May 30, 2023

"Air" Michael Jordan vs. Nike (2 minute read)

By Peter Calder

Amazon Studios has been working hard to prove they can compete with the larger and older movie production houses we rely on for our big-screen entertainment. Their most recent project, “Air,” hits all the marks and is a great film overall.

The story follows an energetic marketing phenomenon, a founder and CEO of one of the largest sports brands on the planet and a tenacious mother to one of the most famous athletes ever. These three characters are based on Sonny Vaccaro, Phil Knight and Deloris Jordan.

The film is about the courtship of Michael Jordan with the Nike Family. A move that revolutionized the shoe and sports industry forever.

Matt Damon’s portrayal of Sonny shows us the beautiful mind behind creating an apparel line, and brand focused on a sole person, Michael Jordan. Although this seems like something that every great person of influence does in the world nowadays, this had never happened at the time. Instead of Mr. Jordan just wearing Nike, he would wear his own line with Nike, AIR Jordan. The film explores relationships between the superstar athlete’s mother navigating the huge sports-brand industry and a pioneer trying to push limits within his company and the world he lives in.  

Based on changes in the world that happened by accurate decisions, “Air” shows us what it takes for the first-ever athlete to negotiate a percentage of revenue in his own name, image and likeness? A famous line from the film is, “A shoe is just a shoe until I step into it.” The timing of this film’s release is coincidental with how the sports industry has changed yet again, with college athletes now allowed to monetize their own name, image and likeness with a rule change in 2021. This shoe deal between Nike and Michael Jordan was pioneering in the industry, with the athlete taking a percentage of revenue and redefining sports and shoe culture around the globe.  

“Air” brings you back to the 1980s; the film incorporates a lovely selection of music, bringing the viewer back to this underdog period of Nike’s history. The film depicts relationships between families, agents, business people and sports executives in a dramatic yet somewhat accurate way to today’s sports industry. You are transported into various creative discussions on culture-defying shoe design and heated conversations between agents and brand executives.  

This film also gives you a great sense of the emotions and feelings of what it’s like to go through one of the most important culturally defining deals and moments in today’s age of the sports-brand industry. Although a few aspects of the story are not accurate to the true tale of what went on, the film gives the audience a great sense of what it must’ve been like for those characters during this monumental moment in their life.

For those who didn’t get the chance to watch it in theatres, make sure to check it out on Amazon Prime’s streaming service. This was a blast from the past we didn’t know we needed.