Will Michael Jordan’s $2 Million Hurricane Florence Donation Impact His Brand?

With Hurricane Florence wreaking havoc on the Carolinas, NBA legend Michael Jordan — who played high school basketball in Wilmington, N.C., and college ball at UNC Chapel Hill — has contributed millions to help.

According to multiple reports, Jordan donated a total of $2 million, split evenly between the American Red Cross and the Foundation for the Carolinas’ Hurricane Florence Response Fund.

While the now-retired baller (and current owner of the Charlotte Hornets) is receiving much fanfare for his efforts, it hasn’t always been this way. Jordan has often been publicly criticized for not being as involved in social or charitable causes as other star athletes.

Most notably in 1990, Jordan chose not to endorse Charlotte’s African-American mayor Harvey Gantt, who was up for a Senate seat against conservative incumbent Jesse Helms, allegedly stating that “Republicans buy sneakers, too.” And this year, Jordan was chastised for not denouncing President Donald Trump after his critical remarks on Twitter of LeBron James. (Further, Jordan’s choice of using “his” instead of “our” when stating James was “doing an amazing job for his community,” was also scrutinized.)

But Jeff Van Sinderen, an analyst with B. Riley FBR, is not one to add to the criticism.

“Charitable giving is really a highly personal matter for everyone,” Van Sinderen said. “People have their own individual journeys around that and sometimes charity is best when there is an authentic connection.”

A statement released from the Hornets yesterday noted that Jordan’s Hurricane Florence donations will go toward relief and recovery efforts by the two organizations, which includes providing food and shelter to people displaced from their homes and funding area nonprofits that provide relief to victims.

Reports also state that Jordan has plans to visit the Carolinas to check in with his family and friends once officials confirm it is safe to travel in the area.

Aside from a positive impact on storm victims, experts believe the iconic athlete’s actions could also have an effect on his Nike-backed label, Jordan Brand.

“Any time there is authentic, sincere relief help extended, my sense is that it enhances the halo around the associated brand,” Van Sinderen said. “[I] would think this effort will have a favorable influence on the brand.”

And Matt Powell, senior industry adviser for sports with The NPD Group Inc., agrees.

“The consumer really wants brands to do this. With him stepping up here, I think it’s a positive for his brand,” he said. “I don’t think it makes people walk out the door and buy product, but I think it’s a brand-building type of story; it makes people feel good about the brand.”

The analyst also stated that Jordan’s actions could encourage others of note to do the same.

“We’re seeing a real movement out there of brands and athletes taking a stand on social issues and helping causes,” Powell said, “and this is only going to spur that further.”

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