On Tuesday night, it was posted via many sources on Twitter and Instagram that recently signed Jordan Brand athlete Lamarcus Aldridge was wearing a pair of black/red Air Jordan XI retros.
Aldridge’s choice of footwear prompted Ray P (@RayP_Photos) of TheShoeGame.com to tweet the following:
Ray actually has a point. Many of Jordan Brand’s recent signings have bypassed the brand’s current performance basketball line: the signature XX8 and XX9, the Super.Fly, the CP3, and the Melo, for general release retros or PE retros. In fact, many non Jordan Brand athletes have been bypassing wearing performance product for retros. The same shoes players are wearing for appearances and photo ops, and to walk into the arena are also the same shoes they then wear to play in NBA competition. Hell, just a few months back I played summer league hoops in my original release Air Jordan XI low snakeskins (I’ll be honest, it’s just a REALLY comfortable shoe).
Now, we know the story of Scottie Pippen enjoying the feel of Zoom Air the times he wore the Air Jordan XII during the 96-97 season so much that he had Nike create a special PE game make up of his first signature, the Air Pippen I, without Max Air but Zoom Air. So the precedent is set to “hybrid” technology into existing silhouettes. But is that Jordan Brand’s objective? To alter retro product for today’s NBA rigors to pimp the retro product at the expense of the performance product?
Obviously shoe endorsement contracts are different for players. Yes, many get product and get paid, but some of the less popular players get product and need to “earn” pay via performance. I don’t have access to endorsement contracts so I can’t speak to their exact language, but a situation like Jordan Brand, with limited performance models, must incorporate language as to what shoe(s) the player will wear for game action. Jordan Brand’s bread and butter is the retro product though. You can bet that those contracts include explicit language addressing the retro product as well.
In our era of people “building their own brand”, social media and high personal visibility at all times, the modern player WANTS to be seen and recognized and acknowledged for things even as generally unimportant as “Who has the best kick game” in the league.
Do I actually agree with Ray that Jordan Brand has given up on the performance product? No, because they can’t and I think we are actually in a time when technology is a battle between companies in the strength, weight and breathability of upper materials, as well as in cushioning. I do, however agree that the modern player also wants to stunt for Instagram at times, and in some cases, maybe most cases, I think Brand Jordan is promoting, encouraging and supporting the player’s venturing away from current performance product to retro.
Matt Powell of Sports One Source (@MattSOS) estimated that of all Brand Jordan shoe sales there is a 50/50 breakdown of “retro product” to “new product”. “New product” encompasses everything else including the performance product. He further speculated that of the 50% new product, only about 15% are the performance product.
This actually tells me that although Jordan Brand still aims to stay on the cutting edge of technology with its performance product, when it comes to moving them, they aren’t investing enough to make true performance the basis of the brand.
Over the years, Jordan Brand product tags have constantly reminded us of the quality of product they offer.
Quality? Excellence? Product endorsers as well as other NBA players AND top college players are trying to one up each other game after game from a fashion perspective by wearing product whose performance lived up to those “quality” specifications some 20+ years ago.
So, what IS Jordan Brand’s real objective for its athletes? To refer back to Ray, I don’t think they “gave up” on their performance product, but I do think their focus has changed from making sure the Jordan name is on only the highest quality of performance product on basketball’s highest stage, to making sure its retro product gets significant visibility… and as often as possible.
words by Todd Krevanchi (@krvanch)