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WILL MARKETERS BE IN THE RED OR BLACK AFTER MJ'S RETIREMENT?
Published January 13, 1999
Analysts and sponsors "insist" the impact of Michael Jordan's retirement "will feel more like a tremor than a quake," according to Walker & Weinbach of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Fortune Magazine has "estimated" that the Jordan "juggernaut" has generated $10B in sales "ranging from" TV ads to merchandise to ticket sales, but "analysts estimate" that Jordan "still will generate more than" $500M in revenues this year, "in part" because he still has 10-year deals with many sponsors. Chicago-based Burns Sports Celebrity President Bob Williams said that Jordan's retirement "could have an upside for some companies, because he will have more time to devote to his role as a pitchman." While some feel Jordan's "long roster of sponsors ... may suffer," an MCI WorldCom spokesperson said that the company's "long-term relationship with [Jordan] will continue to grow" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/13). WILL THE BULL CONTINUE TO RUN ...: In N.Y., Stuart Elliott writes that many execs feel Jordan "could remain a commanding presence in campaigns for consumer products." DDB Needham Chicago Vice Chair Bob Scarpelli: "He's more than an athlete, he's a cultural icon, so associated with our lives and times." MCI WorldCom spokesperson Brad Burns: "Michael Jordan the brand is much bigger than Michael Jordan the basketball player. He doesn't have to be in a sports setting." MN-based Fallon McElligott Creative Dir David Lubars: "Advertisers will still want to use him because he has transcended sport." IN-based CMG Worldwide Chair Mark Roesler: "You're looking at another Babe Ruth" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/13). Gatorade U.S. President Sue Wellington, who said that her company "plans to feature" Jordan in its ads despite his retirement: "It's not about what he is doing, but who he is" (AP, 1/13). L.A.-based Sports Business Group Principal David Carter said Jordan will continue to be a valuable spokesperson. Carter: "He transcends sports, and he transcends race. He can continue to capitalize on that." Gatorade spokesperson P.J. Sinopoli: "A sweaty Michael Jordan is not an image that is going to fade from consumers' minds too quickly" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/13). ESPN's Michelle Stark: "Companies ... aren't anticipating the Michael mystique to fade away just because he's retired." Deutsch Inc. Chair & CEO Donny Deutsch: "There's a reason why Mick Jagger still tours at sixty. We're not going to let Jordan go, because we don't want to let him go and he's smart enough to be able to capitalize on that" (ESPN, 1/12). ...OR DO NO HOOPS MEAN NO SALES? Schulman/Advanswers N.Y. Exec VP Tom DeCabia: "Unless Jordan gets into sports announcing or commentary, and keeps a high profile associated with his game, his marketability fades in faster than five years" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/12). TX-based The Marketing Arm Managing Partner Ray Clark: "Like any brand, you have to get your message out. Jordan's message has been, 'I'm the best.' If that becomes, 'I used to be the best,' he will see a significant drop in endorsement income -- not this year or next year but within five years." Rick Burton, Dir of the Univ of OR's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center: "When he's no longer in uniform, the companies he's going to endorse will have to put the message out through paid advertising. The free marketing he gets from the media now disappears" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/13). WHO'S NEXT? USA TODAY's Bruce Horovitz examines the type of athlete who could replace Jordan: "The next superstar who shines in Jordan's marketing light will likely have to break some sort of barrier. Or represent something that touches consumers far beyond the sports world." Horovitz writes that "marketer gurus project" that a "female phenom" or a "global star" could become the "sports world's next marketing wonder" (USA TODAY, 1/13). Pro Player President Doug Kelly: "The Bulls and Michael Jordan were between 30 and 40 percent of our NBA-licensed apparel business. Without a focus on Michael, it ought to mean other teams and players will emerge" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/13). BLOOMBERG's Pete Coates writes that Champion "is viewing Jordan's retirement as [an] opportunity to promote the game's younger players," such as T-Wolves F Kevin Garnett and Lakers G Kobe Bryant. Champion Licensed Marketing Exec Dir Bill Kraus: "It will open the opportunity for other players to assume the throne." Starter spokesperson Robin Wexler: "There's an opportunity now for the next group of Michael Jordan's to come out" (BLOOMBERG, 1/12). FOR MORE ON JORDAN, SEE (#2), (#5), (#9).