A Financial Supernova in Sneakers Jordan Alters Landscape in Sports Marketing

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Alesia Daily Herald Sports Feature Writer

Basketball isn't enough anymore. Michael Jordan wins all the time. So the game has become something else: Guess the sports supernova's influence on the economy.

"He has challenged writers all across the country for his entire career," Jan Hubbard wrote in his recent book about the Bulls, "Six Times As Sweet."

"How many different ways can you write that a man is great?"

Not enough, apparently.

So economists and business writers are stepping up.

Survey the landscape of their assessments of Jordan, and you find that not everything he touches turns to gold. But his impact is enormous. Fortune magazine made the biggest splash, with its estimate that Jordan was worth $10 billion to the world economy. And the writers seemed concerned that they had been, of all things, too conservative.

"We know, we know," they wrote. "There are plenty of dollars we overlooked."

A reporter for the Indianapolis Star took off for the mall in an attempt to assess how much it would cost to fully outfit oneself in Mike gear. The answer: $581 to $1,000, depending on whether you went for the high-end merchandise.

But the paper found that not everyone is a big fan.

"There's no need for anyone to pay $150 for shoes," said Adrienne Edwards of Indianapolis, mother of an 8-year-old daughter. "I think that is all he's about: money."

A Chicago newspaper, in an editorial, credited Jordan with nothing less than urban renewal.

"The growing revival of the New West Side is largely attributable to Jordan as the star attraction of the champion Bulls," the paper said.

Jordan's image, which fuels the marketing mania, is impeccable, perhaps too much so to be real. But it has endured a gambling scandal and rumors - unsubstantiated - of marital discord. Ever since agent David Falk signed up Jordan with Nike during his rookie year and insisted the company spend $1 million promoting Air Jordan shoes, Jordan has taken off to previously uncharted marketing heights.

The Fortune article took readers all over the sports marketing map, and then farther, as it assessed Jordan's effect on various revenue-producing categories since he came into the league in 1984-85. …