What’s In A Name?

What’s In A Name?

Mr. Michael Jordan


What’s In A Name?
By Hermene D. Hartman

“If you want the Hope Diamond, you have to buy the Hope Diamond.”

This is a direct quote from Michael Jordan’s attorney, Frederick Sperling. And he is only serious. Michael is the Hope Diamond in the field of endorsements, so says his attorney. Mr. Jordan, as you probably know by now, just won $8.9 million from Dominick's, because they didn't have permission to use his likeness.

Watching the court case of Michael Jordan is a world-class lesson on branding. Jordan, of course, is the former Chicago Bulls basketball player and the greatest NBA player ever. He retired from the game twice and Number 23 is now the principal owner of the Charlotte Hornets.

His agent, David Falk, says, Jordan “is the best known celebrity in the world.” Falk’s job is to promote the Michael Jordan brand, sell the Michael Jordan brand, defend the Michael Jordan brand and protect the Michael Jordan brand.

Jordan’s price tag for an endorsement begins at $10 million. He has made far more money off the court in endorsements than playing on the court with his positive, all-American branding. In this court case against Dominick’s Foods being held in Chicago, it has been revealed that Nike paid MJ $480.7 million, Gatorade $18 million, Hanes $14.5 million and Upper Deck $14 million. Last year, Big Mike took in over $100 million in product endorsements.

So, there is a lucrative life after the basketball court for Mike. The popularity of fame, the popularity of celebrity, pays. Solid, clean images pay big. The “Mike” name means something. It stands for something. It represents quality, winning and being a champion. This is contrary to many of the names we see today endorsing products, which is one reason Michael pulls in such big bucks.

Michael has protected his good name in his endorsement enterprises. Lending his name commercially to sell consumer products is big business. Usually, his name is bigger than the company itself, so his name becomes a real asset for them. He is paid handsomely for the use of his name. Whatever Michael Jordan said, or Michael Jordan did, or Michael is wearing, or Michael is holding, results in sales.

Jordan doesn't agree to or allow, small one-time deals. That's not how the Jordan brand works.

Mr. Americano


MJ is one of the world's best athletes and best names.

Jordan has been very careful over the last 31 years as he has “sold” his name and perfected his brand to be very clear on the companies he has aligned himself with. He is the perfect athlete and has represented exclusively “all American brands.”

No liquor. No cigarettes. No hot dogs. The Jordan endorsement with sports giant Nike is classic advertising representation. Look at McDonald’s, Nike and Hanes. Michael and company is protective of his brand, because it is valued. He has sued other companies before who have misused his name on watches and colognes. Michael’s branding strategy is simple: you want to use my good name, you pay me for it.

I was sorry to see Dominick’s go out of business. It was a nice company that employed local residents, supported local events and was an overall good Chicago corporate citizen.

Somebody in Dominick’s advertising ranks, probably in a moment of celebration intending to express goodwill and cheer, used Michael’s reputation incorrectly. In a 2009 print ad in a Sports Illustrated issue commemorating Jordan’s selection to the basketball Hall of Fame, they used Jordan’s likeness and his magic number 23 to sell steaks.

They attached $2 off coupons to the ad that said “Michael Jordan…you are a cut above.” Jordan’s suit says the ad basically used his name, likeness and jersey number without his permission or payment. Only two coupons from the ad were redeemed, which is an advertising failure, especially for a big company using a big name.

Jewel-Osco did a similar thing in an ad in the same issue of Sports Illustrated.Both companies were offered free ads by the magazine in return for agreeing to stock the issue of the publication in their stores. It, too, used Jordan’s likeness to insinuate he endorsed Jewel-Osco, and Jordan is suing them, too, in a case set for December.

The Moral of the Story. . .


His names means champion.

The lesson of the story here is to protect your good name. What does your name mean, becomes a quality question. What does your name mean and what does it translate to? What is the value of your name and what can your name produce?

This is the brand, the quality, that Jordan is protecting. In this digital age, where tweets, Facebook postings, photos and the like are instant and constant on the Internet, have the rules changed?

Some of the pundits have criticized Jordan’s team over this suit, saying it is much ado about nothing and that Jordan should either ignore it or spank their hands, but not sue them since he already has so much money.

Jordan went to court seeking $10 million in damages from Dominick’s and his reps said all that money would go to charity. The point, here, Mike’s agent David Falk says, is that Team Jordan doesn’t agree to or allow small, one-time deals because they weaken his value and would erode what he gets from the big boys.

Dominick’s lawyers, by the way, say the “23 steak ad” was not worth $10 million. Regardless of how much they think it was worth, they were wrong to use his brand incorrectly and he has to protect it.

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