Nike needs the players. It really does. It can’t just market anyone. It has to market the elite guys, the ones with personality. It discovered with Michael Jordan (who we’ll get to in a minute) that the player is what can sell the most in basketball, versus the NFL and MLB which are hugely team-based. Superstars have driven this league, but what’s missed is the personal connection fans form with their team’s favorite players. It’s not just Carmelo and Kobe and Dirk. It’s the role players, the guys they take on as their own.
And somewhere in that is the idea that basketball is more than a moneymaker. It’s a culture, a connection. Which Nike then packages and markets to make money, the same way the NBA does. But if you were looking for the perfect way to make an argument that the players are the product, that they are what makes up basketball in this country, and that the sport goes on with or without the NBA, you couldn’t do much better than this latest commercial from Nike in the “Basketball Never Stops” series.
Do you ever wonder why the players don’t just have Nike negotiate for them? Yes, it would jeopardize Nike’s relationship with the NBA, but the NBA needs Nike’s money just as much. And with the investment Nike has in the game and the players, they would at once protect their clients and pursue a decent compromise. If nothing else, they should be handling the players’ imaging, because the players are terrible at it. The video’s ability to show people care about the players playing basketball, not just the game itself. It promotes the commitment of players to the game and a love for it, even when it’s used to make money. It’s just marketing, it’s just exceptionally good marketing.
Speaking of Michael Jordan, it should be noted here that Nike’s Jordan Brand is involved in this program. This, despite Jordan himself being part of the ownership calling for the changes which keeps the lockout going. At some point you’d think the league would have an issue with one of its owners making money off of the propaganda of the other side directly in opposition to their position. It’s complicated, but then, its’ not really. No one’s crossing Jordan. Which makes Jordan’s alignment with the owners that much more depressing. Then again, Jordan looking out for ol’ No.1 is nothing new, either.