The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Is Michael Jordan The Best Brand Guy In The World …


Basketball. Baseball. Movies. CEO. Icon.

As careers go, that’s pretty impressive.

But what is even more impressive is his competitiveness.

When I was working on his brand, we heard so many stories about this.

His relentless quest to succeed.

His insane focus and drive.

Of course, a lot of these tales have now become folklore as they became the backbone to many of his – and his brands – most famous ads … with ‘Failure’ probably being one of the most well known of them all.

And while it would be easy to brush all this off as marketing hype, the reality is they all represent Jordan at his core – his ability to reframe better than almost anyone – because he can one see one thing … the power in competitiveness.

Note this is different to winning.

Winning may be the goal, but how you get there is by being competitive.

This means you never take anything for granted.

This means you practice with the same intensity as if you’re in a game.

This means you don’t give an inch, regardless who the competition are.

This means you commit to being your best before your feet even hit the court.

It’s this approach that led us – when I was at Wieden Shanghai – to making a film in China to help kids see competitiveness as a good thing.

You see in China, while everyone knows the sheer amount of people there means you have to be competitive to stand any chance of getting ahead, culturally it is not seen as a good thing to openly talk about your ambitions.

Not because it’s a communist country – though there is a bit of that – but because it’s a country that likes to talk about harmony.

The ability to be balanced and together.

This meant kids were conflicted between acting with grace while feeling the pressure to be get ahead and we saw this tension as the perfect opportunity for Jordan – a man and a brand, built on performance – to help kids see the beauty in being competitive.

Not at the expense of destroying others, but the commitment to always be your best … never resting, never being satisfied, never losing the hunger to win.

And while some may think that is pretty one dimensional … I prefer to see it as believing in your ability to make a difference.

That with hard work, you can be noticed.

You may not win everything.

Hell, you may not win anything.

And the only guarantee is you will face challenges and hardship.

But with commitment, you can – at the very least – make it difficult for the ones who think their victory is inevitable.

And that in itself, is often the best victory of them all.

39 Comments so far
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Best businessman in basketball.

Comment by Bazza

Maybe Rob will know this, but I heard his take from Jordan sales is about a billion dollars a year.

Comment by George

He also has a reputation for being very tight with his money.

Comment by Pete

Ha. I heard that reputation too.

When I was in Las Vegas, I heard 2 stories. One about his tightness and the other about his destruction of the opposition.

The tightness story is he was playing cards for hours with Australian billionaire, Kerry Packer. After the game, Jordan tipped the croupier a chip worth $10 whereas Packer gave him enough chips to buy his house outright.

The competitive story is that he wanted fries at some early hour. He went to a restaurant to get some and they said it wasn’t time and he would have to go back. So he went to another cafe and while they too said it wasn’t time, they’d make them for him. So Jordan said he would tip them $10,000 as long as they go to the first place that turned him down and tell them what just happened.

Then, of course, there’s the time he went to a charity basketball game for a young child and thrashed the kids because his gift was being there, not letting them win. He’s THAT competitive. Ha.

Comment by Rob

They are good stories. But 10k for fries?

Comment by Bazza

Using a reputable search engine to find his net worth would suggest that this claim is BS.

Comment by John

Well I don’t know what he’s worth or what his deal with NIKE is, but I do know one year he got paid $900+ million dollars for his involvement in brand Jordan.

Comment by Rob

Then the reputable search engine which I consulted has generated dodgy information – do we know anyone who works there who can be held responsible for this fake news?

Comment by John

engines are fucking machines designed to move you forward. internet search is for the fucking lazy. calling something a search engine is like calling a dictionary a smart speller when we all fucking know you have to know how to spell the word to find it in the first fucking place.

Comment by andy@cynic

Failure is still one of the best ads ever made. Winning moment is good too. But it’s no failure.

Comment by Bazza

Failure is in my top 5 ads of all time.

Comment by George

Me too.

Comment by Pete

Let’s be honest, it’s the idea more than the execution, but my god – what an idea. I also love the pace of the ad. The temptation to make it higher energy must have been high – but that pace it perfectly, because they let Jordan’s voice dictate it not the game.

Comment by Rob

Funny thing about the Jordan China ad is after it was made, I went on a family holiday to Sardinia. One day I saw loads of police around and I was a bit unsettled. Then the tall guy (even though he wasn’t by typical basketball standards) came into view with his entourage. It was Jordan and the extra police presence was for his protection.

Anyway Otis started running towards him. Everyone watched as they were in shock Michael Jordan was in a sleepy Italian village. So I went to get him and Jordan sees me and looks confused as he had seen me in Shanghai about 2 weeks earlier.

I’m sure he has had stalkers before. But international ones? With kids? Hahaha.

Comment by Rob

Wait. Otis met MJ? That kid has a better life than me.

Comment by Bazza

Maybe not a better life but achieved more. ; )

Comment by Pete


Comment by Bazza

I love the background to the Jordan China ad. The complexity of the culture and your ability to see it and then make sense of it reminds me why you were so successful there.

Comment by George

I know China is different to Singapore, but when I look back at the time I lived there and then read the insights Rob has about Chinese culture, I know why I wasn’t based in Asia for a long time.

Comment by Pete

Oh you did fine Pete.

But it is a complex market and that’s why I loved it. I had to relearn everything I knew – but then so did the locals, given all the immense and intense change that was happening there.

Comment by Rob

Do you think insight is still true in China Rob? I only ask because you once told me China has generational shifts in attitude every few years.

Comment by Pete

How do you have generational change in a few years? Do people grow older faster there?

Comment by Bazza

I think it was about China getting exposed to so many new opportunities, technology and money as the country opened up it changed attitudes in a way that was similar to generational change. Rob?

Comment by Pete

That’s it exactly Pete.

The economic, cultural, technological impact on the country was so vast and fundamental it created a new generation every few years. At least in terms of attitude, ambition and cultural context – which, when you think of it, is all generational change really is.

As for your question, no – it wouldn’t work now. China is – or at least it was prior to Coronavirus – going through another period of confidence and ambition.

Unlike the last time that happened – post Beijing games in 2008 – this wasn’t over-ambition, almost bordering on arrogance (with the famous story of Li Ning, the Chinese sports brand, opening in Portland as an attempt to ‘intimidate’ Nike) this was about believing in their own possibilities and capabilities.

Personally that was wonderful to see. Every country should have faith in themselves as long as their is a respect for those around them.

Comment by Rob

Thanks Rob.

Comment by Pete

You still give me more insight into China than any of the research decks I get sent. You should start your own research company Rob. You would make a fortune. Or I should say “another fortune”.

Comment by George

I might have to if coronavirus lasts 6 months more. Ha.

Comment by Rob

You and the rest of the world Rob.

Comment by Pete

otis is a better blagger than his dad. thats like winning an olympic gold, nobel peace prize and the world cup in the same fucking week.

Comment by andy@cynic

I will cheer when Otis blags more than his old man.

Comment by DH

An excellent post Robert. I particularly like the stories in the comments.

Comment by Lee Hill

The comments always save the posts.

Comment by John

its not for anyfuckingthing else is it.

Comment by andy@cynic

ive lived in fucking america for 20 years and i still hate basketball, baseball and their shit version of football.

Comment by andy@cynic

That is deportation talk right there.

Comment by DH

Impressive amount of comments. MJ is still the king.

Comment by George

Greatest to ever do it

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