, bubble jackets to championship tees, maize and blue items hosted the infamous block “M” and flying Jordan silhouette from the opening kickoff to the trophy ceremony.
Every bit of benefit from the brand’s $169 million endorsement was visible and victorious on primetime television for hours on ESPN and through highlights intended to last forever.
It was the first time a Jordan Brand-repped school had taken home the trophy in collegiate football. However, it was not the only time MJ had officially outfitted champions of a new ilk.
On the heels of Jim Harbaugh‘s team winning it all in Air Jordan, Boardroom breaks down the history of Jordan Brand’s growing championship pedigree that’s expanding almost annually.
North Carolina Tar Heels Men’s Basketball
In 1997, Michael Jordan jumped into direct competition with Converse, Adidas, Reebok, and Nike by becoming an on-court sponsor of college basketball’s best.
The inaugural Jordan Brand universities included Cincinnati, St. John’s, Cal, and North Carolina A&T. Two years later, Mike made the obvious money move by inking an agreement with his alma mater, North Carolina.
Since becoming a Brand Jordan basketball program, the Tar Heels have cut down the nets three times.
In 2005, Raymond Felton and Sean May restored powder blue prominence by beating Nike-sponsored Illinois in retro and performance offerings made by Mike.
Four years later, Tyler Hansborough helped the Heels demolish Swoosh-sponsored Michigan State for another natty title that placed Air Jordan sneakers on the ladder steps.
Recently, in 2017, it was Theo Pinson who helped UNC knock-off Nike school Gonzaga en route to the school’s sixth national championship in men’s basketball.
A year later, North Carolina re-upped with the Portland power for $60 million, ensuring that the school’s basketball and football programs would continue to wear the Jumpman.
All in all, UNC men’s basketball boasts six national championships. While the first three were won in Converse, the last three have been won in Jordan.
Over the brand’s nearly three decades, seven schools signed to Jordan Brand have competed in the men’s National Championship.
Had the Kansas Jayhawks signed with MJ as expected in 2005, that number would’ve increased to 10 of the last 18 outings.
Michigan Wolverines Men’s Football
More was at stake in the 2024 CFP National Championship than just trophies or bragging rights.
Adidas and Jordan Brand were looking to win their first NCAA football championship since the birth of the playoff era. Both brands bet big on Michigan and Washington, with said schools holding major weight regionally and nationally where the gridiron is concerned.
Ultimately, Jordan won the battle and the bragging rights, making good on their part of the $169 million Michigan endorsement deal signed in 2015.
“The first weekend that we launched, MJ and all of us were out there,” Jordan Brand chairman Larry Miller told Boardroom in 2022. “On that weekend, [Michigan] sold more products at the bookstore than they had the whole year before.”
Keep in mind, the opening weekend for the Michigan marriage with Jordan Brand was in September 2016 — just shy of two decades since Jordan Brand originally launched.
Led by defensive hybrid Jabril Peppers and coached by Jim Harbaugh, the inaugural Jumpman x UM squad was solid, going 10-3 and losing narrowly to Florida State in the Orange Bowl.
“Michigan was a perfect match for what they represent and what we brought to the table,” Miller said. “That opened up the idea of Jordan Brand on the football field.”
In the first season with Jordan Brand, Michigan’s most watched games came at the hands of losses to Ohio State and FSU. Since then, the Wolverines brand has ascended. Michigan has won four division titles, made the College Football Playoff three times, and beat rival Ohio State three straight years (after Harbaugh’s squad lost his first five matchups against the Buckeyes).
Just months ago, in 2023, that third consecutive UM win over OSU pulled in over 19 million viewers, with the Wolverines all in Jumpman gear.
By beating both Nike-laced Alabama and Adidas-outfitted Washington in the 2024 College Football Playoff, Jordan Brand brought in eyeballs and equity to its emblem and football business. No longer is the brand known nationally for just red retros but rather for schools and sports of all sorts.
In a quarter where most companies reel after holiday shopping fatigue, Jordan Brand will move millions of units in just footwear but celebratory t-shirts and hats tied to Michigan’s wins in the Rose Bowl and National Championship.
All this begs the question: What’s the next entity to be like Mike and win it all in Air Jordan?
Like Michael Jordan himself, Jordan Brand beckoned individual accolades before attaining total team dominance.
Since MJ made the full-time transition from SG to CEO, Jordan Brand has hit home runs with athletes like Derek Jeter, Kawhi Leonard, and Maya Moore, all of whom have won Finals MVPs as Air Jordan ambassadors. In unendorsed fashion, standout collegiate athletes such as Richard Hamilton, Kemba Walker, and Anthony Davis have won NCAA Final Four MOP honors with Air Jordan sneakers on their feet.
Still, school and team-wide deals have proven to be the biggest builders regarding Jordan Brand’s expansion in the global apparel business.
Overseas, Jordan Brand has outfitted Paris Saint-Germain since 2018. Although the club has won numerous domestic titles since donning the Jumpman, an outright European championship evades them.
In racing, the Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin-owned 23XI racing team has high hopes of taking home the NASCAR Cup Series. Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick remain competitive around the track, but a Driver’s Championship count still sits at zero.
Like the Michigan Wolverines on Monday night, Jordan Brand’s best chance at tasting champagne is by way of its aggressive college sponsorship strategy.
Currently, the Michigan Wolverines, North Carolina Tar Heels, Florida Gators, Oklahoma Sooners, UCLA Bruins, Morehouse Tigers, Norfolk State Spartans, Houston Cougars, Cincinnati Bearcats, San Diego State Aztecs, Marquette Golden Eagles, Georgetown Hoyas, and Howard Bison all wear Jordan Brand in basketball competition.
Of that group, Michigan, North Carolina, Florida, Howard, and Oklahoma all lace up Jordan Brand for football. Heading into 2024, Oklahoma, Michigan, Florida, and North Carolina all have Top 40 recruiting classes.
Still, time and talent suggest that another natty on the hardwood could come first.
As of January 2024, the UCLA Bruins women’s basketball team and Houston Cougars men’s basketball team are both ranked No. 2 in the nation, respectively. The Lady Bruins have never won a national title, nor has Jordan Brand ever claimed top team honors in the women’s collegiate game. Led by Kiki Rice — Jordan Brand’s first NIL athlete — both notions could change come April.
On the men’s side, Jordan Brand currently claims a quarter of the Top 25 rankings in NCAA basketball. In a year where the field appears wide open, a school styled in Air Jordans could certainly run the table, with Houston, UCLA, and North Carolina all appearing in the Final Four in the last three seasons.
Theoretically, talent on the NCAA hardwood will, in some part, be fed by the likes of Link and Oak Hill Academy — both national champions on the high school level backed by Jordan Brand.
To start 2024, Jordan Brand proves brilliant beyond basketball by winning the college football championship.
Endorsing a school miles away from where the Bad Boys Pistons play and taking home the title in Texas, where football is king, nothing about Michael Jordan’s competitive appetite suggests he’s satisfied.
Coming off a year when Jordan Brand soared to No. 2 in the global sportswear market and amassed $6.6 billion in revenue, it’s a gigantic leap since the first steps taken during that Last Dance season.
Already tackling football and ascending in basketball, MJ’s love for golf, racing, baseball, and business continues to drive a billionaire who hasn’t hit the hardwood in over 20 years.
It’s another championship ring for the hero who retired with a handful.
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