Michael Jordan hasn’t hit the court in a professional basketball game since 2003. And yet, the NBA icon’s namesake Nike-backed brand is hotter than ever.
Last week, Nike announced during its Q2 earnings call that the Jordan Brand imprint earned $1 billion, the first time it has hit the mark in a quarter. “The brand is very strong internationally and in North America. The marketplace is healthy, and in many cases, demand is exceeding supply,” Nike CEO Mark Parker said of Jordan Brand during the call.
The executive attributed some of the period’s success to its women’s business and apparel, which he said has allowed the label to reach new audiences. From a footwear perspective, Parker said Jordan Brand’s oldest and newest sneakers were its biggest hits: The Air Jordan 1 and the Air Jordan 34.
Jordan Brand delivered several iterations of its classic Air Jordan 1 silhouette throughout the year, including its latest run of “Fearless Ones” releases featuring new takes on the shoe and collabs with Melody Ehsani and Edison Chen, among others. Also, the company used its latest signee Zion Williamson to reveal the court-ready Air Jordan 34 to the masses in September.
Content creator and sneaker influencer Ricky Shoebio believes the company’s balanced portfolio is what kept the company in the win column.
“The [Air Jordan] 34 has shown promise as a new silhouette, which has been really important. Jordan making sure to focus on dropping quality women’s exclusives has been huge, too — women’s sneakers are just now starting to get the love and support they deserve, and it’s really dope to see,” Shoebio said. “The only other big factor is the Jordan 1. I think anytime we see a consistent run of solid Jordan 1s release, expect to see the [Jordan Brand sales] numbers to do well.”
Moving forward, however, sneakerheads believe it will have to rely on more than legacy product alone and using the name of MJ to win — although heritage will still play an important role.
“The future of the brand seems to be in good hands with [men’s and women’s pro basketball stars] Zion Williamson, Asia Durr, Ryi Hachinura and Jayson Tatum. The torch is being passed,” said sneakerhead Cid “The Kicks” Merisier. “Also, as long as retros are being released, the future is set. Humans are animals of habits, they keep buying the same retros over and over again.”
From a performance sneaker perspective specifically, both Shoebio and Merisier agreed that Jordan Brand needs to deliver hits with its Russell Westbrook signature line.
“[Westbrook’s] signature shoes have been a major push for the brand, mainly because of the execution with a lot of the PEs — and also the fact that the models and releases complement him so well,” Shoebio said.
Another component of Jordan Brand’s potential future success, according to Shoebio, will come from working with notable people who aren’t hoops stars.
“There was a long time where we didn’t see non-athletes working with the brand. Now, we aren’t just seeing working relationships. We are seeing actual products and partnerships with non-athletes,” Shoebio said. “I see both that and the focus on higher end releases continuing the push forward. That’s what’s going to continue make the biggest impact for the brand going forward.”
On the non-athlete front, Jordan Brand delivered several sought-after sneakers with rap megastar Travis Scott throughout the year, including a reimagined Air Jordan 1 High that’s selling for around $1,000 on the resale market. The coveted Air Jordan 1 High collab with fashion house Dior is scheduled for an April 2020 retail release.
Although the sneaker did not release in the reported quarter, Parker made note during the earnings call of the hype surrounding the Air Jordan 11 “Bred” release that hit the market on Dec. 14. “We’ve continued the momentum into Q3 with a significant holiday launch of the Jordan 11 ‘Bred,’ meeting demand for one of sneaker cultures all-time favorites at an incredible scale,” Parker said.
Despite the year being almost over, Jordan Brand has one more sneaker slated to hit stores before 2020: The Air Jordan 6 “Washed Denim,” which will drop via SNKRS on Dec. 28.