By Roy L. Pickering Jr.
It was a no brainer for Nike, Gatorade and other sports related companies to latch onto the star that is Michael Jordan. Consumers could almost reasonably conclude that in order to lead a team to six NBA championships while topping the league in scoring at will, it just had to be the shoes, or perhaps the beverage. As for buyers who knew better, they understood that while wearing a number 23 Chicago Bulls jersey probably wouldn’t improve their game much, it would at least make them look more impressive while putting up air balls.
As Mike neared basketball retirement, his expanding endorsement career disregarded boundaries. Corporate America banked on the notion that people were not content merely to wish they could soar above the rim like him. They would want to dial long distance, eat Big Macs, and wear underwear like him too. This assumption paid off. In 1998, Fortune magazine estimated Jordan’s impact on the economy to be $10 billion, with $701 million based on revenue from branded products.
Michael long ago graduated from celebrated athlete to superstar celebrity, keeping his legend virtually untarnished over the years. There has been little cause for concern that he would sully his reputation with a drug bust, paternity suit, or disorderly conduct on or off the court. Endorsement by Jordan means a connection to purity, to perfection.
Now Bijan would like you to associate these qualities with Michael Jordan cologne. Since Mike is handsome, charming, articulate, polished, and gravity defying, I suppose it stands to reason that he’s fragrant too.
The procedure which brought this cologne into existence is an interesting one, known as “Head Space Technology”. After interviewing Mike to ascertain the places and things he has fondly scented memories of, Bijan set out to determine what ingredients in what amounts would duplicate them. They did this by flying a box over the locales he specified. This box electronically measured and captured the height of all scents in the air. Bijan then threw together the essences of things such as grapefruit, cognac, suede, green tea and fir needles, among numerous others. The result is the combined aromas of a Costa Rican beach; the Blue Ridge of the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina; the freshly cut grass on an early morning round of golf; and a whiff of a baseball glove. MJ’s personality, lifestyle, and perhaps magic captured in a snazzy bottle with clearly identifiable packaging, recommended for daytime use, or for whenever the mood strikes you to try a 360 degree slam dunk.
Sales of Michael related products continue to go strong, but now that the winning of championships has been passed on to the next generation, one wonders how long and strong his appeal will last. Athletes before him such as Jack Johnson, Jackie Robinson, Arthur Ashe and Muhammad Ali staked their claims to immortality outside as well as within the games they played. They embraced social issues that defined their legacies no less than their athletic prowess. Jordan for his part has remained neutral, therefore uncontroversial, offending none and beloved by all. The average politician would sell his soul in exchange for such broad based appeal. Michael speaks to everyone by saying nothing in particular, other than “buy this product”. And we do just that. Whether you are black or white, male or female, God fearing or atheist, Knicks fan or Bulls fan, you cannot help but admire Michael’s grace. Admiration is often followed by imitation, making him the ultimate spokesman for whatever he chooses to speak for.
The tremendous influence he wields could be utilized in countless ways. Jordan could market the eradication of racism, ushering in a new millennium of tolerance and brotherhood. He could be a one man United Nations, bringing about peace in trouble spots across the globe. If he saw fit, I bet he could convince mankind to pitch together to feed, clothe and shelter the needy.
For now, Mike does something nearly as noble. He strives to make the world a better smelling place for all.
Roy Pickering lives in New York City where he is putting the
finishing touches on his debut novel, PATCHES OF GREY, and staying ready just in case the Knicks need another point guard.