Nike plans to expand the iconic Jordan Brand to make sneakers for women. The move is not without risks, analysts say.
After ignoring women for three decades, Nike’s Jordan Brand will start making sneakers for them.
There will also be gear for weekend warriors and football fans. Nike’s vision for Michael Jordan’s flagship line is to now extend to categories beyond basketball — all with the goal of doubling the brand’s sales to $4.5 billion by 2020. That even includes a play for runners, a category Nike already leads by a mile.
“It is a great brand and has been one-dimensional — largely footwear, largely male and U.S.-based,” Nike Chief Executive Mark Parker said in a recent interview on Bloomberg Television. “The opportunity is to give the consumer more choice in that brand, carefully.”
The success of the effort will be the latest referendum on the current state of Jordan’s marketing power, and on Nike’s reputation as a branding juggernaut.
The move also has the potential to dilute one of the company’s crown jewels by getting away from its hoops DNA, according to Matt Powell, an analyst for research firm NPD Group.
“It’s doable, but it will really take some thoughtful design work, and the product has to be right also,” Powell said. “If they can harness the strength of the brand, it can work.”
Nike already dominates women’s athletic shoes, but the Jordan brand barely registers.Current Jordan offerings for women on Nike’s website are just accessories like socks, hats and backpacks.
The brand also faces a challenge among 20-somethings, said Neil Schwartz, vice president for market insights at researcher SportsOneSource.
“The millennial, for the most part, never saw Michael play,” he said. “These are the folks who are right now at the forefront of consumer spending.”
Another risk of expanding the Jordan brand to women is that it may turn off the guys who came to love it as a men’s-only line, said Laura Ries, president of marketing-strategy firm Ries & Ries.
“Jordan is one of the most iconic and successful brands, and it very much aligns with young men,” Ries said. “Once you start diluting it, it doesn’t have the credibility and authenticity it once had, and the guys might not want it anymore.”
Jordan, 52, is still tremendously popular. A dozen years after his playing days ended, he is known by about 97 percent of women in the U.S., making him the seventh most influential celebrity for them, according to the Marketing Arm’s Celebrity DBI database. Men rank him 11th.
Nike unveiled a few details last week in a presentation to investors in which it forecast an increase in annual sales from $30.6 billion to $50 billion by 2020. The Jordan brand is expected to contribute by doubling revenue through adding products and expanding beyond North America. The Jordan brand generates about 95 percent of its overall sales domestically, Powell says.
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Targeting women makes sense, said David Falk, Jordan’s agent. Jordan, who consults on the brand, is on board with the shift.
“Michael has evolved beyond just being the heritage of a basketball player,” Falk said. “Michael is somewhat of a fashion icon.”
The brand already has been dabbling in other categories. For starters, the University of Michigan’s football team will wear Jordan-branded uniforms next year.
At $150 per pair and higher, Jordans long ago became a fashion accessory, with the irony that few recreational athletes actually wear them to play.
“There’s a tremendous opportunity,” Nike Chief Operating Officer Eric Sprunk said. “Think of it as a performance brand. If Jordan is going to go into running, they are going to make a shoe you can run a marathon in.”