He risked his career and life to introduce this shoe to the world
Back in 1984, a festive year due to the many memorable moments happening in the world. Sonny Vaccaro, a basketball division talent scout for the Nike shoe company was having difficulties looking for new talent who could raise the reputation of their shoe products. As the spearhead of a sports shoe company, Sonny was required to always be sharp in looking for athletes who had the potential to reap profit. That year, the sales of basketball shoes were led by Converse with 54% of market sales, followed by Adidas with 29%, and the 17 % rest was held by Nike.
Howard White, the head of the Nike basketball shoe division, said that at that time, Adidas was booming among American teenagers because it was widely used by new rappers, while Converse itself was already established as a basketball shoe for the 2 basketball legends, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, who were the Ambassadors of Converse. Nike itself still had the identity as a jogging shoe and that was not a profitable thing, because the youth was not interested in running shoes, which meant that it was not enough to reap profit from the teenagers. In the Nike shoe company itself,
the basketball division is the poorest division in terms of withdrawing profit. Sonny was not happy to find out that their company slogan, Just Do It,
3rd pick, Michael Jordan, which had been close to a deal with Adidas. They couldn’t possibly be able to bargain with such a big brand. Meanwhile, the 4th Pick, Sam Perkins, was considered less photogenic by the team. So the only options they had were the fifth pick to the 20th pick. John Stockton, an Utah Jazz legend, could be an option, as well as the 76ers legend, Charles Barkley, but both of them had a downside that made the team not picking both of them. The meeting did not bring results, so Rob chose to leave and was followed
by Sonny. Both of them ended up chatting in the toilet. Sonny then proposed a name they should choose, namely Michael Jordan, but Rob balked because Jordan would be too expensive to approach. The budget that Nike had prepared was only $250,000, and that was meant to contract three players. Sonny then went to Phil Knight’s office, the CEO of the Nike company. He wanted to confirm the budget, but Phil wasn’t happy to hear that, because last year, the company experienced a decrease in revenue, so the board instead suggested disbanding the basketball division since it didn’t give much
profit to the company. Despite that, Sonny still asked for an increase in the budget to double the offer, which was immediately refused by Phil. Sonny protested because he knew how much revenue they got from selling running shoes. The company shouldn’t be stingy with the basketball division. Phil then explained that people wear basketball shoes if they want to play basketball, but running shoes can be used on many occasions, so it is more profitable. Sonny still believed that basketball was also profitable, but Phil instead responded with a boring philosophy about running. The meeting started again only to
be stagnant again. Sonny continued to carry out his survey. He even observed figures who were ambassadors for cereal products and so on. He also did not forget to ask people about basketball players that have a bright future. One night at Sonny’s house, he was watching two shows at once. The first is an advertisement for a tennis racket featuring Arthur Ashe as the ambassador. The company made a product that is adapted to the character of the user. The second is a video recording of Michael Jordan when he made a decisive score for North Carolina. Sonny was
as if struck by lightning. While seeing the broadcast, he repeated the scene several times. The next day, Sonny enthusiastically came to Rob’s office and showed what he had seen last night. Rob didn’t feel anything special about it, but Sonny then gave another point of view from what he saw. At that crucial moment, the ball was not passed to James Worthy, a senior player, but instead to Michael Jordan, an 18-year-old teenager. Sonny felt that the coach had entrusted the decisive seconds to an 18-year-old teenager who didn’t have any burden in carrying on such an important role.
Sonny saw an aura of greatness in young Michael Jordan, the thing that made him even more determined to recruit him. He would do anything to sign Michael Jordan and he was not interested in 3 other players. Rob firmly refused the proposal because he didn’t want to gamble with just a single player. The budget must still be spread to 3 players. Besides, if they want to offer $250,000, Adidas would be able to compete with it and the opportunity to get an ambassador would be gone if they only approached a single player. Sonny then expressed his idea
to Howard White, who was also skeptical that Phil would agree to Sonny’s proposal. Sonny himself was not worried about it. What he thought was how to approach Michael Jordan, who had clearly said that he was an Adidas fan, not to mention one thing that would be a challenge before they approach Michael Jordan. namely, Michael Jordan’s agent, Sonny, then called David Falk, Michael Jordan’s agent, and asked to schedule a meeting with Michael Jordan. David went straight to the point that this would not happen. Michael Jordan himself had told him that he didn’t want to meet anyone
from Nike. Sonny tried to remind David that Adidas is a brand that was developed by the nazis and that he shouldn’t contract the killer generation shoe brand with Michael Jordan. David was irritated and finally confirmed with Sonny that Michael Jordan would only meet with Converse and Adidas, where they would seal the agreement. When asked about the offer leak, David revealed that the offer that Adidas gave for the time being was around 200 thousand dollars. Sonny was left in a dilemma because he knew that much money was too big for a rookie, but he told Phil
that he was ready to risk his career for the sake of the agreement. Sonny invited Phil to remember his slogan the first time he built the company, dared to gamble and take the risks. While Adidas and Converse were ready with the official offer, Nike still had not prepared it. Phil wanted to have a meeting with Michael Jordan before he could give an official offer, which was against what David Falk said that they only accept requests for meetings with brands that have sent an official offer. Sonny then went to meet George Raveling, a basketball coach of
the American Olympic Team who was also close to Michael Jordan. George said that Michael Jordan had said that he wouldn’t want to join Nike because apparently, the shoes weren’t that cool, and even though Nike would give a bonus and his dream car for the agreement. He still didn’t want to sign a contract with them. Michael Jordan was actually an Adidas fanboy. Even though his team was sponsored by Converse. he would still wear Adidas shoes during training, and would only put on the sponsor shoes before the match started. George mentioned that the one holding right about
Jordan’s agreement was his mother, Deloris Jordan. Sonny thought to go straight to Michael Jordan’s family but George warned that Sonny would be fired if he did such an unethical act. Sonny understood the consequences and he would sacrifice everything to seal the agreement. He then conveyed this to Howard White. He could understand Sonny’s aspirations that even if he forbade him, he still wouldn’t want to hear it, so Howard wouldn’t forbid it because he knew that Sonny knew the consequences. Sonny went to Carolina and was welcomed by Michael Jordan’s very friendly father. It was seen that Michael
Jordan’s mother was the one in charge of the house. At that time, Sonny still hadn’t met Michael Jordan yet. Deloris wanted Sonny to be able to convince her first. Sonny tried to change Deloris’s stance by saying that if Michael Jordan sealed a contract with Converse, he will be one of the other great players contracted by the company, while if he signed for Adidas, the company itself was having a major issue after the death of Adi Dassler, but if Michael Jordan joined Nike, he will be the center of attention and will be treated specially. After hearing
the explanation from Sonny, everyone was furious. David Falk snapped and cursed because of Sonny’s impolite behavior, even though in the end he conveyed a message from Deloris that Michael Jordan was ready to meet next Monday night. Phil was no less furious with Sonny’s behavior, which he considered had stepped over the position of CEO. Despite being mad, he still let Sonny do the meeting, but at that time, he still didn’t want to make an official offer. He would think about it and maybe even would cancel the meeting, however, Sonny still went ahead. He then met Rob
who was even excited that they would meet with Michael Jordan. Sonny immediately entered the creative room and asked for a prototype shoe to be made to show to Michael Jordan. Sonny asked that the shoes should be specially designed with the charisma and characteristics of Michael Jordan and prioritized the design aspect rather than the function. The designer only had a few days to complete that. Michael Jordan finally held his first meeting with the first prospective endorser namely the Converse company. He was given impressions of Converse advertisements starring Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Julius Erving. Deloris began
to understand that her son would only be number 4 in the company. She started to understand what Sonny told her the last time. Back to Nike, Peter Moore the designer had finished the prototype shoes for Jordan, but there were still things that weren’t made to the expectation. The color was too flat, dominantly white. Peter explained that the design he made was adjusted to NBA regulations, where all shoes worn by players should be dominantly white-colored, and if the player disobeyed the rules, a fine of $5000 will be charged to the player per game. Rob then proposed
that they give the dominant red color according to the colors of the Chicago Bulls and they would pay all the fines that would be imposed on Michael Jordan. They agreed with the proposal and started working. Peter then came up with another idea, namely naming the shoes with Air, which was planned to be applied to another product, while putting on Michael Jordan’s name after it. That was the birth of Air Jordan, the legendary basketball shoe by Nike. This trio stayed up late at the office and even came at the weekend to finish the presentation before they
meet Michael Jordan. Peter himself had finished with the final design. A design that made everyone shocked in awe. On Saturday, Michael Jordan’s parents had a meeting with Adidas. They were shown several models of shoes that would be presented to Michael Jordan. Deloris was not satisfied with the results of the design. Moreover, she realized that Adidas didn’t seem to have one main person as the decision maker, just like what Sonny described earlier. At the Nike office, that Sunday afternoon, Phil stopped by and saw that his team was trying desperately to meet tomorrow’s meeting. Without much ado,
Phil immediately asked for the name of the shoe. Sonny mentioned the name Air Jordan which last night was told by Peter. Phil hesitated with that name for a moment, but he finally approved to have a meeting the next day, so that night, the team started to arrange the offer and the meeting strategy. They looked enthusiastic and confident that they would definitely be able to do it. The next day, sure enough, the Nike office which is located in an area near the mountains of Oregon welcomed the arrival of the future legend, Michael Jordan, and his parents.
They were present to discuss the contract offer. Deloris informed Sonny that Michael Jordan might look uninterested as he was forced to come to be in the meeting room. Michael Jordan really looked uninterested to respond to Sonny and Rob who tried to joke with him. Thankfully, Howard White was there to break the ice. Michael Jordan was attracted after he saw the prototype shoes that had been prepared. The first Air Jordan was dominantly red in color, identical to the Chicago Bulls jersey. Sonny and Rob Mentioned that they were ready to pay the fine. Phil then showed up
late to give the impression of being someone who was too busy but purposely saved time to attend this very important meeting. Rob then made a marketing presentation about the publication plan of printed media while showing a presentation that bored Sonny. Suddenly, he asked Rob to stop showing the presentation and started an inspirational oration that moved the hearts of Michael Jordan and his family. He explained that Michael Jordan could get all the money and fame if he signed a contract with the other brands, but Nike had something different. What he will get is an eternity. Shoes
are just shoes until someone puts their foot on them. Everyone in the room would be forgotten if their time had passed, but not with Michael Jordan’s name in their Air Jordan shoes. Nike carried a mission to make Michael Jordan’s name a legend that last forever. That statement made the Jordan family speechless. Phil immediately handed over the official offer letter he had prepared. The biggest contract offer ever made by Nike to an athlete. Nike had been trying to find the star and they were sure that Michael Jordan is the one. The oration had convinced Deloris. She
then brought the contract and asked them to wait. The team had seen the signal that the meeting has succeeded in persuading the Superstar to forget about Adidas. Phil was very respectful towards Sonny’s speech earlier, even though he was a bit offended by the statement that their names would all be forgotten. As the founder of Nike, Phil was sure that his name is on the same level as the names of other legends like Karim Abdul-Jabar. The next few days were nerve-wracking as Sonny and the others were waiting for news from Deloris. Things might get ugly, or
maybe the fortune goddess was on their side. A few days later, the call came, not from Michael Jordan, but from Howard White who had become close to Jordan’s father. He received a leak that Adidas had re-submitted their bid with the same value as Nike plus the Mercy 380SL car. Sonny immediately felt bad because they wouldn’t be able to afford a better offer because that was everything they could offer. Sonny couldn’t bear to see Rob who had really supported him in running the project. He also imagined that today would be his last day in that office
because the Nike basketball division could be disbanded by tomorrow, but then, the destined call came from an unexpected person, Deloris herself. She had taken full power over all of Michael Jordan’s decisions. She said that they did not accept Adidas’s offer, but decided to sign with Nike. Sonny was beyond happy to hear that. Deloris would accept Nike’s offer, which was $250,000 plus a bonus of a red Mercedes Benz 380SL, but with one other condition, a term that will change the entirety of the contract rules between a product and the brand ambassador. Deloris demanded Sonny and Nike
to embody what they echoed yesterday in their promotion that they will put Michael Jordan’s name in their shoe products. For this reason, she also wanted all Air Jordan products to be labeled with her son’s name on them, and from every sale of Air Jordan shoes, her son must receive a percentage of sales royalties. Sonny was left shocked to hear that. Such a contract had never been done before. It was very difficult to even listen to this request. Deloris then replied that she knew the demands of the sponsors for the athletes who were contracted that the
athlete must always perform brilliantly and continuously to boost sales. She only asked for a win-win solution so that it would be equally fair for both sides. They had to believe that Michael Jordan would perform brilliantly. Dolores then quoted Sonny’s words, saying that Shoes will always be a shoe until someone put his foot on them. Even after Sonny re-adjusted the offer, Deloris still insisted on the condition that she submitted. Phil anxiously waited for the news from Michael Jordan. In the end, they had to accept the news that Sonny brought, such unpleasant words to hear, but unexpectedly,
Phil decided not to care. He told Sonny to immediately contact back and agreed to the contract. He chose to return to using the slogan he used the first time he started the company, to take the risk. Sonny then contacted Deloris and said that the company was willing to accept all the requests. Now they had succeeded in hooking their target star, Sonny asked Rob to enter the office room where he announced that they had succeeded in recruiting a future star for the greatest contract. The most successful contract ever happened to the company. Thanks to the shoes’
sales, what Phil had previously dreamed of earning 3 million dollars in a year finally came true, even exceeding the expectation. As much as 162 million dollars were made from the first Air Jordan sales in the first year alone. The extraordinary income from the first Air Jordan changed Nike’s image instantly. Air Jordan had brought an average income of 4 billion dollars per year for Nike, and for Michael Jordan himself, a passive income still continued to flow until now. Approximately 400 million dollars becomes his regular salary every year from the sales of Air Jordan shoes. After the
first Air Jordan, Peter Moore then came up with a new logo idea for Air Jordan shoes. A silhouette of Michael Jordan that he took from a photo while he was doing a lay-up. Michael Jordan’s contract with the Nike company had revolutionized the contract model between products and players that continues to be followed until now.