Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping…into the future! As it slips, let us not forget the GOAT – Michael Jordan. The Hall of Famer has carved out a legacy that goes beyond just his 6 NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls, brief stint with the Washington Wizards, and retired #23 jersey.

Without a doubt, Michael Jordan is his own brand. How does this even happen? What makes a person so influential that they can almost be trademarked? Let’s dive into the fascinating story behind the Jordan brand.

When Did Jordan Become Its Own Brand?

When Nike approached Michael Jordan to create a line of gym shoes, it totally changed the world forever. Seemingly overnight, Jordan become his own brand. It’s hard not to when your likeness is being used as a logo, which in this case, is the iconic Jumpman.

By 1997, the Jordan Brand was a standalone subsidiary for Nike. At the time, the company was still trying to carve out its place in sportswear, competing with the likes of Converse and Adidas. Eventually, the Jordan Brand went on to surpass sales from both lines of footwear.

Overall, Jordan’s partnership with Nike has to be one of the greatest brand collaborations of all time. After they signed their $250,000 endorsement deal, Nike saw its sales increase by 17%.

How Did Michael Jordan Become a Brand?

Air Jordans were the most influential in turning Michael Jordan into a brand. However, the legendary athlete also carved out his own place in advertising history with many other projects.

Here are the most influential moments in Michael Jordan branding history!

Air Jordan

Air Jordans

The first pair of Air Jordans came out in 1984. The iconic Jumpan logo, which looks like Michael flying in for a slam dunk, appeared on the third edition of the shoes. It was created by Tinker Hatfield, an American artist who went on to design over 30 shoes for the brand.


bowl of Wheaties

You know you’ve made it as a sports superstar if you’re on the front of a Wheaties box. Jordan achieved this superstar status for the first time in 1988. He ended up being on the box 19 times, which is more than any other athlete.



Michael Jordan has been the spokesman for Hanes since 1989. To celebrate the 30th anniversary, the clothing brand released limited edition promotional trading cards featuring Jordan in all his Hanes ads over the years.



Gatorade is the official sports drink for all professional leagues. In 1991, they also earned their place in pop culture history with the “Be Like Mike” ad campaign. This simple slogan helped further catapult Jordan to stardom.



Move over, Big Mac! McDonald’s added the McJordan burger to their menu in 1992. This special edition BBQ bacon cheeseburger was a crowd favorite, so much so, that one man reportedly paid $10,000 for just the sauce on eBay in 2012!

Space Jam

Space Jam

Almost every millennial has fond feelings for the original Space Jam, released in 1996. This family-friendly movie pairs the legendary basketball star with the Looney Tunes. It was a huge hit, earning over $250 million at the worldwide box office.

Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte Hornets

In 2010, Michael Jordan bough the Charlotte Hornets for $175 million. It just goes to show that despite all his endorsements, he’ll never stop loving basketball!



Jordan took on the role of special adviser and took out an equity stake in DraftKings in 2020. The shares for the betting app rose 6% right after the announcement.

Cincoro Tequila

who invented cincoro tequila

If Michael Jordan wasn’t busy enough, he also added booze to his legacy. In 2016, the all-star joined Emilia Fazzalari to start Cincoro Tequila, an alcoholic drink that contains imported plants from Mexico.

The Last Dance

The Last Dance documentary Chicago

Millions of viewers tuned in to watch “The Last Dance” on Netflix. This TV mini series charts the Chicago Bulls’ meteoric rise to fame in the 1990s, and Jordan’s undeniable role in the team’s success.

What is the History of Air Jordan?

history of Air Jordans

The Air Jordan I was released by Nike in 1984. In one of the biggest “whoops” in advertising history, Adidas passed on this line of shoes, claiming that Michael Jordan was too short and that taller players were more marketable.

At the time, Adidas was working with 7’2” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on their own shoes. They simply couldn’t fathom using a “pipsqueak” like Jordan (6”6”) the face of their brand. Boy, was that a mistake!

Air Jordan is now the most iconic shoe brand ever created. This timeline shows you key moments in the company’s history.

1984 Air Jordan I

1984: The first pair of Air Jordans was released by Nike – the Air Jordan 1. $126 million was earned on these shoes in the first year alone.

1985 Air Jordan II

1985: Michael Jordan wore red, black, and white Air Jordan II’s on the court. He was reportedly fined $5,000 for every game he wore them since the NBA required athletes to wear all-white shoes at the time.

Air Jordan III Jumpman logo

1988: At the NBA All-Star Weekend Dunk Championship, Jordan wowed the crowd with a slam dunk taken off from the free-thro line. He had a pair of Air Jordan 3’s on his feet, and this iconic moment inspired the Jumpman logo.

1989 Air Jordans in Do the Right Thing

1989: In Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, a character is seen wearing a pair of Air Jordans. This was the first time the shoe line appeared on the big screen.

Air Jordans Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

1990 – 1996: Will Smith’s character in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” was frequently seen wearing the “White Grape” – a pair of Air Jordans with a shiny, white, turquoise, and purple color palette.

1996 Hare Jordan campaign

1996: To help promote Space Jam, Nike released the Air Jordan 7 with a Bugs Bunny front and center in the campaign, cleverly named “Hare Jordan.”

Air Jordans NBA 2K11

2010: Players could be seen wearing Air Jordans in the video game, NBA 2K11. 5.5 million copies of the game sold worldwide.

Air Jordans Sneakerheadz documentary

2015: The documentary Sneakerheadz was released. It features collectors who are obsessed with their Air Jordans.

Air Jordans Fortnite

2021: The Air Jordan XI in Cool Grey was available as a skin in the popular video game, Fortnite.

Does Michael Jordan Own His Brand?

Michael Jordan doesn’t own his brand, but he does get a cut of Nike’s revenue. This equates to about 5% royalty for every pair of Air Jordans sold, or roughly $10 to $15 per shoe.

Stats About Michael Jordan Branding

  • According to Forbes, Michael Jordan is worth over $2 billion.

  • Air Jordan makes up 11% of Nike’s overall sales, bringing in an estimated $3.6 billion each year.

  • 3 women in Florida have the world’s largest collection of Air Jordans with over 6,000 pairs.

  • In the early 1990s, Michael Jordan made an estimated $30 million a year on endorsement deals.

  • An original Michael Jordans Wheaties box sells for as much as $73.

  • Gatorade signed a 10-year deal with Michael Jordan, averaging $1.4 million annually.

  • The McJordan meal cost $3.59 at McDonald’s.

  • Space Jam earned $27.5 million in 2,650 theaters on its opening night.

  • 6 million copies of the Space Jam soundtrack sold, making it one of the bestselling movie soundtracks ever created. It went on to go 6x Platinum.

  • Over 23 million people watched “The Last Dance” on Netflix.

Why is Michael Jordan So Successful?

Michael Jordan statue in front of the United Center

Michael Jordan is more than just a pro athlete. He’s a capable and influential businessman who has made a ton of smart investments. Every decision, from partnering with Nike to starring with Bugs Bunny, has helped to shape American culture, especially in Chicago.

It’s no small feat. Michael Jordan is successful because he worked hard, made good choices, and was willing to take risks. He’s not one who takes losses easily, and that “play to win” mentality has made him one of the greatest entrepreneurs to ever have played the business game. We can all benefit from being “like Mike.”


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