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Ben Affleck’s comedy-drama “Air” gives a fresh take on Nike’s legendary launch of the Air Jordan basketball sneaker. The film’s corporate shenanigans keep the audience engaged, despite knowing the outcome of the story. One of the film’s valuable lessons for business owners is the power of an individual to rewrite an entire industry’s rules. The movie premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March and hits theaters on April 5.
Set in 1984, “Air” follows Nike talent scout Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) and co-founder Phil Knight (Ben Affleck) as they clash over the company’s strategy for a basketball shoe endorsement deal. At the time, Nike dominated the running shoe market but only had a 17% market share in basketball shoes. Vaccaro signed one of the most transformational endorsement deals in sports history by following some of Nike’s 10 essential principles created by VP of marketing Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman) in 1977.
Here are three Nike principles that led to the creation of the Air Jordan shoe:
“Our business is change.”
Nike usually spent $250,000 across three endorsement deals with three separate NBA rookies, but Vaccaro insisted on giving the full amount to Michael Jordan. He also proposed building a new shoe line around Jordan instead of using him to amplify the Nike brand.
“Perfect results count – not a perfect process.
Break the rules: fight the law.” Vaccaro’s unorthodox move of visiting Jordan’s parents’ house in North Carolina and speaking to his mother Deloris Jordan (Viola Davis) in person led to Jordan taking a meeting with Nike.
“If we do the right things, we’ll make money damn near automatic.”
Nike agreed to deal terms that were unprecedented in partnerships between brands and professional athletes, giving Jordan a percentage of revenue from the sale of each Air Jordan shoe.
“Air” thematically parallels what Affleck and Damon’s new production company, Artists Equity, are trying to achieve in the independent film industry. They aim to distribute a percentage of profits to cast and crew members who historically haven’t shared in the upside of financially successful films. Affleck said that Nike’s deal with Jordan was a step towards creating an equitable relationship between athletes and brands, which is what Artists Equity hopes to achieve.