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The Business and Backstory of J Balvin’s Air Jordan 2 Collaboration

The Columbian superstar subverts the shoe’s Italian origins for a fun-filled foray set for September. Like any energy release, there’s much more at play than simply shutting down SNKRS.

Over the course of 2022, Jordan Brand has continued to put numbers on the board.

J Balvin attends Michael Rubin’s MLBPA x Fanatics party at City Market Social House on July 18, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)

From lacing Eminem with “Air Shady” exclusives on the Super Bowl stage to Travis Scott sequels that set off the summer, the MJ empire has stayed relevant in modern pop culture by redressing retro favorites from the ’80s.

As seasons change, the brand will make more noise thanks to its second collaboration with reggaeton superstar J Balvin.

Following the success of Balvin’s spirited Air Jordan 1 High from December 2020, this linear launch sees Spotify’s star streamer updating Bruce Kilgore’s classic with LED lights and above-the-clouds coloring.

So, why is this shoe more than just another date on the loaded release calendar and what does it signal beyond exorbitant resale rates?

Boardroom explores the bigger business intentions and impact of Jordan Brand blessing the Colombian crooner with his second set of sneakers.

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First Steps

Blossoming into a singer over the course of the ’00s and into the 2010s, Balvin began to carve out his lane and sound as an artist.

While recording in Miami, he went to storied sneaker boutique Shoe Gallery where he was introduced to Mike “Upscale Vandal” Camargo. Camargo, a fashionable fellow Colombian and employee of RocNation, began building with Balvin as his star rose in the mid-2010s.

Jennifer Lopez and J Balvin perform during the halftime show of Super Bowl LIV (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

Highly networked in the worlds of high fashion and streetwear, Camargo connected Balvin to Jordan Brand brass.

First came Reggie Saunders, a legend in the entertainment marketing space, and next Frank Cooke, the decorated designer behind much of JB’s best energy product that decade.

Though the vibes proved immaculate among all involved in early conversations, the artist still had to prove his passion to MJ himself when it came to a proper collaboration.

“It took us two years,” Balvin told Marco Henry Negrete in 2020 for an interview on the Air Jordan Journal.

With Cooke seeing the vision and Saunders seeding the product, Balvin met with Mike and his wife in France to pitch the project in person.

“I got to meet MJ when I was on tour in Paris,” Balvin continued to Negrete. “We just vibed and talked for hours. I told him ‘Boss, we need to make this happen. This is the right moment.’ He was so nice about it. He made the phone call immediately and was like, ‘It’s done.’”

Not only was it done, it was different.

Though the Air Jordan 1 High was wrecking shop in Chicago colorways and muted menswear palettes, Balvin broke all convention by reconstructing the upper with tie-dye canvas, cloud-shaped construction, and velcro patch customization.

While Travis Scott had reversed the Swoosh and Virgil Abloh had deconstructed the classic, Balvin brought new vivaciousness to the wearable relic — enough to potentially put off purists.

“I didn’t want to go this loud, but everybody went right so I wanted to go left,” Balvin admitted on Full Size Run in 2020. “We got out of the comfort zone. This was my first shot so I didn’t want it to be just one more Jordan 1.”

Like Justin Timberlake and La Flame before him and the Real Slim Shady after, J Balvin broke out his elusive Air Jordans on the Super Bowl stage. Months later they landed at retail around the world, going nuts online and in the aftermarket. The tropical take that Balvin, Camargo, Cooke, and Saunders concocted shook the market for Air Jordan 1s while also expanding it.

“We’re writing a new story, a new history because it’s the first time a Latino is doing this as an artist,” Balvin continued on FSR. “For this story, I needed people to start understanding our culture and our sound with this first collab. This story’s different.”

To the narrow-minded, the new story may not have made sense. As hard as it is for some to get their head around Air Jordans changing shape and sentiment, Balvin broke even greater ground by becoming the first Latin American artist with his own pair. If the idea doesn’t add up to the old way of thinking, trust, the math makes sense for those behind the marketing.

J Balvin x Air Jordan 1 (photo by J Balvin)

In 2022, J Balvin boasts 52.8 million Instagram followers — more than twice as many as Michael Jordan’s namesake company.

Not only is Balvin’s international reach outlandish, his fun and fluid style appeals to numerous nationalities and identities.

Thus, his wearable artwork possesses mass appeal even if the masses must compete to click “Add to Cart” in what’s become the new lottery.

“In one minute? They were gone,” Balvin said on FSR when discussing his first Jordan drop.

While releasing a tie-dye collaboration with J Balvin may have been a calculated risk in 2020, it’s a surefire seller in 2022. This time around, the two parties are doubling down, raising the stakes on an underappreciated pair from Michael’s past. Once again, it might not make sense to those that saw MJ win his first Dunk Contest title but don’t dance to reggaeton.

Once again, it makes more sense than one would think.

The Boy From Medellin & the Man Who Could Fly

Imagine fans flocking from all over the world just to see you perform. Whether showcasing your craft or catching a cab, an audience of all ages absolutely loses it just by seeing you exist. That’s what it’s like for J Balvin and Michael Jordan.

Ironic as it sounds, ‘Imagination’ was the original nickname and design brief for the Air Jordan 2.

With pairs of the original Air Jordan 1 flying off shelves because they made kids think they too could fly like Mike, Air Force 1 technician Kilgore and Air Jordan 1 auteur Peter Moore put their heads together to make something even more aspirational than the original.

(Photo by Andy Hayt/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

To do so, they flew to Italy.

“There was higher quality leather to choose from,” Kilgore told Boardroom in August.

“The craft, shape, and fitting of those shoes?The blending of high-quality materials with really good pattern engineering? You really got a superior shoe.”

Working on America’s most-anticipated sequel since The Empire Strikes Back, Nike’s creative brass sketched sneakers and pounded pasta while the Air Jordan 1 remained a fixture at retail back home in the US.

“At the time, Michael had around 1 million units between men’s, boys, KOs, and infant sizes,” Brad Johnson, former Head of Category at Nike Basketball, told Boardroom.

“The average shoe at that point in time was about 60,000 or 70,000 units so it was about 10 to 20x the volume. But the Air Jordan 2 was really the change of the paradigm of what a basketball shoe could look like.”

Working with Italian mold makers and eventual Nike CEO Mark Parker, Kilgore crafted a sleek sneaker that spoke to elevation both athletically and aesthetically. It was a work of art, unlike anything Nike had made at that time.

On Nov. 1. 1986, fresh off a foot injury and a playoff performance dubbed by Larry Bird as ‘God disguised as Michael Jordan,’ the healthy hero was embarking on a new season in New York City. Opening up the 1986-87 NBA campaign in what’s now known as the Air Jordan 2, MJ hit the Knicks for 50 points, setting the tone for a season where he’d average 37.1 points per night.

By that time, a young Jose Balvin was beginning to walk, talk, and sing. While hip-hop and house music moved New York City and Chicago clubs in the mid-to-late 1980s, performers in Panama and Puerto Rico were beginning to merge sounds ranging from rap to dancehall, defining a genre all their own: reggaetón.

In the years that followed, Balvin became an artist and MJ became the GOAT. Soon, the Colombian kid moved to America in pursuit of a career. By the early ’00s, Mike’s legacy was solidified, retiring with six championship rings and heading up his own company. In time, reggaetón rose from favored sound of Latin America to the music that moves the world.

“Regatone before was more of a local thing between Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Panama,” Balvin noted on FSR. “Now it’s really a global thing, our numbers are global, we’re Top 3 most listened artists on the planet.”

Reaching an audience wider than Eminem, Travis Scott, or Justin Timberlake before him, the J Balvin x Jordan Brand partnership proved just how big reggaetón has become in current culture. While Balvin has brought the familiar sound of Latin America into households in both hemisphere, he’s also been able to apply pressure on his footwear partner to provide pairs to the place he calls home.

“These countries that they call ’emerging countries,’ they gave the last lot to them,” Balvin said on FSR when discussing his Air Jordan 1 collab. “Now it’s different. People from the States flew to Columbia!”

J Balvin x Air Jordan 1 (photo by Nike)

With the Air Jordan 1 — arguably the most-sought after model on the market even in modern times — Balvin was thrown a lob, even if he took a chance by throwing down a windmill. Online and in the wild, the first pair between both entities proves a head-turner.

“A week ago, I was walking SoHo in New York, and I see a guy in my Air Jordans, which are really hard to get, and he had one of the pieces from my first GUESS collection,” Balvin told Boardroom in May. “And he wasn’t looking for me! He was just walking around in the streets. So, I’m the one who stops him and says, ‘It’s so cool to see you rocking what we do and what we love.’ It makes me as happy as when I see someone in a car blasting my music or playing my song in a nightclub.”

Serving their own sequel with the Air Jordan 2, the two parties double-down on the initial risk by upping the ante on the price of a slightly slept-on model. Even if MJ was leading the league in scoring while playing in the Italian-made shoe, the avant-garde design and high MSRP made them all a bit much for many.

“This was a shoe ahead of its time,” Moore once wrote in his design portfolio. “Today, the shoes are collector’s items.”

Playing Tag

Working with J Balvin is all about fun, joy, and spreading love. His infectious energy expands beyond his sonics into his every interaction and even the fabric he puts on. Such is seen by the bold and bright colors that canvas his GUESS capsule collections and out-of-the-ordinary Air Jordans.

Because of the weight his name holds and the material makeovers each collab calls for, Jordan Brand has been able to play with the price tag on each pair he’s put out. For example, his 2020 Air Jordan 1 High makeup retailed for $190 despite inline iterations previously priced at $170. By Holiday 2022, inline Air Jordan 1 Highs will reportedly jump in MSRP to $180.

Most of this has to do with demand, and some of it has to do with inflation. Either way, energy projects like those attached to Balvin condition consumers to be more comfortable paying higher rates on SNKRS based on resale rates seen on StockX.

With J Balvin’s upcoming Air Jordan 2, the sticker price is said to start at an eye-catching $300.

As the brand builds off the back of Virgil’s coveted collaboration from 2021 and 2022 takes tied to Union, A Ma Maniere, Maison Château Rouge, and Nina Chanel Abney, the aim is to position the Air Jordan 2 as a luxury fashion fixture. Historically, this is fair as Kilgore and Moore not only went all the way to Italy to produce the original pairs in 1986, they priced them at $100.

In doing so, they totally reset the base rate for Air Jordan to three figures. Previously, the AJ1 started at an affordable $65.

“The Air Jordan 1 sold a lot of shoes in New York no doubt, but it was the Air Jordan 2 that really set that model apart and gained ferocious acceptance with hip hop heads and ballplayers in New York,” Bobbito Garcia wrote in Where’d You Get Those.

“It was the first Nike basketball shoe that didn’t even have the long Swoosh on the upper. Even connoisseurs who rejected the shoe because of its popularity had to applaud its design.”

While the Air Jordan 2 was revered by core consumers in the late-80s, it hasn’t packed the same punch over the course of its retro life. In the mid-90s, AJ2 bring-backs in both low and mid-top form sat on shelves. By the early 00s, the classic appeal had come full circle, though craftsmanship took a holiday.

Historically, Jordan Brand could sell through on AJ2s, but not with the same fever or passion as seen by the AJ11 or AJ3.

via Nike

However, in recent decades the Air Jordan 2 hasn’t had near the casual cache it does now. The perfectly played positioning of the AJ2 in 2022 has previous pairs — all collaborations — rolling out for $225 to $250 a pop. This all climaxes with this September’s style designed by Balvin coming in at $300. From there, inline iterations — namely the OG “Chicago” colorway — will release at retail to a more mass audience.

This means a lot when making the Air Jordan 2 a mass-market cash cow. Over the course of the 2010s, Air Jordan 2s started anywhere from $120 to $190. Most makeups had trouble selling through at that price with even fewer fetching over retail in the short stint after. Even the lauded range of Don C x Air Jordan 2s in the mid-2010s turned heads, yet couldn’t raise the tide for all subsequent styles.

More measured with maturity, Jordan Brand has the plan down pat this decade. With November 2021’s Off-White x Air Jordan 2 Low, Jordan Brand began resetting the perception on the secondary silo, and with September 2022’s J Balvin x Air Jordan 2 High they cap off that mission.

Yet, it’s with December’s OG “Chicago” launch and subsequent inline colorways after that the masterplan will yield the highest bottom line return. As of now, the model’s Dec. 30, 2022 release starts at an adjusted price of $200. From there, more mid-top takes are expected to release at the same rate with low-top launches following in 2023, taking the 2 into spring.

Not only did Jordan Brand bring out its top-tier influencers when resetting the franchise’s second signature in price, they also brought in Balvin to get all audiences on board.

Bend it Like Balvin

When it comes to fashion icons in 2022, few speak to as broad of a fan base as J Balvin.

Sheer streaming numbers aside, Balvin’s fun, fluid, and loud style seed adaptation from all nationalities and genders. Like Mike, Balvin is bigger than any identifiers epitomized by a Census, connecting to consumers in a mass manner simply by being such a relatable yet aspirational individual.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about expression,” Balvin told Boardroom back in May when speaking on his GUESS collection. “Fashion is how you talk about yourself without speaking. Music and fashion are really related because they’re both art. The fact that we have this global reach? It helps us to spread more peace and love, so it’s a total success.”

via Nike
via Nike

As Balvin brings out his second collaboration with Air Jordan, fans from Colombia to Chicago will enter raffles, call in favors, and pay a premium just to feel like the boy from Medellin. Both securing a W or taking an L on SNKRS will only add to the fever of the “Chicago” colorway as it returns to cap off another banner year for Brand Jordan.

As Nike, Inc. angles to make the SNKRS App an apparel destination on top of being the place to get the latest and greatest footwear drops, Balvin’s international audience is expected to turn out in even bigger numbers than the first time when it comes to both clothes and kicks.

If recent history is any indication, his second Jordan Brand collaboration will not be his last.

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