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Nike’s Brand Association with Michael Jordan Research Paper

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Brand association is an information strategy that is used to create meaning for a particular brand using mental images or symbols to enhance customer association (Xie, Li, & Wang 2008). The brand association plays a major role in nurturing imagery or symbolic association among customers. One the other hand, the consumer’s intention in buying a product revolves around satisfying his or her needs.

Nonetheless, the two aspects cannot be separately interpreted due to their direct relationship. For example, maximum levels of profit by the retailer can only be achieved only when the product fulfils the level of expectation of the consumers in satisfying their needs and wants. Based on the literature review that this paper presents, brand association plays a significant role in the consumer and the retailer. Therefore, different but related approaches should be used in determining the position of a brand.

Many companies have deployed celebrities to market their brands, thanks to the fame and popularity of the icons that make people prefer being associated with brands that bear the celebrities’ names. Manny Pacquiao, Michael Jordan, and Tiger Woods are among the icons who have helped when it comes boosting the performance of various companies’ brands. Hence, the paper uses the case of Nike Company to show how celebrity endorsement of Michael Jordan has influenced the company’s Air Jordan Brand.

Literature Review

Concept Review and Mind Map

Brand association broadly comprises various sub-types that collectively determine the position of a particular product in the market. These tools include advertisements, celebrity endorsements, worker-client affairs, commodity/service fee, product worth, consumer reimbursement, entrants’ merchandise or services, product categorisation, and product exhibit. To guarantee the success of the brand, the manufacturer has to consider the relative positions of each facet in the prevailing market conditions and draw out a map that represents the overall brand value (Mathapati 2014).

Brand value constitutes the ability to assist in the retrieval of information, ability to differentiate the product, capacity to provide the customer or retailer with a reason to buy, and the capacity to create positive feelings to the customer. Thus, brand value can be measured by determining the contribution of each type of association to each value concept. For instance, as Mathapati (2014) reveals, a product of good quality can assist the consumer in determining the functionality or durability of a product, differentiate the product with a substitute or competitor product, give a great reason for the customer to buy, and/or create positive feelings to the customer. The Appendix section shows this information, including my model of concepts.

Types of Brand Association Strategies

Employee –Customer Relations

Also referred to as brand personality, the concept of worker-customer relations refers to employee traits or characteristics that comprise workers’ actions, words, values, service, and customer value, which can be attributed to a particular brand. Keller and Richey (2006) suggest three core demeanours of brand personality, namely, artistic quality and restraint, zeal and empathy, and association, and suppleness. Creativeness and discipline imply the use of imagination by the employees to serve customers through a disciplined and consistent approach. The company employees must also be passionate about providing service to their customers.

Uocai et al. (2014) present employees as important brand builders and brand ambassadors because they enhance perceptions of customers regarding the product and/or service through creating strong bonds between customers and the firms’ brand. Customers are more likely to associate an organisation’s brand with employees’ behaviours. Additionally, building employee brand can act as a catalyst for enhancing customer loyalty in purchasing the brand. On the other hand, poor employee-customer relations result in a negative perception of a firm’s brand and a decline in customer loyalty (Uocai et al. 2014).


The goal of advertisements is to reveal how a firm’s particular product or brand will satisfy the needs of the consumers. According to Karadeniz (2013), advertisements form the most important factor in enhancing the preferences of consumers of an organisation’s brand. Through advertisements, brand managers appraise the value of a company’s brand on its target customers. The frame theory describes the direct and indirect role of advertising in brand switching through influencing the choice of a brand by consumers.

Research by Karadeniz (2013) indicates that consumers often devote more attention and resources to particular brands that they may have noticed or processed during advertisements. In this context, advertisements ought to be more persuasive to the consumer to influence their interest in the brand while at the same time encouraging their commitment of resources to acquiring the product.

According to Handa and Sharma (2015), advertisements influence the attitudes of customers to a certain brand. Consequently, they affect their purchase intentions. Therefore, the effect indicates an existing relationship between the advertisement and a change in the purchase intentions of the consumers. Nonetheless, the consumer needs to develop a positive attitude towards the advertisement to positively affect his or her attitude towards the brand and/or influence his or her purchase intention.

Baker, Moore, and Nedungadi (2006) assert that the goal of advertisements is to facilitate communication through an exposure effect. For an advert to enhance trademark association, it must be structured to uphold the focus of the end viewers on the name of the brand through the efficient transference of the proposed communication.

Celebrity Endorsements

Celebrity endorsements are an important brand management tool used by many organisations to market their brands (Zipporah & Mberia 2014). The effectiveness of a celebrity brand endorsement may be mediated by a number of dependent variables such as celebrity–target audience fit, celebrity –product fit, superstar reputation, and superstar principles, among others.

Product Price

As Fayrene and Lee (2011) assert, the price of the product/brand should be congruent with its perceived value. The perceived value of a product refers to the utility of the brand relative to the cost of the product by the customer. Such value is based on certain considerations such as what the consumer receives and/or what he or she is willing to give up (monetarily) acquiring the product. Therefore, brand price is associable with all its perceived utilities and that the two should be balanced to incite the consumer to willingly purchase the brand (Fayrene & Lee 2011).

However, if consumers perceive a product’s price to be relatively higher to its value or perceived utilities, they will not purchase the brand. They may opt for cheaper brands or expensive ones that they perceive to offer more in terms of value. Lee and Leh (2011) reinforce this argument by asserting that higher brand equity (balance between the product price and the perceived value) is highly likely to influence the consumer’s willingness to pay for premium or higher prices.

Chen, Yeh, and Jheng (2013) observe how the price has a moderating effect with respect to strengthening or weakening the relationship between the credibility/awareness of the brand and brand association. For instance, a higher product price relative to the competitive brand would imply that the product is of much higher quality. As a result, it may evoke a stronger brand association. In addition, the competitive demand and supply of a product have a moderating effect on the relationship between the credibility of a brand in relation to its price and brand association. Thus, a product with low supply but higher demand would be associated with higher price compared to a product that is of higher supply but low demand.

Product Quality

According to Janiszewski and Van Osselaer (2000), product quality can be measured by mainly using three core aspects of product ratings, namely, durability, quality, and reliability. These elements can be summed up to form a quality scale. In addition, these aspects are associated with the value of the brand and the price of a particular brand. Thus, a product of low quality is perceived to have low value.

As a result, it is expected to have a low price range. On the other hand, a product of high quality is perceived as having high value. Hence, it is expected to sell at a higher price range (Janiszewski & Van Osselaer 2000). Ergin, Özdemir, and Özsaçmacı (2011) also assert that the strength of a brand is associated or attached to its perceived quality or value, both in the competitive market and in the consumers’ minds.

Customer Benefits

Customer benefits can be divided into two types, namely, psychological and rational reimbursement. Psychological benefits refer to those benefits that are associated with particular feelings such as self-image of a customer in owning a particular brand that is perceived to be of a higher class (Schmitt 2012). On the other hand, rational benefits are those paybacks that can be associated with specific attributes of a brand. For example, a person would chose a brand that is more efficient in its use than one that he or she perceives to be less efficient and effective in serving his or her needs as a customer (Balakrishnan, Nataraajan, & Desai 2000).

In this regard, an organisation needs to evaluate the specific market needs to determine, which of the two factors to consider in designing its brand. A brand can be associated with one or both types of benefits. Nonetheless, most successful brands utilise both aspects of brand association in a complementary fashion. As Balakrishnan, Nataraajan, and Desai (2000) suggest, companies should determine which of the two factors is most representative of its target market. For instance, a Mercedes Benz has been associated with providing the psychological benefit of prestige for decades.

Competitor Products

A research conducted by Bayraktar (2015) demonstrated the capability of brands to influence the willingness of consumers to pay for the product. The findings suggested that brand associations with competitor products could significantly influence the consumers’ willingness to buy a firm’s brand. For instance, consumers would be willing to pay more for a product that they consider more premium than the existing competitor products. To have more influence on consumers’ willingness to pay for their product, a firm needs to regard their brand as being more superior in terms of quality, value, consumer benefits, and other aspects that have the potential of positively influencing the consumers’ brand perception and purchase (Bayraktar 2015).

Nike’s Air Jordan Brand Performance through Celebrity Endorsement

Nike has strategically used Michael Jordan as a celebrity whose fame and popularity have made clients yearn to be associated with Nike’s Air Jordan brand. The company has ensured that its employees understand the vision involved in the making of the Jordan brand.

Employees can effectively communicate with the target customers regarding the Jordan brand, for instance, the advantages, quality, and utility. Additionally, employees who understand the brand’s vision are in a better position to apply the core demeanours of brand personality, as suggested by Keller and Richey (2006), such as suppleness, empathy, zeal, artistic quality and association as part of their communication tools.

Nike has also encouraged its employees who serve customers in its retail outlets to be creative, disciplined, passionate, and consistent in their customer relations approach as a strategy to maintain and increase the value of the Jordan brand. The company also understands the importance of having positive attitudes and values among its employees as a means of strengthening the bonds between employees and customers. Such strong relations have been used to increase customer loyalty and confidence in the Jordan brand.

The company has performed remarkably well regarding implementing its advertising strategy. Nike has exploited social media to advertise its Jordan brand, thus allowing it to reach out to more target customers. The company has managed to appraise the value to the Jordan brand relative to its competitors. To a great extent, the advertisements on social media have also influenced potential customers to switch from competitor brands such as Adidas to the Jordan brand.

To supplement the social media advertisement of the Jordan brand, Nike also uses the opportunity to interact with the customers. Through such interactions, the company has managed to change the attitudes and perceptions of the customers in relation to Jordan’s value as an elite brand (Reyes 2012). However, the company has not completely embraced other modern forms of advertising such as sponsored websites, chat rooms, branded viral short videos, and advertorials that reach out to more customers.

Michael Jordan has been used as the brand’s main endorser with the Jordan brand being named after him. The former superstar has been used in the brand to convey essential information regarding the brand’s value in terms of providing a lifestyle for sports athletes. According to Şimşek (2014), the personalities used in brand endorsement deals are usually strong characters in terms of their societal influence. For instance, Michael Jordan is considered the greatest icon in basketball.

As a result, he presents a strong character to be used in enhancing Jordan’s brand association strategy. By using the icon of Michael Jordan, Nike was able to quickly change consumer brand perceptions/associations. In addition, Jordan brand has been marketed as an athletic shoe mostly used by sportspeople such as basketballers, NFL players, baseball players, and gym-goers. Therefore, Michael Jordan can be considered perfect for the brand’s endorsement due to his possession of demographic traits that match those of the brand’s target audience.

For the endorsement to be credible, Mukherjee (2009) asserts that the subject matter conveyed by the brand, in this case, sports, must match the relevance of the celebrity regarding the use of the product. The relevance or congruence between the product and the celebrity is determined by various characteristics of the celebrity, such as expertise, image, or attractiveness (Xie, Li, & Wang 2008). This hypothesis suggests that the message that is conveyed by the celebrity image and the product picture should coincide with the advertisement to guarantee the attractiveness of the brand that is being endorsed (Mukherjee 2009).

For the case of Air Jordan, Michael Jordan’s endorsement is able to reach out to the relevant target audiences, who in this case are mostly his fans and young aspiring athletes who look up and admire the image he represents.

The price of the Jordan’s value has been used as a strategy to associate or convey a perception of high value or quality of the brand to target market. For instance, the price of the brand has always been on an increase. Yet, sales for the brand have continued to increase, thus illustrating success regarding the pricing influence on the brand’s perceived value (Soni 2014). On the other hand, the brand’s sales strategy has incorporated the concept of discounting where a customer is automatically granted free shipping on purchasing Jordan sneakers worth more than $75. The brand’s pricing strategy therefore avoids reducing the brand’s value through price reduction while at the same time influences the customers’ willingness to buy the brand by issuing discounts.

The Jordan brand has been regarded by both the company and customers as a quality with respect to its reliability and durability, which have aided the brand to be associated with high value. For instance, the brand provides premium quality footwear that adds protection while improving the performance of the wearer (Aaker 2012). Moreover, to emphasise the high brand quality, Nike charges higher prices for the product as a distinction factor of quality compared to other competitor brands. The high quality associated with the Air Jordan brand has continued to increase its strength regarding market value and hence the reason for the continued increase in sales for the brand.

Brand Performance Appraisal and My Thoughts

Nike has been successful in associating the Jordan brand with high value and quality. This achievement has been aided by its endorsement deals, promotion strategy, advertising, and usage of other brand association tools. By categorising the Jordan brand as of a high value and quality, the brand has influenced athletes and persons who are interested in sports to buy the brand while bypassing its competitor product.

Therefore, quality and high value have been successfully used as brand differentiating tools to influence customers’ willingness to buy the product, even at higher prices. However, the high price may also be considered a source of weakness. This claim is particularly in regard to the lower-end market that may not necessarily associate the high price of the brand with a higher quality, but instead may opt for cheaper affordable brands.

In the case of basket ballers, the Jordan shoe provides the athlete with comfort, hence enhancing his or her ability to manoeuvre and dodge during the game. If the shoes were uncomfortable, the player would easily lose control of his balance. He or she may even slip risking severe injury. The shoe has been designed to provide the player with correct grip throughout his game by guaranteeing stability (Campbell 2010).

Balakrishnan, Nataraajan, and Desai (2000) classify this outcome as rational benefit. Psychological benefit may occur when a player feels mentally powerful regarding his or her wearing of the shoe due to the confidence the player has in the brand’s association with Michael Jordan. Thus, the brand can be considered to have performed well in relation to providing both rational and psychological benefits to customers.


Summary and Recommendations

With reference to the Jordan brand, the brand has performed relatively well in its application of brand association. The brand’s owner, Nike, has managed to instil the brand’s vision and goal among its employees. This plan has facilitated the association of the brand with good employee–customer affairs that have continued to improve the already strong links existing between the brand and the customer, thus enhancing customer loyalty and confidence.

The brand has been named after Michael Jordan who is its main endorser. By using an iconic basket baller, the brand has been successful in using the core aspects of celebrity endorsement such as celebrity–product fit, superstar reputation, and celebrity–target audience fit. For example, since the brand targets sports athletes and lovers, it would only be advisable to use a successful sports athletes such as Michael Jordan through whom the brand can inspire its target market to continue buying it.

The brand has also been successful in associating itself with high quality. Therefore, Nike has ensured that it markets its product as a reliable and durable product. This aspect, together with the high price charged for the brand, has been used to create a perception of high value for the brand. For example, Nike ensured that the design of the product incorporates the aspect of comfort and protection of the athlete during an activity.

This aspect, together with the high price, has been used in creating a perception of high product value and quality to customers. Despite the commendable performance of the brand in relation to the utilisation of brand association, I would recommend the need to expand its advertising to cover other modern forms of advertising such as website sponsorship, viral videos, advertorials, and chat rooms to expand its reach to new potential customers. In addition, I would recommend a design of a product aimed for the low-end market. A lower priced product that low-end customers can associate with in terms of affordability will increase the brand’s market share, hence improving its overall sales.


Concept Mind Map

Positioning of various types of associations in regards to brand value.
Figure 1: Mind map illustrating positioning of various types of associations in regards to brand value.
Own Model.
Own Model.


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