Michael Jordan was one of the most sought after athlete brand ambassadors ever. The six-time NBA champion starred in plenty of commercials and, along with Magic Johnson, ushered in the age of basketball players turned business executives. Jordan is the only professional athlete billionaire, and his focus, even while dominating the NBA, was on building a brand.
His latest successful business venture is “The Last Dance.” ESPN’s incredibly popular Jordan documentary is the only sports on TV these days. But the show has come under fire for lack of journalistic integrity. And Jordan’s production company, Jump 23, is a co-producer but omitted from the credits.
While not exactly journalism, the documentary is undoubtedly popular. About six million people have tuned in for each of the five episodes aired so far of the ten-part series (parts six and seven air tonight).
The release of the documentary came at the perfect time to gather mass viewership, and brands tied to the NBA superstar are receiving dividends. To give an idea of the value this documentary is generating, look at the logos.
According to GumGum Sports, an analytics company that measures the value of brand sponsorships in sports, Jordan’s brand partners received an estimated $1.1 million bump from the logos shown in the fifth episode alone. That episode looked at the creation of the Jordan brand and also featured commercials for Gatorade and McDonalds.
But it was Nike that received the most value. The company that helped Jordan start on his pathway to being a billionaire received an estimated $487,000 worth of brand exposure from the swooshes shown in the episode. In all, GumGum calculated the brand’s logo came up 80 times in the course of the show. Nike’s subsidiary Jordan Brand came next with 22 exposures resulting in an estimated $283,000 in value.
Gatorade’s primary exposure came as a full replaying of the iconic “Be Like Mike” commercial. Simply playing that ad drove around $130,000 in sponsorship value. Combined with other moments in the episode, Gatorade’s total brand bump came in at $245,000.
McDonald’s was shown the least, but a snippet of an old commercial showing the golden arches six times was valued at $33,000. In all, 138 total exposures for 12.5 minutes of air time brought the total value to brand partners over seven figures. Again, that’s the total value for just the logos shown in the fifth episode.
Logo placement in the NBA is incredibly valuable. The league’s decision in 2017 to allow teams to sell one jersey patch on the upper right chest outpaced value expectations by 50%. According to GumGum Sports, the average value of a jersey patch sponsorship during an NBA game is $132,400. Those spots cost between $5 million to $20 million, depending on the team.
“With an average of 477 seconds per game, the NBA jersey patch has a higher duration than any of the four sponsors that were evaluated in Episode Five of The Last Dance,” the GumGum Sports report reads. “However, with dedicated spotlights on the brands during The Last Dance episode including full airings of historical commercials and clear close-ups of Jordan’s shoes, the quality of exposure was higher than the typical mid-game jersey patch exposure leading to a higher value overall.”
But the real value of this series to Jordan and Nike is impossible to calculate. With every sports show spending time on the documentary, memes dominating social media and a consistent six million viewers each week, the true brand value of “The Last Dance” is much higher.
For comparison, Nike’s controversial Colin Kaepernick ad in 2018 generated $163.5 million in value, according to Apex Marketing. Without sports on TV, The Last Dance has had a similar stranglehold on social media. As the story continues to unfold, more will be made of Jordan’s push into being a business mogul, and the brands tied to that story will continue to cash in.