Starting this summer, Nike for the first time will extend the Jordan line of basketball shoes and apparel into other sports. The first product will be a cross-training shoe under the Jordan Brand, handled by Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore. Baseball, football, running and tennis products also are being considered.
"Nike started as a running company and then grew into a number of other categories," said Larry Miller, president of the Jordan division at Nike. "We think we have the same opportunity starting with basketball and expanding into other sports as a true sports brand."
Life after Michael Jordan's basketball career is as key an issue for Nike as it is for the National Basketball Association and its TV partners. Some 5% of all Nike revenue, about $370 million, comes from Mr. Jordan's line of basketball shoes and apparel.
AN IMAGE TRANSCENDING SPORTS
And like most of Mr. Jordan's business partners, Nike believes the superstar's brand image transcends sports and will be viable long after his basketball career has ended.
"We have the most recognized person in the world," Mr. Miller said. "His appeal transcends sports, gender, race and age. We think that appeal is going to continue into the future."
It will be a slightly different appeal, though. Nike expects to alter the ways in which it markets the Jordan Brand now that the Chicago Bull has hung up his uniform for the second -- and probably final -- time.
"We are looking at marketing more Michael the person," Mr. Miller said. "Things like hard work and dedication, excellence and being prepared. It's not focusing on whether he can score 40 points -- it's the characteristics that made Michael able to score 40 points."
Other marketing executives agree the Jordan brand has considerable staying power.
"His name as a brand will not only go well beyond his playing career but beyond his life span," said Tom George, senior VP-athlete marketing for sports marketing agency Advantage International.
Some products, Mr. George said, won't perform as well over the long term.
In particular, he pointed to licensed products such as Michael Jordan lunch boxes and backpacks, noting that fickle kids are constantly shifting their loyalties.
Baby boomers are the demographic that most identifies with the 35-year-old Mr. Jordan, Mr. George said, and that could create new endorsement opportunities down the road in such areas as insurance and financial services.
Mr. Jordan virtually singlehandedly created the modern sports marketing industry and transformed the role of celebrity endorsers. Forbes has estimated his annual endorsement income at $45 million, the highest of any pro athlete.
And with multiyear deals from Nike, General Mills, MCI WorldCom, Quaker Oats Co.'s Gatorade, Rayovac Corp. and Sara Lee Corp.'s Hanes, Mr. Jordan will continue to be the frontman for a range of consumer product companies for at least the next 10 years.
Analysts estimated his endorsements generate $500 million in sales for the companies he represents.
"Thirty years from now, he'll still be one of the top five sport endorsers,"